The Pauline Year began today with vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. It will continue to June 29, 2009. Asia News has an article about today's vespers, as does Catholic News Agency. Vatican Radio has an audio report.
Zenit has an English translation of the homily.
At today's vespers service in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI walked in side by side with Patriarch Bartholomew I, who is the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and leader of the Greek Orthodox Church. Each of them lit a candle. The candles will burn all year in a special brazier. Each of them spoke, greeting each other during the ecumenical vespers service. Anglican Archbishop Dexter Gomez also attended as the representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury. A special Pauline door was constructed for the occasion.
Various readings and prayers were shared by Catholic,Orthodox and Anglican representatives in Italian, Greek, and English respectively.
The Holy Father's homily mentioned that St. Paul introduced himself as one who was raised as a Jew and who was a teacher of the Gentiles. While describing his own past, those words also opened to the future. St. Paul is also our teacher and Apostle. Paul speaks to us today. We do not just ask "Who was Paul?" but also "Who is Paul."
The Holy Father chose three texts that answer that question. The first was Gal. 2:20 ("I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.") What motivated St. Paul was being loved by Jesus Christ and a desire to transmit that love to others.
The second text he mentioned was Acts 9:4. On the road to Damascus, when Jesus appeared to St. Paul, Jesus said, "Why are you persecuting me?" Christ is personally present in one Church, which is His body. In an ecumenical reference, the Holy Father said that there is only one bread, one body. It has become an urgent request to bring us back into one body.
In a third example, which I think was II Cor. 1:7, St. Paul mentioned those who enter into his sufferings. The Holy Father said that "the call to become the teacher of the people is at the same time also intrinsically a call to suffering in the communion of Christ, who has redeemed us through His Passion. In a world where falsehood is so powerful, the truth is redeemed through suffering."
At the end of the vespers service, Patriarch Bartholomew delivered his greeting. He said that Saul of Tarsus' radical conversion shook history and shaped Christianity. He exercised a profound influence on the Church Fathers in the East and West. Having never met Jesus, he received the Gospel directly by revelation. Patriarch Bartholomew expressed a hope that the letters of St. Paul would continue to be a source of inspiration for all peoples.