|According to John's Gospel, Andrew was the first
Apostle to be called by Jesus; he then brought his brother, Simon Peter to
At the General Audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, 14 June,
continuing his Catechesis on the Church's apostolic ministry, the Holy
Father reflected on the Apostle Andrew, the Protoclete, who has a Greek
name and, according to some ancient traditions, preached the Gospel among
the Greeks until his crucifixion. The following is a translation of the
Pope's Catechesis, given in Italian.
Dear Brother's and Sisters,
In the last two catecheses we spoke about the figure of St. Peter. Now,
in the measure that sources allow us, we want to know the other 11
Apostles a bit better. Therefore, today we shall speak of Simon Peter's
brother, St. Andrew, who was also one of the Twelve.
The first striking characteristic of Andrew is his name: it is not
Hebrew, as might have been expected, but Greek, indicative of a certain
cultural openness in his family that cannot be ignored. We are in Galilee,
where the Greek language and culture are quite present. Andrew comes
second in the list of the Twelve, as in Matthew (10:1-4) and in Luke
(6:13-16); or fourth, as in Mark (3:13-48) and in the Acts (1:13-14). In
any case, he certainly enjoyed great prestige within the early Christian
The kinship between Peter and Andrew, as well as the joint call that
Jesus addressed to them, are explicitly mentioned in the Gospels. We read:
"As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is
called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they
were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you
fishers of men" (Mt 4:18-19; Mk 1:16-17).
From the Fourth Gospel we know another important detail: Andrew had
previously been a disciple of John the Baptist: and this shows us that he
was a man who was searching, who shared in Israel's hope, who wanted to
know better the word of the Lord, the presence of the Lord.
He was truly a man of faith and hope; and one day he heard John the
Baptist proclaiming Jesus as: "the Lamb of God" (Jn 1:36); so he was
stirred, and with another unnamed disciple followed Jesus, the one
whom John had called "the Lamb of God". The Evangelist says that "they saw
where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day..." (Jn 1:37-39).
Thus, Andrew enjoyed precious moments of intimacy with Jesus. The account continues with one important annotation: "One of the two who heard
John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first
found his brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah'
(which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus" (Jn 1:40-43), straightaway showing an unusual apostolic
Andrew, then, was the first of the Apostles to be called to follow
Jesus. Exactly for this reason the liturgy of the Byzantine Church honours him with the nickname:
"Protokletos", [protoclete] which means,
precisely, "the first called".
And it is certain that it is partly because of the family tie between
Peter and Andrew that the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople
feel one another in a special way to be Sister Churches. To emphasize this
relationship, my Predecessor Pope Paul VI, in 1964, returned the important
relic of St. Andrew, which until then had been kept in the Vatican
Basilica, to the Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop of the city of Palms in
Greece, where tradition has it that the Apostle was crucified.
Andrew mentioned three times
The Gospel traditions mention Andrew's name in particular on another
three occasions that tell us something more about this man. The first
is that of he multiplication of the loaves in Galilee. On that occasion, it
was Andrew who pointed out to Jesus the presence of a young boy who had
with him five barley loaves and two fish: not much, he remarked, for the
multitudes who had gathered in that place (cf. Jn 6:89).
In this case, it is worth highlighting Andrew's realism. He noticed
the, boy, that is, he had already asked the question: "but what good is
that for so many?" (ibid.), and recognized the insufficiency of his
minimal resources. Jesus, however, knew how to make them sufficient for
the multitude of people who had come to hear him.
The second occasion was at Jerusalem. As he left the city, a disciple
drew Jesus' attention to the sight of the massive walls that supported
the Temple. The Teacher's response was surprising: he said that of those
walls not one stone would be left upon another. Then Andrew, together with
Peter, James and John, questioned him: "Tell us, when will this be, and
what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?" (Mk
In answer to this question Jesus gave an important discourse on the
destruction of Jerusalem and on the end of the world, in which he asked
his disciples to be wise in interpreting the signs of the times and to be
constantly on their guard.
From this event we can deduce that we should not be afraid to ask Jesus
questions but at the same time that we must be ready to accept even the
surprising and difficult teachings that he offers us.
Lastly a third initiative of Andrew is recorded in the Gospels: the
scene is still Jerusalem, shortly before the Passion. For the Feast of the
Passover, John recounts, some Greeks had come to the city, probably
proselytes or God-fearing men who had come up to worship the God of Israel
at the Passover Feast. Andrew and Philip, the two Apostles with Greek
names, served as interpreters and mediators of this small group of Greeks
The Lord's answer to their question — as so often in John's Gospel
— appears enigmatic, but precisely in
this way proves full of meaning. Jesus said to the two disciples and,
through them, to the Greek world: "The hour has come for the Son of
to be glorified. I solemnly assure you, unless a grain of wheat falls to
the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat: but if it dies, it
bears much fruit" (12:23-24).
What do these words mean in this context?
Jesus wants to say: Yes, my meeting with the Greeks will take place,
but not as a simple, brief conversation between myself and a few others,
motivated above all by curiosity. The hour of my glorification will come
with my death, which can be compared with the falling into the earth of a
grain of wheat. My death on the Cross will bring forth great fruitfulness:
in the Resurrection the "dead grain of wheat" — a symbol of myself
crucified will become the bread of life for the world; it will be a light
for the peoples and cultures.
Yes, the encounter with the Greek soul, with the Greek world, will be
achieved in that profundity to which the grain of wheat refers, which
attracts to itself the forces of heaven and earth and becomes bread.
In other words, Jesus was prophesying about the Church of the Greeks,
the church of the pagans, the Church of the world, as a fruit of his
Some very ancient traditions not only see Andrew, who communicated
these words to the Greeks, as the interpreter of some Greeks at the
meeting with Jesus recalled here, but consider him the Apostle to the
Greeks in the years subsequent to Pentecost. They enable us to know that
for the rest of his life he was the preacher and interpreter of Jesus for
the Greek world.
Peter, his brother, travelled from Jerusalem through Antioch and
reached Rome to exercise his universal mission; Andrew, instead, was the
Apostle of the Greek world. So it is that in life and in death they appear
as true brothers — a brotherhood that
is symbolically expressed in the special reciprocal relations of the See
of Rome and of Constantinople, which are truly Sister Churches.
'St. Andrew's cross'
A later tradition, as has been mentioned, tells of Andrew's death at
Patras, where he too suffered the torture of crucifixion. At that supreme
moment, however, like his brother Peter, he asked to be nailed to a cross
different from the Cross of Jesus. In his case it was a diagonal or
X-shaped cross, which has thus come to be known as "St Andrew's cross".
This is what the Apostle is claimed to have said on that occasion,
according to an ancient story (which dates back to the beginning of the
sixth century), entitled The Passion of Andrew:
"Hail, O Cross, inaugurated by the Body of Christ and adorned with his
limbs as though they were precious pearls. Before the Lord mounted you,
you inspired an earthly fear. Now, instead, endowed with heavenly love,
you are accepted as a gift.
"Believers know of the great joy that you possess, and of the multitude
of gifts you have prepared. I come to you, therefore, confident and
joyful, so that you too may receive me exultant as a disciple of the One
who was hung upon you.... O blessed Cross, clothed in the majesty and
beauty of the Lord's limbs!... Take me, carry me far from men, and restore
me to my Teacher, so that, through you, the one who redeemed me by you,
may receive me. Hail, O Cross; yes, hail indeed!".
Here, as can be seen, is a very profound Christian spirituality. It
does not view the Cross as an instrument of torture but rather as the
incomparable means for perfect configuration to the Redeemer, to the grain
of wheat that fell into the earth.
Here we have a very important lesson to learn: our own crosses acquire
value if we consider them and accept them as a part of the Cross of
Christ, if a reflection of his light illuminates them.
It is by that Cross alone that our suffering, too are ennobled and
acquire their true meaning.
The Apostle Andrew, therefore, teaches us to follow Jesus with
promptness (cf. Mt 4:20; Mk 1:18), to speak enthusiastically about him to
those we meet, and especially, to cultivate a relationship of true
familiarity with him, acutely aware that in him alone can we find the
ultimate meaning of our life and death.