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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

0345: Reflections on the Solemnity of
Saints Peter and Paul by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0345: 
Reflections on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul by Pope Benedict XVI  during His Pontificate 



On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on 29 June, the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief addresses delivered on these occasions before the recitation of the Angelus, four homilies delivered during the celebration of first vespers, and eight homilies preached during the celebration of Holy Mass.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul

Wednesday, 29 June 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I humbly ask pardon for being late.

As you know, we solemnly celebrated Sts Peter and Paul in the Basilica. It is a feast especially celebrated in Rome, where these two outstanding witnesses of Christ suffered martyrdom and where their relics are venerated.

The memorial of the holy Patrons makes me feel particularly close to you, dear faithful of the Diocese of Rome. Divine Providence has called me to be your Pastor: I thank you for the affection with which you have welcomed me, and I ask you to pray that Sts Peter and Paul obtain for me the grace to carry out faithfully the pastoral ministry entrusted to me. As Bishop of Rome, the Pope carries out a unique and indispensable service to the universal Church: he is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of the unity of the Bishops and of all the faithful.

A liturgical sign of communion that unites the See of Peter and his Successor to the Metropolitans, and through them to the other Bishops of the world, is the pallium, which this morning, during the Eucharistic Celebration in St Peter’s Basilica, I conferred upon more than 30 Pastors from various Communities. I renew my fraternal greeting to these dear Brothers and to all who surround them.

I also affectionately address a cordial greeting to the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople which has come here for this special occasion. How can we forget today that the primacy of the Church in Rome and of her Bishop is a primacy of service to catholic communion? Starting with the dual event of the martyrdom of Peter and of Paul, all the Churches began to look to Rome as a central reference point for doctrinal and pastoral unity. The Second Vatican Council said: “Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions, without prejudice to the Chair of Peter which presides over the whole assembly of charity (see St Ignatius Martyr, Ad Rom., Preaf.: ed. Funk, 1, p. 252), and protects their legitimate variety while at the same time taking care that these differences do not hinder unity, but rather contribute to it” (Constitution Lumen Gentium, no. 13).

May the Virgin Mary obtain for us the desire that the Petrine ministry of the Bishop of Rome not be seen as a stumbling block but as a support on the journey to unity and help us to achieve Christ’s desire as soon as possible:  “ut unum sint”. May the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul intercede for us.


SOLEMNITY OF STS PETER AND PAUL

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Peter’s Basilica. Wednesday, 29 June 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul is at the same time a grateful memorial of the great witnesses of Jesus Christ and a solemn confession for the Church: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. It is first and foremost a feast of catholicity. The sign of Pentecost - the new community that speaks all languages and unites all peoples into one people, in one family of God -, this sign has become a reality. Our liturgical assembly, at which Bishops are gathered from all parts of the world, people of many cultures and nations, is an image of the family of the Church distributed throughout the earth.

Strangers have become friends; crossing every border, we recognize one another as brothers and sisters. This brings to fulfilment the mission of St Paul, who knew that he was the “minister of Christ Jesus among the Gentiles, with the priestly duty of preaching the Gospel of God so that the Gentiles [might] be offered up as a pleasing sacrifice, consecrated by the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15: 16).

The purpose of the mission is that humanity itself becomes a living glorification of God, the true worship that God expects: this is the deepest meaning of catholicity - a catholicity that has already been given to us, towards which we must constantly start out again. Catholicity does not only express a horizontal dimension, the gathering of many people in unity, but also a vertical dimension: it is only by raising our eyes to God, by opening ourselves to him, that we can truly become one.

Like Paul, Peter also came to Rome, to the city that was a centre where all the nations converged and, for this very reason, could become, before any other, the expression of the universal outreach of the Gospel. As he started out on his journey from Jerusalem to Rome, he must certainly have felt guided by the voices of the prophets, by faith and by the prayer of Israel.

The mission to the whole world is also part of the proclamation of the Old Covenant: the people of Israel were destined to be a light for the Gentiles. The great Psalm of the Passion, Psalm 22[21], whose first verse Jesus cried out on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, ends with the vision: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; all the families of the nations shall bow down before him” (Ps 22[21]: 28). When Peter and Paul came to Rome, the Lord on the Cross who had uttered the first line of that Psalm was risen; God’s victory now had to be proclaimed to all the nations, thereby fulfilling the promise with which the Psalm concludes.

Catholicity means universality - a multiplicity that becomes unity; a unity that nevertheless remains multiplicity. From Paul’s words on the Church’s universality we have already seen that the ability of nations to get the better of themselves in order to look towards the one God, is part of this unity. In the second century, the founder of Catholic theology, St Irenaeus of Lyons, described very beautifully this bond between catholicity and unity and I quote him. He says: “The Church spread across the world diligently safeguards this doctrine and this faith, forming as it were one family: the same faith, with one mind and one heart, the same preaching, teaching and tradition as if she had but one mouth. Languages abound according to the region but the power of our tradition is one and the same. The Churches in Germany do not differ in faith or tradition, neither do those in Spain, Gaul, Egypt, Libya, the Orient, the centre of the earth; just as the sun, God’s creature, is one alone and identical throughout the world, so the light of true preaching shines everywhere and illuminates all who desire to attain knowledge of the truth” (Adv. Haer. I 10, 2). The unity of men and women in their multiplicity has become possible because God, this one God of heaven and earth, has shown himself to us; because the essential truth about our lives, our “where from?” and “where to?” became visible when he revealed himself to us and enabled us to see his face, himself, in Jesus Christ. This truth about the essence of our being, living and dying, a truth that God made visible, unites us and makes us brothers and sisters. Catholicity and unity go hand in hand. And unity has a content: the faith that the Apostles passed on to us in Christ’s name.

I am pleased that yesterday, the Feast of St Irenaeus and the eve of the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, I was able to give the Church a new guide for the transmission of the faith that will help us to become better acquainted with and to live better the faith that unites us: the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The essential content of what is presented in detail in the complete Catechism, through the witness of the saints of all the ages and with reflections that have matured in theology, is summed up here in this book and must then be translated into everyday language and constantly put into practice. The book is in the form of a dialogue with questions and answers.

The 14 images associated with the various areas of faith are an invitation to contemplation and meditation. In other words, a visible summary of what the written text develops in full detail. At the beginning there is a reproduction of a 6th-century icon of Christ, kept at Mount Athos, that portrays Christ in his dignity as Lord of the earth but at the same time also as a herald of the Gospel which he holds in his hand. “I am who am”, this mysterious name of God presented in the Old Testament, is copied here as his own name: all that exists comes from him; he is the original source of all being. And since he is one, he is also ever present, ever close to us and at the same time, ever in the lead: an “indicator” on our way through life, especially since he himself is the Way. This book cannot be read as if it were a novel. Its individual sections must be calmly meditated upon and, through the images, its content must be allowed to penetrate the soul. I hope that it will be received as such and become a reliable guide in the transmission of the faith.

We have said that the catholicity of the Church and the unity of the Church go together. The fact that both dimensions become visible to us in the figures of the holy Apostles already shows us the consequent characteristic of the Church: she is apostolic. What does this mean?

The Lord established Twelve Apostles just as the sons of Jacob were 12. By so doing he was presenting them as leaders of the People of God which, henceforth universal, from that time has included all the peoples. St Mark tells us that Jesus called the Apostles so “to be with him, and to be sent out” (Mk 3: 14). This seems almost a contradiction in terms. We would say: “Either they stayed with him or they were sent forth and set out on their travels”. Pope St Gregory the Great says a word about angels that helps us resolve this contradiction. He says that angels are always sent out and at the same time are always in God’s presence, and continues, “Wherever they are sent, wherever they go, they always journey on in God’s heart” (Homily, 34, 13). The Book of Revelation described Bishops as “angels” in their Church, so we can state: the Apostles and their successors must always be with the Lord and precisely in this way - wherever they may go - they must always be in communion with him and live by this communion.

The Church is apostolic, because she professes the faith of the Apostles and attempts to live it. There is a unity that marks the Twelve called by the Lord, but there is also continuity in the apostolic mission. St Peter, in his First Letter, described himself as “a fellow elder” of the presbyters to whom he writes (5: 1). And with this he expressed the principle of apostolic succession: the same ministry which he had received from the Lord now continues in the Church through priestly ordination. The Word of God is not only written but, thanks to the testimonies that the Lord in the sacrament has inscribed in the apostolic ministry, it remains a living word. Thus, I now address you, dear Brother Bishops. I greet you with affection, together with your relatives and the pilgrims from your respective Dioceses. You are about to receive the Pallium from the hands of the Successor of Peter. We had it blessed, as though by Peter himself, by placing it beside his tomb. It is now an expression of our common responsibility to the “chief Shepherd” Jesus Christ, of whom Peter speaks (I Pt 5: 4). The Pallium is an expression of our apostolic mission. It is an expression of our communion whose visible guarantee is the Petrine ministry. Unity as well as apostolicity are bound to the Petrine service that visibly unites the Church of all places and all times, thereby preventing each one of us from slipping into the kind of false autonomy that all too easily becomes particularization of the Church and might consequently jeopardize her independence. So, let us not forget that the purpose of all offices and ministries is basically that “we [all] become one in faith and in the knowledge of God’s son, and form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature”, so that the Body of Christ may grow and build “itself up in love” (Eph 4: 13, 16).

In this perspective, I warmly and gratefully greet the Delegation of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople, sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to whom I address a cordial thought, and led by Metropolitan Ioannis, who has come for our feast day and is taking part in our celebration. Even though we may not yet agree on the issue of the interpretation and importance of the Petrine Ministry, we are nonetheless together in the apostolic succession, we are deeply united with one another through episcopal ministry and through the sacrament of priesthood, and together profess the faith of the Apostles as it is given to us in Scripture and as it was interpreted at the great Councils. At this time in a world full of skepticism and doubt but also rich in the desire for God, let us recognize anew our common mission to witness to Christ the Lord together, and on the basis of that unity which has already been given to us, to help the world in order that it may believe. And let us implore the Lord with all our hearts to guide us to full unity so that the splendor of the truth, which alone can create unity, may once again become visible in the world.

Today’s Gospel tells of the profession of faith of St Peter, on whom the Church was founded: “You are the Messiah... the Son of the living God” (Mt 16: 16). Having spoken today of the Church as one, catholic and apostolic but not yet of the Church as holy, let us now recall another profession of Peter, his response on behalf of the Twelve at the moment when so many abandoned Christ: “We have come to believe; we are convinced that you are God’s holy one” (Jn 6: 69). What does this mean?

Jesus, in his great priestly prayer, says that he is consecrating himself for his disciples, an allusion to the sacrifice of his death (see Jn 17: 19). By saying this, Jesus implicitly expresses his role as the true High Priest who brings about the mystery of the “Day of Reconciliation”, no longer only in substitutive rites but in the concrete substance of his own Body and Blood. The Old Testament term “the Holy One of the Lord” identified Aaron as the High Priest who had the task of bringing about Israel’s sanctification (Ps 106[105]: 16; Vulgate: Sir 45: 6). Peter’s profession of Christ, whom he declares to be the Holy One of God, fits into the context of the Eucharistic Discourse in which Jesus announces the Day of Reconciliation through the sacrificial offering of himself: “the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world” (Jn 6: 51). So this profession is the background of the priestly mystery of Jesus, his sacrifice for us all. The Church is not holy by herself; in fact, she is made up of sinners - we all know this and it is plain for all to see. Rather, she is made holy ever anew by the Holy One of God, by the purifying love of Christ. God did not only speak, but loved us very realistically; he loved us to the point of the death of his own Son. It is precisely here that we are shown the full grandeur of revelation that has, as it were, inflicted the wounds in the heart of God himself. Then each one of us can say personally, together with St Paul, I live “a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2: 20).

Let us pray to the Lord that the truth of these words may be deeply impressed in our hearts, together with his joy and with his responsibility; let us pray that shining out from the Eucharistic Celebration it will become increasingly the force that shapes our lives.


SOLEMNITY OF STS PETER AND PAUL 

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Thursday, 29 June 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am a bit late because the Celebration at St Peter’s was longer than expected. I ask your pardon.

Today, we are solemnly honoring Sts Peter and Paul, “Apostles of Christ, pillars and foundations of the city of God”, as today’s liturgy sings. Their martyrdom is considered the true act of birth of the Church of Rome.

The two Apostles gave their supreme witness close to each other in time and place:  here in Rome, St Peter was crucified and afterwards St Paul was decapitated. Their blood mingled as if in a single witness to Christ, which prompted St Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, in the middle of the second century to speak of the “Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul” (Adversus Haeres 3, 3, 2).

A little later, from North Africa, Tertullian exclaimed:  “How happy is the Church of Rome on which the Apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood” (De Praescriptione Haereticorum, 36).

For this very reason the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter, carries out a special ministry at the service of the doctrinal and pastoral unity of the People of God scattered across the world.

In this context, it is also easier to understand the significance of the rite we renewed this morning during Holy Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, that is, the conferral upon several Metro-politan Archbishops of the Pallium, an ancient liturgical symbol that expresses the special communion of these Pastors with the Successor of Peter. I extend my greeting to these venerable Brother Archbishops and to all those who have accompanied them, as I invite you all, dear brothers and sisters, to pray for them and the Churches entrusted to their care.

There is yet another reason that makes our joy today even greater:  it is the presence in Rome, on the occasion of the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, of a special delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. I repeat my welcome with affection to the members of this delegation and I warmly thank the Patriarch for having made the bond of brotherhood that exists between our Churches even more evident with this gesture.

May Mary, Queen of the Apostles, whom we invoke with trust, obtain for Christians the gift of full unity. With her help and following in the footsteps of St Peter and St Paul, may the Church which is in Rome and the whole People of God offer the world a witness of unity and of courageous dedication to the Gospel of Christ.


CAPPELLA PAPALE ON THE SOLEMNITY OF STS PETER AND PAUL

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Peter’s Basilica, Thursday, 29 June 2006

“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16: 18).

What exactly was the Lord saying to Peter with these words? With them, what promise did he make to Peter and what task did he entrust to him? And what is he saying to us - to the Bishop of Rome, who is seated on the chair of Peter, and to the Church today?

If we want to understand the meaning of Jesus’ words, it is useful to remember that the Gospels recount for us three different situations in which the Lord, each time in a special way, transmits to Peter his future task. The task is always the same, but what the Lord was and is concerned with becomes clearer to us from the diversity of the situations and images used.

In the Gospel according to St Matthew that we have just heard, Peter makes his own confession to Jesus, recognizing him as the Messiah and Son of God. On the basis of this, his special task is conferred upon him though three images: the rock that becomes the foundation or cornerstone, the keys, and the image of binding and loosing.

I do not intend here to interpret once again these three images that the Church down the ages has explained over and over again; rather, I would like to call attention to the geographical place and chronological context of these words.

The promise is made at the sources of the Jordan, on the boundary of the Judaic Land, on the frontiers of the pagan world. The moment of the promise marks a crucial turning-point in Jesus’ journey: the Lord now sets out for Jerusalem and for the first time, he tells the disciples that this journey to the Holy City is the journey to the Cross: “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16: 21).

Both these things go together and determine the inner place of the Primacy, indeed, of the Church in general: the Lord is continuously on his way towards the Cross, towards the lowliness of the servant of God, suffering and killed, but at the same time he is also on the way to the immensity of the world in which he precedes us as the Risen One, so that the light of his words and the presence of his love may shine forth in the world; he is on the way so that through him, the Crucified and Risen Christ, God himself, may arrive in the world.

In this regard, Peter describes himself in his First Letter as “a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed” (I Pt 5: 1). For the Church, Good Friday and Easter have always existed together; she is always both the mustard seed and the tree in whose boughs the birds of the air make their nests.

The Church - and in her, Christ - still suffers today. In her, Christ is again and again taunted and slapped; again and again an effort is made to reject him from the world. Again and again the little barque of the Church is ripped apart by the winds of ideologies, whose waters seep into her and seem to condemn her to sink. Yet, precisely in the suffering Church, Christ is victorious.

In spite of all, faith in him recovers ever new strength. The Lord also commands the waters today and shows that he is the Lord of the elements. He stays in his barque, in the little boat of the Church.

Thus, on the one hand, the weakness proper to human beings is revealed in Peter’s ministry, but at the same time, also God’s power: in the weakness of human beings itself the Lord shows his strength; he demonstrates that it is through frail human beings that he himself builds his Church.

Let us now turn to the Gospel according to St Luke, which tells us that during the Last Supper, the Lord once again confers a special task upon Peter (see Lk 22: 31-33). This time, the Lord’s words addressed to Simon are found immediately after the Institution of the Most Blessed Eucharist. The Lord has just given himself to his followers under the species of bread and wine. We can see the Institution of the Eucharist as the true and proper founding act of the Church.

Through the Eucharist, the Lord not only gives himself to his own but also gives them the reality of a new communion among themselves which is extended in time, “until he comes” (see I Cor 11: 26).

Through the Eucharist, the disciples become his living dwelling place which, as history unfolds, grows like the new and living temple of God in this world. Thus, immediately after the Institution of the Sacrament, Jesus speaks of what being disciples, of what the “ministry”, means in the new community: he says that it is a commitment of service, just as he himself is among them as One who serves.

And then he addresses Peter. He says that Satan has demanded to have him so that he may sift him like wheat. This calls to mind the passage in the Book of Job, where Satan asks God for the power to afflict Job. The devil - the slanderer of God and men - thereby wants to prove that no true religious feeling exists, but that in man every aim is always solely utilitarian.

In the case of Job, God grants Satan the asked-for freedom precisely to be able by so doing to defend his creature - man - and himself. And this also happens with Jesus’ disciples. God gives a certain liberty to Satan in all times.

To us it oftentimes seems that God allows Satan too much freedom, that he grants him the power to distress us too terribly; and that this gets the better of our forces and oppresses us too heavily. Again and again we cry out to God: “Alas, look at the misery of your disciples! Ah, protect us!”. In fact, Jesus continues: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Lk 22: 32).

Jesus’ prayer is the limit set upon the power of the devil. Jesus’ prayer is the protection of the Church. We can seek refuge under this protection, cling on to it and be safe. But - as he says in the Gospel - Jesus prays in a particular way for Peter: “...that your faith may not fail”.

Jesus’ prayer is at the same time a promise and a duty. Jesus’ prayer safeguards Peter’s faith, that faith which he confessed at Caesarea Philippi: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16: 16). And so, never let this faith be silenced; strengthen it over and over again, even in the face of the cross and all the world’s contradictions: this is Peter’s task.

Therefore, the point is that the Lord does not only pray for Peter’s personal faith, but for his faith as a service to others. This is exactly what he means with the words: “When you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22: 32).

“When you have turned again”: these words are at the same time a prophecy and a promise. They prophesy the weakness of Simon, who was to deny to a maid and a servant that he knew Christ. Through this fall, Peter - and with him the Church of all times - has to learn that one’s own strength alone does not suffice to build and guide the Lord’s Church. No one succeeds on his or her own. However capable and clever Peter may seem - already at the first moment of trial he fails.

“When you have turned again”: the Lord, who predicted his fall, also promises him conversion: “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter...” (Lk 22: 61). Jesus’ look works the transformation and becomes Peter’s salvation: “he went out and wept bitterly” (Lk 22: 62).

Let us implore ever anew this saving gaze of Jesus: for all those who have responsibility in the Church; for all who suffer the bewilderment of these times; for the great and for the small: Lord, look at us ever anew, pick us up every time we fall and take us in your good hands.

It is through the promise of his prayer that the Lord entrusts to Peter the task for the brethren. Peter’s responsibility is anchored in Jesus’ prayer. It is this that gives him the certainty that he will persevere through all human miseries.

And the Lord entrusts this task to him in the context of the Supper, in connection with the gift of the Most Holy Eucharist. The Church, established in the institution of the Eucharist, in her inmost self is a Eucharistic community, hence, communion in the Body of the Lord. Peter’s task is to preside over this universal communion; to keep it present in the world also as visible, incarnate unity. He, together with the whole Church of Rome - as St Ignatius of Antioch said -, must preside in charity: preside over the community with that love which comes from Christ and ever anew surpasses the limitations of the private sphere to bring God’s love to the ends of the earth.

The third reference to the Primacy is found in the Gospel according to St John (21: 15-19). The Lord is risen, and as the Risen One he entrusts his flock to Peter. Here too, the Cross and the Resurrection are interconnected. Jesus predicts to Peter that he is to take the way of the Cross. In this Basilica built over the tomb of Peter - a tomb of the poor - we see that in this very way the Lord, through the Cross, is always victorious. His power is not a power according to the ways of this world. It is the power of goodness: of truth and of love, which is stronger than death.

Yes, his promise is true: the powers of death, the gates of hell, will not prevail against the Church which he built on Peter (see Mt 16: 18) and which he, in this very way, continues to build personally.

On this Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, I address you especially, dear Metropolitans, who have come from many countries of the world to receive the Pallium from the Successor of Peter. I offer you a cordial greeting, together with all those who have accompanied you.

I also greet with special joy the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, led by His Eminence Ioannis Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon and President of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholics and the Orthodox. I am grateful to Patriarch Bartholomew I and to the Holy Synod for this sign of brotherhood that demonstrates the desire and the commitment to progress more swiftly on the path of full unity that Christ invoked for all his disciples. We feel we share the ardent desire, once expressed by Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI, to drink together from the same Cup and to eat together the Bread which is the Lord himself. Let us implore once again on this occasion that this gift may soon be granted to us.

And let us thank the Lord that we are united in the confession Peter made on behalf of all the disciples at Caesarea Philippi: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Let us together bring this confession to the contemporary world.

May the Lord help us at this very moment in our history to be true witnesses of the sufferings of Christ as well as partakers in the glory that is to be revealed (see I Pt 5: 1). Amen.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

Friday, 29 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Eucharistic celebration in the Vatican Basilica has just ended - I am a little late, I am sorry - in honor of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Patrons of Rome and “pillars” of the universal Church.

As they do every year for this solemn occasion, the Metropolitan Archbishops whom I appointed during the past year and upon whom I have conferred the Pallium, a liturgical symbol which expresses the bond of communion that binds them to the Successor of Peter, have gathered in Rome.

I renew my most cordial greeting to my beloved Brothers, Metropolitans, as I ask everyone to pray for them and for the Communities entrusted to their pastoral care.

Moreover, on the occasion of today’s Solemnity, the Church of Rome and her Bishop have the joy of offering hospitality again this year to the Delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. I renew to the venerable Brothers who make up the Delegation my most cordial greeting, which I also address through them with affection to His Holiness Bartholomew I.

The Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul is a very special invitation to us to pray intensely and act with conviction for the cause of the unity of all Christ’s disciples. The Christian East and West are very close to each other and can already count on a communion that is almost full, a beacon, as the Second Vatican Council said, to guide our steps on the ecumenical journey.

Our meetings, our visits to each other and our continuing dialogue are not mere gestures of courtesy or attempts to achieve compromises, but signs of a common desire to do our utmost to achieve as soon as possible that full communion implored by Christ in his prayer to the Father after the Last Supper: “ut unum sint”.

These initiatives also include the “Pauline Year” which I desired to announce yesterday evening at the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, near the Apostle Paul’s actual tomb. It is a Jubilee Year dedicated to him that will run from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009, to coincide with the 2,000th anniversary of his birth.

I hope that the various events organized will help to renew our missionary enthusiasm and deepen our relations with our Eastern brethren and with other Christians who, like us, venerate the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Let us now address the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Through her motherly intercession may the Lord grant that the Church in Rome and throughout the world be ever faithful to the Gospel, to whose service Sts Peter and Paul dedicated their lives.


CELEBRATION OF FIRST VESPERS
OF THE SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, Thursday, 28 June 2007

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At this First Vespers of the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, let us commemorate with gratitude these two Apostles whose blood with that of so many other Gospel witnesses made the Church of Rome fruitful.

On their memorial, I am glad to greet you all, dear brothers and sisters, starting with the Cardinal Archpriest and the other Cardinals and Bishops present, Father Abbot and the Benedictine Community to which this Basilica is entrusted, the clerics, the women and men religious and lay faithful gathered here.

I address a special greeting to the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is reciprocating the presence of the Holy See’s Delegation in Istanbul for the Feast of St Andrew.

As I had an opportunity to say a few days ago, these meetings and initiatives are not merely an exchange of courtesies between Churches but are intended to express the common commitment to do everything possible to hasten the time of full communion between the Christian East and West.

I address with these sentiments Metropolitan Emmanuel and Metropolitan Gennadios, sent by my beloved Brother Bartholomew I, to whom I express a grateful and cordial thought.

This Basilica, which has hosted profoundly significant ecumenical events, reminds us how important it is to pray together to implore the gift of unity, that unity for which St Peter and St Paul spent their lives, to the point of making the supreme sacrifice of their blood.

A very ancient tradition which dates back to apostolic times claims that their last meeting before their martyrdom actually took place not far from here: the two are supposed to have embraced and blessed each other. And on the main portal of this Basilica they are depicted together, with scenes of both martyrdoms.

Thus, from the outset, Christian tradition has considered Peter and Paul to have been inseparable, even if each had a different mission to accomplish.

Peter professed his faith in Christ first; Paul obtained as a gift the ability to deepen its riches. Peter founded the first community of Christians who came from the Chosen People; Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles. With different charisms they worked for one and the same cause: the building of Christ’s Church.

In the Office of Readings, the liturgy offers us for meditation this well-known text of St Augustine: “One day is assigned for the celebration of the martyrdom of the two Apostles. But those two were one. Although their martyrdom occurred on different days, they were one. Peter went first, Paul followed. We celebrate this feast day which is made sacred for us by the blood of these Apostles” (Sermon 295, 7, 8).

And St Leo the Great comments: “About their merits and virtues, which surpass all power of speech, we must not make distinctions, because they were equal in their election, alike in their toils, undivided in their death” (In natali apostol., 69, 7).

In Rome, since the earliest centuries, the bond that unites Peter and Paul in their mission has acquired a very specific significance. Like Romulus and Remus, the two mythical brothers who are said to have given birth to the City, so Peter and Paul were held to be the founders of the Church of Rome.

Speaking to the City on this topic, St Leo the Great said: “These are your holy Fathers and true shepherds, who gave you claims to be numbered among the heavenly kingdoms, and built you under much better and happier auspices than they, by whose zeal the first foundations of your walls were laid” (Sermon 82, 7).

However humanly different they may have been from each other and despite the tensions that existed in their relationship, Peter and Paul appear as the founders of a new City, the expression of a new and authentic way of being brothers which was made possible by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For this reason, it can be said that the Church of Rome is celebrating her birthday today, since it was these two Apostles who laid her foundations.

Furthermore, Rome in our day perceives with greater awareness both her mission and her greatness. St John Chrysostom wrote: “Not so bright is the heaven, when the sun sends forth his rays, as is the City of Rome, sending out these two lights (Peter and Paul) into all parts of the world... Therefore, I admire the City... for these pillars of the Church” (Homily on St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 32, 24).

We will commemorate St Peter specifically tomorrow, celebrating the Divine Sacrifice in the Vatican Basilica, built on the site of his martyrdom. This evening we turn our gaze to St Paul, whose relics are preserved with deep veneration in this Basilica.

At the beginning of the Letter to the Romans, as we have just heard, St Paul greeted the community of Rome, introducing himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle” (1: 1). He uses the term “servant”, in Greek, doulos, to indicate a relationship of total and unconditional belonging to the Lord Jesus; moreover, it is a translation of the Hebrew, ‘ebed, thus alluding to the great servants whom God chose and called for an important and specific mission.

Paul knew he was “called to be an apostle”, that is, that he had not presented himself as a candidate, nor was his a human appointment, but solely by a divine call and election.

The Apostle to the Gentiles repeats several times in his Letters that his whole life is a fruit of God’s freely given and merciful grace (see I Cor 15: 9-10; II Cor 4: 1; Gal 1: 15). He was chosen to proclaim “the Gospel of God” (Rom 1: 1), to disseminate the announcement of divine Grace which in Christ reconciles man with God, himself and others.

From his Letters, we know that Paul was far from being a good speaker; on the contrary, he shared with Moses and Jeremiah a lack of oratory skill. “His bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (II Cor 10: 10), his adversaries said of him.

The extraordinary apostolic results that he was able to achieve cannot, therefore, be attributed to brilliant rhetoric or refined apologetic and missionary strategies.

The success of his apostolate depended above all on his personal involvement in proclaiming the Gospel with total dedication to Christ; a dedication that feared neither risk, difficulty nor persecution.

“Neither death, nor life”, he wrote to the Romans, “nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8: 38-39).

From this we can draw a particularly important lesson for every Christian. The Church’s action is credible and effective only to the extent to which those who belong to her are prepared to pay in person for their fidelity to Christ in every circumstance. When this readiness is lacking, the crucial argument of truth on which the Church herself depends is also absent.

Dear brothers and sisters, as in early times, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St Paul. Paul, a former violent persecutor of Christians, when he fell to the ground dazzled by the divine light on the road to Damascus, did not hesitate to change sides to the Crucified One and followed him without second thoughts. He lived and worked for Christ, for him he suffered and died. How timely his example is today!

And for this very reason I am pleased to announce officially that we shall be dedicating a special Jubilee Year to the Apostle Paul from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009, on the occasion of the bimillennium of his birth, which historians have placed between the years 7 and 10 A.D.

It will be possible to celebrate this “Pauline Year” in a privileged way in Rome where the sarcophagus which, by the unanimous opinion of experts and an undisputed tradition, preserves the remains of the Apostle Paul, has been preserved beneath the Papal Altar of this Basilica for 20 centuries.

It will thus be possible to have a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events taking place at the Papal Basilica and at the adjacent Benedictine Abbey, as well as various pastoral and social initiatives, all inspired by Pauline spirituality.

In addition, special attention will be given to penitential pilgrimages that will be organized to the Apostle’s tomb to find in it spiritual benefit. Study conventions and special publications on Pauline texts will also be promoted in order to make ever more widely known the immense wealth of the teaching they contain, a true patrimony of humanity redeemed by Christ.

Furthermore, in every part of the world, similar initiatives will be implemented in the dioceses, shrines and places of worship, by Religious and by the educational institutions and social-assistance centres which are named after St Paul or inspired by him and his teaching.

Lastly, there is one particular aspect to which special attention must be paid during the celebration of the various moments of the 2,000th Pauline anniversary: I am referring to the ecumenical dimension. The Apostle to the Gentiles, who was especially committed to taking the Good News to all peoples, left no stones unturned for unity and harmony among all Christians.

May he deign to guide and protect us in this bimillenial celebration, helping us to progress in the humble and sincere search for the full unity of all the members of Christ’s Mystical Body. Amen.


EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Vatican Basilica, Friday, 29 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, where I celebrated First Vespers for today’s Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Beside the sepulcher of the Apostle to the Gentiles I paid homage to his memory and announced the Pauline Year which, on the occasion of the bimillennium of his birth, will be celebrated from 28 June 2008 until 29 June 2009.

This morning we have gathered round the sepulcher of St Peter in accordance with tradition. Present here to receive the Pallium are the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed during the past year, to whom I extend my special greeting. Also present, sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, is an eminent Delegation; I welcome it with cordial gratitude, thinking back to last 30 November when I was in Istanbul-Constantinople for the Feast of St Andrew.

I greet the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima and the Deacon Andreas. Welcome, dear Brothers! The visits we pay each other every year are a sign that the search for full communion is always present and desired by the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Bishop of Rome.

Today’s Feast offers me the opportunity to meditate once again on Peter’s confession, the decisive moment in the journey of the disciples with Jesus. The Synoptic Gospels have it take place in the district of Caesarea Philippi (see Mt 16: 13-20; Mk 8: 27-30; Lk 9: 18-22).

John, for his part, keeps for us another important confession by Peter, after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and Jesus’ Address in the Synagogue of Capernaum (see Jn 6: 66-70). Matthew, in the text just proclaimed, recalls Jesus’ attribution of the nickname Cephas, “Rock”, to Simon. Jesus said that he desired to build his Church “on this rock” and with this in view, conferred on Peter the power of the keys (see Mt 16: 17-19). It clearly emerges from these accounts that Peter’s confession is inseparable from his pastoral duty to Christ’s flock which was entrusted to him.

According to all the Evangelists, Simon’s confession takes place at a crucial moment in Jesus’ life when, after preaching in Galilee, he resolutely set out for Jerusalem in order to bring his saving mission to completion with his death on the Cross and his Resurrection.

The disciples were involved in this decision: Jesus invited them to make a choice that would bring them to distinguish themselves from the crowd so as to become the community of those who believed in him, his “family”, the beginning of the Church.

In fact, there are two ways of “seeing” and “knowing” Jesus: one - that of the crowd - is more superficial; the other - that of the disciples - more penetrating and genuine. With his twofold question: “What do the people say?” and “who do you say that I am?” Jesus invited the disciples to become aware of this different perspective.

The people thought that Jesus was a prophet. This was not wrong, but it does not suffice; it is inadequate. In fact, it was a matter of delving deep, of recognizing the uniqueness of the person of Jesus of Nazareth and his newness.

This is how it still is today: many people draw near to Jesus, as it were, from the outside. Great scholars recognize his spiritual and moral stature and his influence on human history, comparing him to Buddha, Confucius, Socrates and other wise and important historical figures.

Yet they do not manage to recognize him in his uniqueness. What Jesus said to Philip at the Last Supper springs to mind: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip?” (Jn 14: 9).

Jesus is often also considered as one of the great founders of a religion from which everyone may take something in order to form his or her own conviction. Today too, “people” have different opinions about Jesus, just as they did then. And as he did then, Jesus also repeats his question to us, his disciples today: “And who do you say that I am?”

Let us make Peter’s answer our own. According to the Gospel of Mark he said: “You are the Christ” (8: 29); in Luke, the affirmation is: “The Christ of God” (Lk 9: 20); in Matthew resounds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16: 16); finally, in John: “You are the Holy One of God”. These are all correct answers which are also right for us.

Let us reflect on Matthew’s text in particular, quoted by today’s liturgy.

According to certain experts, the formula which appears there presupposes the post-Resurrection context and might even be connected with a personal appearance of the Risen Jesus to Peter, an appearance similar to that which Paul experienced on the road to Damascus.

In fact, the responsibility conferred on Peter by the Lord was rooted in the personal relationship which the Jesus of history had with Simon the fisherman, from his first meeting with him when he said to him ““So you are Simon.... You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (Jn 1: 42). The Evangelist John emphasizes it, he who was also a fisherman and an associate, together with his brother James, of the two brothers, Simon and Andrew. The Jesus who called Saul after the Resurrection is the same Jesus who - still immersed in history - after his baptism in the Jordan approached the four brother fishermen who were then disciples of the Baptist (see Jn 1: 35-42).

He sought them out on the shores of Lake Galilee and called them to follow him, to become “fishers of men” (see Mk 1: 16-20). He then entrusted Peter with a specific task, thereby recognizing in him a special gift of faith from the heavenly Father. Of course, all this was then illumined by the Paschal experience, but always remaining firmly anchored in the historical events prior to Easter.

The parallel between Peter and Paul cannot diminish the importance of Simon’s historical journey with his Master and Lord, who from the outset attributed to him the characteristic of the “rock” on which he intended to build his new community, the Church.

In the Synoptic Gospels Peter’s confession is always followed by Jesus’ announcement of his imminent Passion. Peter reacted to this announcement because he was not yet able to understand. Nonetheless, this was a fundamental element on which Jesus strongly insisted. Indeed, the titles attributed to him by Peter - you are “the Christ”, “the Christ of God”, “the Son of the living God” - can only be properly understood in light of the mystery of his death and Resurrection.

And the opposite is also true: the event of the Cross reveals its full meaning only if “this man” who suffered and died on the Cross “truly was the Son of God”, to use the words uttered by the centurion as he stood before the Crucified Christ (see Mk 15: 39). These texts clearly say that the integrity of the Christian faith stems from the confession of Peter, illumined by the teaching of Jesus on his “way” toward glory, that is, on his absolutely unique way, being the Messiah and the Son of God.

It was a narrow “way”, a shocking “manner” for the disciples of every age, who are inevitably led to think according to men rather than according to God (see Mt 16: 23).

Today too, as in Jesus’ day, it does not suffice to possess the proper confession of faith: it is always necessary to learn anew from the Lord the actual way in which he is Savior and the path on which we must follow him. Indeed, we have to recognize that even for believers, the Cross is always hard to accept.

Instinct impels one to avoid it and the tempter leads one to believe that it is wiser to be concerned with saving oneself rather than losing one’s life through faithfulness to love, faithfulness to the Son of God made man. Who do you say I am? What was it that the people to whom Jesus was speaking found hard to accept? What continues to be hard for many people also in our time?

It is difficult to accept that he claimed not only to be one of the prophets but the Son of God, and that he claimed God’s own authority for himself.

Listening to him preaching, seeing him heal the sick, evangelize the lowly and the poor and reconcile sinners, little by little the disciples came to realize that he was the Messiah in the most exalted sense of the word, that is, not only a man sent by God, but God himself made man.

Clearly, all this was far beyond them, it exceeded their capacity for understanding. They were able to express their faith with the titles of the Judaic tradition: “Christ”, “Son of God”, “Lord”. However, to adhere truly to reality, these titles had in some way to be rediscovered in their most profound truth: Jesus himself revealed their true meaning with his life, ever surprising, even paradoxical considering the customary concepts.

And the faith of the disciples itself had to progressively adapt. It presents itself as a pilgrimage which begins in the experience of the historical Jesus, finds its foundation in the Paschal Mystery, but must then advance further thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit.

This was also the faith of the Church in the course of history, this is also our faith as Christians of today. Firmly resting on the “rock” of Peter, it is a pilgrimage toward the fullness of that truth which the Fisherman of Galilee professed with passionate conviction: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt 16: 16).

In Peter’s profession of faith, dear brothers and sisters, we can feel that we are all one, despite the divisions that have wounded the Church’s unity down the centuries and whose consequences are still being felt.

Today, in the name of Sts Peter and Paul, let us renew, together with our Brothers who have come from Constantinople - whom I thank once again for their presence at our celebration - our commitment to accept to the very end the desire of Christ, who wants us to be fully united. With the concelebrating Archbishops, let us accept the gift and responsibility of communion between the See of Peter and the Metropolitan Churches entrusted to their pastoral care.

May the Holy Mother of God always guide us and accompany us with her intercession: may her unswerving faith, which sustained the faith of Peter and of the other Apostles, continue to sustain that of the Christian generations, our own faith: Queen of Apostles, pray for us! Amen.


CELEBRATION OF FIRST VESPERS
OF THE SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL
FOR THE OPENING OF THE PAULINE YEAR

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, Saturday, 28 June 2008

Your Holiness and Fraternal Delegates,
Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have gathered near the tomb of St Paul, who was born 2,000 years ago at Tarsus in Cilicia, in present-day Turkey. Who was St Paul? In the temple of Jerusalem, faced with the frenzied crowd that wanted to kill him, he presented himself with these words: “I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel, educated according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God...” (Acts 22: 3). At the end of his journey he was to say of himself: “For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle... a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Tm 2: 7; see 2 Tm 1: 11). A teacher of the Gentiles, an apostle and a herald of Jesus Christ, this is how he described himself, looking back over the path of his life. But this glance does not look only to the past. “A teacher of the Gentiles” - these words open to the future, to all peoples and all generations. For us Paul is not a figure of the past whom we remember with veneration. He is also our teacher, an Apostle and herald of Jesus Christ for us too.

Thus we are not gathered to reflect on past history, irrevocably behind us. Paul wants to speak to us - today. That is why I chose to establish this special “Pauline Year”: in order to listen to him and learn today from him, as our teacher, “the faith and the truth” in which the reasons for unity among Christ’s disciples are rooted. In this perspective, for this 2000th anniversary of the Apostle’s birth I wished to light a special “Pauline Flame” that will remain lit throughout the year in a special brazier placed in the Basilica’s four-sided portico. To solemnize this event I have also inaugurated the so-called “Pauline Door”, through which I entered the Basilica, accompanied by the Patriarch of Constantinople, by the Cardinal Archpriest and by other religious Authorities. It is a cause of deep joy to me that the opening of the Pauline Year has acquired a special ecumenical character through the presence of numerous delegates and representatives of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, whom I welcome with an open heart. I greet first of all His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I and the members of the Delegation that accompany him, as well as the large group of lay people who have come to Rome from various parts of the world to experience with him and with all of us these moments of prayer and reflection. I greet the Fraternal Delegates of the Churches which have special ties with the Apostle Paul - Jerusalem, Antioch, Cyprus, Greece - and which form the geographical environment of the Apostle’s life before his arrival in Rome. I cordially greet the Brethren of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the East and the West, together with all of you who have desired to take part in this solemn initiation of the “Year” dedicated to the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Thus, we are gathered here to question ourselves on the great Apostle to the Gentiles. Let us not ask ourselves only: who was Paul? Let us ask ourselves above all: who is Paul? What does he say to me? At this moment, at the beginning of the “Pauline Year” that we are inaugurating, I would like to choose from the rich testimony of the New Testament, three texts in which his inner features, his specific character appear. In the Letter to the Galatians, St Paul gives a very personal profession of faith in which he opens his heart to readers of all times and reveals what was the most intimate drive of his life. “I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2: 20). All Paul’s actions begin from this centre. His faith is the experience of being loved by Jesus Christ in a very personal way. It is awareness of the fact that Christ did not face death for something anonymous but rather for love of him - of Paul - and that, as the Risen One, he still loves him; in other words, Christ gave himself for him. Paul’s faith is being struck by the love of Jesus Christ, a love that overwhelms him to his depths and transforms him. His faith is not a theory, an opinion about God and the world. His faith is the impact of God’s love in his heart. Thus, this same faith was love for Jesus Christ.

Paul is presented by many as a pugnacious man who was well able to wield the sword of his words. Indeed, there was no lack of disputes on his journey as an Apostle. He did not seek a superficial harmony. In the First of his Letters, addressed to the Thessalonians, he himself says: “We had courage... to proclaim to you the Gospel of God in the face of great opposition... In fact, we never spoke words of adulation, as you know” (1 Thes 2: 2, 5). The truth was too great for him to be willing to sacrifice it with a view to external success. For him, the truth that he experienced in his encounter with the Risen One was well worth the fight, persecution and suffering. But what most deeply motivated him was being loved by Jesus Christ and the desire to communicate this love to others. Paul was a man capable of loving and all of his actions and suffering can only be explained on the basis of this core sentiment. It is only on this basis that we can understand the concepts on which his proclamation was founded. Let us take another key word of his: freedom. The experience of being loved to the very end by Christ had opened his eyes to the truth and to the way of human existence. It was an experience that embraced everything. Paul was free as a man loved by God, who, by virtue of God, was able to love together with him. This love then became the “law” of his life and in this very way, the freedom of his life. He speaks and acts motivated by the responsibility of love. Here freedom and responsibility are indivisibly united. Since Paul lives in the responsibility of love, he is free; since he is one who loves, he lives his life totally in the responsibility of this love and does not take freedom as a pretext to act arbitrarily and egoistically. In the same spirit Augustine formulated the phrase that later became famous: Dilige et quod vis fac (Tract. in 1 Jo 7, 7-8) - love and do what you please. The one who loves Christ as Paul loved him can truly do as he pleases because his love is united to Christ’s will and thus with God’s will; because his will is anchored to the truth and because his will is no longer merely his own, arbitrary to the autonomous self, but is integrated into God’s freedom from which he receives the path to take.

In the search for the inner features of St Paul I would like, secondly, to recall the words that the Risen Christ addressed to him on the road to Damascus. First the Lord asked him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” To the question: “Who are you, Lord?” Saul is given the answer: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9: 4f.). In persecuting the Church, Paul was persecuting Jesus himself. “You persecute me”. Jesus identifies with the Church in a single subject. This exclamation of the Risen One, which transformed Saul’s life, in summary already contains the entire doctrine on the Church as the Body of Christ. Christ did not withdraw himself into Heaven, leaving ranks of followers to carry out “his cause” on earth. The Church is not an association that desires to promote a specific cause. In her there is no question of a cause. In her it is a matter of the person of Jesus Christ, who, also as the Risen One, remained “flesh”. He has “flesh and bones” (Lk 24: 39), the Risen One says, in Luke’s Gospel, to the disciples who thought he was a ghost. He has a Body. He is personally present in his Church, “Head and Body” form one being, Augustine would come to say. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Cor 6: 15). And he added: just as, according to the book of Genesis, man and woman become one flesh, thus Christ and his followers become one spirit, that is, one in the new world of the Resurrection (see 1 Cor 6: 16ff.). In all of this the Eucharistic mystery appears, in which Christ continually gives his Body and makes of us his Body: “The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10: 16f). With these words, at this moment, not only Paul addresses us but also the Lord himself: how could you pierce my body? Before the Face of Christ, these words become at the same time an urgent plea: Bring us together from all our divisions. Grant that this may once again become reality today: there is one bread, therefore we, although we are many, are one body. For Paul, the words about the Church as the body of Christ are not just any comparison. They go far beyond a comparison. “Why do you persecute me?” Christ ceaselessly draws us into his body, building his Body from the Eucharistic centre that for Paul is the centre of Christian existence by virtue of which everyone, as also every individual, can experience in a totally personal way: he has loved me and given himself for me.

I would like to conclude with words St Paul spoke near the end of his life. It is an exhortation to Timothy from prison while he was facing death, “with the strength that comes from God bear your share of hardship which the Gospel entails”, the Apostle said to his disciple (2 Tm 1: 8). These words, which mark the end of the Apostle’s life as a testament, refer back to the beginning of his mission. When, after his encounter with the Risen One, while Paul lay blind in his dwelling at Damascus, Ananias was charged to visit the feared persecutor and to lay his hands upon him so that he might regain his sight. Ananias’ objection that this Saul was a dangerous persecutor of Christians, was met with the response: this man must carry my name before the Gentiles and kings: “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9: 15f.). The task of proclamation and the call to suffer for Christ’s sake are inseparable. The call to become the teacher of the Gentiles is, at the same time and intrinsically, a call to suffering in communion with Christ who redeemed us through his Passion. In a world in which falsehood is powerful, the truth is paid for with suffering. The one who desires to avoid suffering, to keep it at bay, keeps life itself and its greatness at bay; he cannot be a servant of truth and thus a servant of faith. There is no love without suffering - without the suffering of renouncing oneself, of the transformation and purification of self for true freedom. Where there is nothing worth suffering for, even life loses its value. The Eucharist - the centre of our Christian being - is founded on Jesus’ sacrifice for us; it is born from the suffering of love which culminated in the Cross. We live by this love that gives itself. It gives us the courage and strength to suffer with Christ and for him in this world, knowing that in this very way our life becomes great and mature and true. In the light of all St Paul’s Letters, we see how the prophecy made to Ananias at the time of Paul’s call came true in the process of teaching the Gentiles: “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name”. His suffering made him credible as a teacher of truth who did not seek his own advantage, his own glory or his personal satisfaction but applied himself for the sake of the One who loved us and has given himself for us all.

Let us now thank the Lord for having called Paul, making him the light to the Gentiles and the teacher of us all, and let us pray to him: “Give us even today witnesses of the Resurrection, struck by the impact of your love and able to bring the light of the Gospel in our time. St Paul, pray for us! Amen.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Sunday, 29 June 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This year the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul occurs on a Sunday, so that the whole Church, and not only the Church of Rome, is celebrating it with solemnity. This coincidence is also conducive to giving greater emphasis to an extraordinary event: the Pauline Year, which I opened officially yesterday evening at the tomb of the Apostle to the Gentiles and which will continue until 29 June 2009. Indeed, historians date the birth of Saul, who later became Paul, back to between the years 7 and 10 A.D. Consequently, since approximately 2,000 years have now passed, I wished to establish this special Jubilee which will naturally have Rome as its centre and, in particular, the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls and the Tre Fontane [Three Fountains], the place of his martyrdom. However, it will involve the entire Church, beginning with Tarsus, the town of Saul’s birth, and with the other Pauline sites which are pilgrimage destinations in present-day Turkey, as well as in the Holy Land and on the Island of Malta where the Apostle landed after being shipwrecked and scattered the fertile seed of the Gospel. In fact, the horizon of the Pauline Year can only be universal because St Paul was par excellence the Apostle to those who compared with the Jews, were “far-off”, and had been “brought near”, through “the Blood of Christ” (see Eph 2: 13). For this reason, today too, in a world which has become “smaller”, but in which a great many people have still not yet encountered the Lord Jesus, the Jubilee of St Paul invites all Christians to be Gospel missionaries.

This missionary dimension must always be accompanied by the dimension of unity, represented by St Peter, the “rock” upon which Jesus Christ built his Church. As the liturgy emphasizes, the charisms of the two great Apostles are complementary for building the one People of God, and Christians cannot bear an effective witness to Christ unless they are united among themselves. The theme of unity is highlighted today by the traditional rite of the Pallium, which, during Holy Mass, I imposed upon the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed during this past year. There are 40 of them and two others will receive the pallium in their own archdioceses. To them too I once again extend my cordial greeting. Moreover, on today’s Solemnity it is a cause of special joy to the Bishop of Rome to welcome the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in the beloved person of His Holiness Bartholomew I, to whom I renew my fraternal greeting which I extend to the entire Delegation of the Orthodox Church that he has led here.

The Pauline Year, evangelization, communion in the Church and the full unity of all Christians:  let us now pray for these great intentions, entrusting them to the heavenly intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Queen of Apostles.


HOLY MASS FOR THE IMPOSITION OF THE PALLIUM
ON METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOPS
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI

Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 29 June 2008

Your Holiness and Fraternal Delegates,
Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Since the most ancient times the Church of Rome has celebrated the Solemnity of the Great Apostles Peter and Paul as a single Feast on the same day, 29 June. It was through their martyrdom, that they became brothers; together they founded the new Christian Rome. As such they are praised in the hymn for Second Vespers that dates back to Paulinus of Aquileia ([c. 750-]806): “O Roma felix - fortunate Rome, consecrated by the glorious blood of the two Princes of the Apostles; dyed red in their blood, you shine more resplendently than all the glory of the world, not by your merit, but by the merits of the saints that you have killed, drawing blood with the sword”. The blood of martyrs does not invoke revenge but reconciliation. It is not presented as an accusation but rather as the “fairer light”, in the words of the hymn for First Vespers: it is presented as the force of love that overcomes hatred and violence, thus founding a new city, a new community. Through their martyrdom they - Peter and Paul - now belong to Rome: through their martyrdom, Peter also became a Roman citizen for ever. Through their martyrdom, through their faith and love, both Apostles point to where true hope lies; they are founders of a new sort of city that must be constantly rebuilt in the midst of the old human city that is threatened by the opposing forces of human sin and selfishness.

By virtue of their martyrdom, Peter and Paul are in a reciprocal relationship for ever. A favorite image in Christian iconography shows the embrace of the two Apostles on their way to martyrdom. We can say: their martyrdom itself is the realization of a fraternal embrace in the deepest sense. They died for the one Christ and in their witness for which they gave their lives, they are one. In the New Testament writings we can, so to speak, follow the development of their embrace, this creation of unity in witness and mission. Everything begins when Paul, three years after his conversion, goes to Jerusalem “to visit Cephas” (Gal 1: 18). Fourteen years later he went up to Jerusalem again to lay “before those who were of repute” the Gospel he was preaching in order to avoid the risk of “running or [having] run in vain” (Gal 2: 1f.). At the end of this encounter, James, Cephas and John shake hands with him, thus confirming the communion that links them in the one Gospel of Jesus Christ (see Gal 2: 9). I find the fact that the collaborators mentioned at the end of the First Letter of Peter - Silvanus and Mark - were likewise close collaborators of St Paul is a beautiful sign of the growth of this inner embrace which developed despite the diversity of their temperaments and tasks. The communion of the one Church, is clearly demonstrated by the embrace of the great Apostles, in their cooperation.

Peter and Paul met in Jerusalem at least twice; the paths of both were ultimately to converge in Rome. Why? Might this be something more than pure chance? Might this contain a lasting message? Paul arrived in Rome as a prisoner but, at the same time, as a Roman citizen who, precisely as such, after his arrest in Jerusalem had appealed to the Emperor to whose tribunal he was taken. However, in a deeper sense Paul came to Rome of his own free will. Through some of his most important Letters he had already become inwardly close to this city: he had addressed to the Church in Rome the writing that sums up the whole of his proclamation and his faith better than any other. In the initial greeting of this Letter he says that the faith of the Christians of Rome is being talked about in all the world and is, therefore, reputed everywhere to be exemplary (see Rm 1: 8). He then writes: “I want you to know, brethren, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented)” (1: 13). At the end of the Letter he returns to this topic now speaking of his project of a journey to Spain. “I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be sped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little” (15: 24). “And I know that when I come to you I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ” (15: 29). These are two things that become obvious: for Paul, Rome was a stopping place on the way to Spain, in other words - according to his conception of the world - on his way to the extreme edge of the earth. He considers his mission to be the fulfilment of the task assigned to him by Christ, to take the Gospel to the very ends of the world. Rome lay on his route. Whereas Paul usually went to places where the Gospel had not yet been proclaimed, Rome was an exception. He found there a Church whose faith was being talked about across the world. Going to Rome was part of the universality of his mission as an envoy to all peoples. The way that led to Rome, which already prior to his external voyage he had traveled inwardly with his Letter, was an integral part of his duty to take the Gospel to all the peoples - to found the catholic or universal Church. For him, going to Rome was an expression of the catholicity of his mission. Rome had to make the faith visible to the whole world, it had to be the meeting place of the one faith.

But why did Peter go to Rome? The New Testament says nothing about this directly. Yet it gives us some hints. The Gospel according to St Mark, which we may consider a reflection of St Peter’s preaching, focuses closely on the moment when the Roman centurion, who, in the light of Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross, said: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (15: 39). By the Cross the mystery of Jesus Christ was revealed. Beneath the Cross the Church of the peoples was born: the centurion of the Roman platoon in charge of his execution recognized Christ as the Son of God.

The Acts of the Apostles describe the episode of Cornelius, a centurion of the Italic cohort, as a crucial stage for the entry of the Gospel into the Gentile world. On a command from God, Cornelius sent someone to fetch Peter and Peter, also following a divine command, went to the centurion’s house and preached there. While he was speaking the Holy Spirit descended on the domestic community that had gathered and Peter said: “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10: 47). Thus at the Council of the Jerusalem, Peter became the intercessor for the Church of the Gentiles who had no need of the Law because God had “cleansed their hearts by faith” (Acts 15: 9). Of course, in the Letter to the Galatians Paul says God empowered Peter for the apostolic ministry among the circumcised, and instead empowered him, Paul, for the ministry to the Gentiles (2: 8). This assignment however could only be in force while Peter remained with the Twelve in Jerusalem in the hope that all Israel would adhere to Christ. As they faced the further development, the Twelve recognized when it was time for them too to set out for the whole world to proclaim the Gospel. Peter who, complying with God’s order, had been the first to open the door to pagans, now left the leadership of the Christian-Jewish Church to James the Lesser in order to dedicate himself to his true mission: the ministry for the unity of the one Church of God formed by Jews and pagans. Among the Church’s characteristics, St Paul’s desire to go to Rome places emphasis - as we have seen - on the word “catholic”. St Peter’s journey to Rome, as representative of the world’s peoples, comes especially under the word “one”: his task was to create the unity of the catholica, the Church formed by Jews and pagans, the Church of all the peoples. And this is Peter’s ongoing mission: to ensure that the Church is never identified with a single nation, with a single culture or with a single State but is always the Church of all; to ensure that she reunites humanity over and above every boundary and, in the midst of the divisions of this world, makes God’s peace present, the reconciling power of his love. Thanks to technology that is the same everywhere, thanks to the world information network and also thanks to the connection of common interests, in the world today new forms of unity exist; yet they spark new disputes and give a new impetus to the old ones. In the midst of this external unity, based on material things, our need for the inner unity which comes from God’s peace is all the greater - the unity of all those who have become brothers and sisters through Jesus Christ. This is Peter’s permanent mission and also the specific task entrusted to the Church of Rome.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I would now like to address you who have come to Rome to receive the pallium as a symbol of your dignity and responsibility as Archbishops in the Church of Jesus Christ. The pallium is woven with wool from sheep that the Bishop of Rome blesses every year on the Feast of the Chair of Peter, setting them aside as it were, so that they may become a symbol of the flock of Christ over which you preside. When we place the pallium on our shoulders, our gesture reminds us of the Shepherd who takes upon his shoulders the lost sheep that cannot find its way home alone and brings it back to the fold. The Fathers of the Church saw this little lost lamb as the image of all humanity, of the whole of human nature which strays and can no longer find the way home. The Shepherd who brings it back home can only be the Logos, the eternal Word of God himself. In the Incarnation he took all of us - “human” sheep - on his shoulders. He, the eternal word, the true Shepherd of humanity carries us; in his humanity he carries each one of us on his shoulders. On the way of the Cross he took us home, he takes us home. But he also wants to have men to “carry” it with him. Being a Pastor of Christ’s Church means participating in this task which is commemorated by the pallium. When we wear it, he asks us, “Are you too helping me to carry me those who belong to me? Are you bringing them to me, to Jesus Christ?” And then we recall the account of the sending of Peter by the Risen One. The Risen Christ connects the order: “Tend my sheep” inseparably with the question: “Do you love me, do you love me more than these?” Every time we put on the pallium, as a Pastor of Christ’s flock we must listen to this question: “Do you love me?”, and ourselves be questioned about the extra love that he expects from the Pastor.

Thus the Pallium becomes the symbol of our love for Christ the Good Shepherd and of our loving together with him - it becomes the symbol of the vocation to love people as he does, together with him; those who are seeking, those who have questions, those who are sure of themselves and the humble, the simple and the great; he becomes a symbol of the call to love all of them with the power of Christ and in view of Christ, so that they may find him and in him find themselves. However, the pallium, which you received “from the” tomb of St Peter has another, second meaning, inseparably connected to the first. In order to understand it, some words from the First Letter of St Peter may be a help to us. In his exhortation to priests to tend the flock properly he - St Peter - describes himself as a synpresbyteros - fellow elder (5: 1). This formula contains implicitly an affirmation of the principle of Apostolic Succession: Pastors who succeed one another are Pastors like him, they are together with him, they belong to the common ministry of the Pastors of the Church of Jesus Christ, a ministry that continues in them. But this word “fellow” also has two more meanings. It also expresses the reality we define today with the term “collegiality” of the Bishops. We are all fellow-priests. No one is a Pastor on his own. We are in the succession of the Apostles also thanks to being in communion as a college, which finds its continuity in the college of the Apostles. “Our” communion as Pastors is part of being a Pastor, because the flock is one alone, the one Church of Jesus Christ. And lastly this word “fellow” refers to communion with Peter and his Successor as a guarantee of unity. Thus the pallium speaks to us of the catholicity of the Church, of the universal communion of the Pastor and flock and refers us to apostolicity: to communion with the faith of the Apostles on which the Church is founded. It speaks to us of the ecclesia una, catholica, apostolica and naturally, binding us to Christ, it speaks to us precisely of the fact that the Church is sancta and that our work is a service to her holiness.

Lastly, this brings me back once again to St Paul and his mission. He expressed the essential of his mission as well as the deepest reason for his desire to go to Rome in chapter 15 of the Letter to the Romans in an extraordinarily beautiful sentence. He knows he is called “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the Gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (15: 16). In this verse alone does Paul use the word “hierourgein” - to administer as a priest - together with “leitourgos” - liturgy: he speaks of the cosmic liturgy in which the human world itself must become worship of God, an oblation in the Holy Spirit. When the world in all its parts has become a liturgy of God, when, in its reality, it has become adoration, then it will have reached its goal and will be safe and sound. This is the ultimate goal of St Paul’s apostolic mission as well as of our own mission. The Lord calls us to this ministry. Let us pray at this time that he may help us to carry it out properly, to become true liturgists of Jesus Christ. Amen.


SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Monday, 29 June 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we are solemnly celebrating the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, special Patrons of the Church of Rome: Peter, the fisherman from Galilee, who was the first to confess the faith: “our leader” who “raised up the Church from the faithful flock of Israel”; Paul, the former persecutor of Christians who “brought your call to the nations and became the teacher of the world” (see Preface of today’s Mass). In one of his Homilies to the community of Rome, Pope St Leo the Great said: “These are your Holy Fathers and true Shepherds, who gave you claims to be numbered among the heavenly Kingdom” (Sermo I, in Nat. App Petri et Pauli, c I, PL 54, 422). On the occasion of this feast, I would like to address a warm and special welcome, together with fervent good wishes, to the diocesan Community of Rome which divine Providence has entrusted to my care as Successor of the Apostle Peter. It is a greeting that I willingly extend to all the inhabitants of our metropolis and to the pilgrims and tourists who in these days are visiting it, coinciding also with the closure of the Pauline Year.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord bless and protect you through the intercession of Sts Peter and Paul! As your Pastor, I urge you to stay faithful to the Christian vocation and not to conform to the mindset of this world as the Apostle to the Gentiles wrote precisely to the Christians of Rome but always to let yourselves be transformed and renewed by the Gospel, to follow, what is truly good and pleasing to God (cf. Rm 12: 2). For this reason I pray constantly that Rome may keep alive her Christian vocation not only preserving unaltered her immense spiritual and cultural heritage, but also in order that its inhabitants may express the beauty of the faith received in practical ways of thinking and acting, and thus offer to all those who for various reasons come to this city, an atmosphere full of humanity and Gospel values. Therefore with the words of St Peter I invite you, dear brothers and sisters, disciples of Christ, to be “living stones”, set firmly around him who is “that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious” (see 1 Pt 2: 4).

Today’s Solemnity also has a universal character: it expresses the unity and catholicity of the Church. This is why every year, on this date, the new Metropolitan Archbishops come to Rome to receive the pallium, a symbol of communion with the Successor of Peter. I therefore renew my greeting to my Brothers in the Episcopate for whom I have performed this act this morning in the Basilica and to the faithful who have accompanied them. I likewise greet with warm cordiality the Delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople which, as it does every year, has come to Rome for the celebration of Sts Peter and Paul. May the joint veneration of these Martyrs be an ever fuller and more deeply felt pledge of communion among Christians in every part of the world. Let us invoke for this the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of the one Church of Christ with the traditional recitation of the Angelus.


SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

CELEBRATION OF FIRST VESPERS
ON THE OCCASION OF THE CLOSING OF THE PAULINE YEAR

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, Sunday, 28 June 2009

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Members of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I address my cordial greeting to each one of you. In particular, I greet the Cardinal Archpriest of this Basilica and his collaborators, I greet the Abbot and the Benedictine monastic community; I also greet the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The commemorative year for the birth of St Paul ends this evening. We have gathered at the tomb of the Apostle whose sarcophagus, preserved beneath the papal altar, was recently the object of a careful scientific analysis. A tiny hole was drilled in the sarcophagus, which in so many centuries had never been opened, in order to insert a special probe which revealed traces of a precious purple-colored linen fabric, with a design in gold leaf, and a blue fabric with linen threads. Grains of red incense and protein and chalk substances were also found. In addition, minute fragments of bone were sent for carbon-14 testing by experts unaware of their provenance. The fragments proved to belong to someone who had lived between the first and second centuries. This would seem to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition which claims that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul. All this fills our hearts with profound emotion. In recent months, many people have followed the paths of the Apostle the exterior and especially the interior paths on which he traveled in his lifetime: the road to Damascus towards his encounter with the Risen One; the routes of the Mediterranean world which he crossed with the torch of the Gospel, encountering contradiction and adherence until his martyrdom, through which he belongs for ever to the Church of Rome. It was to her that he also addressed his most important Letter. The Pauline Year is drawing to a close but what will remain a part of Christian existence is the journey with Paul with him and thanks to him getting to know Jesus, and, like the Apostle, being enlightened and transformed by the Gospel. And always, going beyond the circle of believers, he remains the “teacher of the Gentiles”, who seeks to bring the message of the Risen One to them all, because Christ has known and loved each one; he has died and risen for them all. Therefore let us too listen to him at this time when we are solemnly beginning the Feast of the two Apostles who were bound to one another by a close bond.

It is part of the structure of Paul’s Letters always in reference to the particular place and situation that they first of all explain the mystery of Christ, they teach faith. The second part treats their application to our lives: what ensues from this faith? How does it shape our existence, day by day? In the Letter to the Romans, this second part begins in chapter 12, in which the Apostle briefly sums up the essential nucleus of Christian existence in the first two verses. What does St Paul say to us in that passage? First of all he affirms, as a fundamental thing, that a new way of venerating God began with Christ a new form of worship. It consists in the fact that the living person himself becomes adoration, “sacrifice”, even in his own body. It is no longer things that are offered to God. It is our very existence that must become praise of God. But how does this happen? In the second verse we are given the answer: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God...” (12: 2). The two decisive words of this verse are “transformed” and “renewal”. We must become new people, transformed into a new mode of existence. The world is always in search of novelty because, rightly, it is always dissatisfied with concrete reality. Paul tells us: the world cannot be renewed without new people. Only if there are new people will there also be a new world, a renewed and better world. In the beginning is the renewal of the human being. This subsequently applies to every individual. Only if we ourselves become new does the world become new. This also means that it is not enough to adapt to the current situation. The Apostle exhorts us to non-conformism. In our Letter he says: we should not submit to the logic of our time. We shall return to this point, reflecting on the second text on which I wish to meditate with you this evening. The Apostle’s “no” is clear and also convincing for anyone who observes the “logic” of our world. But to become new how can this be done? Are we really capable of it? With his words on becoming new, Paul alludes to his own conversion: to his encounter with the Risen Christ, an encounter of which, in the Second Letter to the Corinthians he says: “if anyone is in Christ, he is in a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (5: 17). This encounter with Christ was so overwhelming for him that he said of it: “I... died...” (Gal 2: 19; see Rm 6). He became new, another, because he no longer lived for himself and by virtue of himself, but for Christ and in him. In the course of the years, however, he also saw that this process of renewal and transformation continues throughout life. We become new if we let ourselves be grasped and shaped by the new Man, Jesus Christ. He is the new Man par excellence. In him the new human existence became reality and we can truly become new if we deliver ourselves into his hands and let ourselves be molded by him.

Paul makes this process of “recasting” even clearer by saying that we become new if we transform our way of thinking. What has been introduced here with “way of thinking” is the Greek term “nous”. It is a complex word. It may be translated as “spirit”, “sentiments”, “reason”, and precisely, also by “way of thinking”. Thus our reason must become new. This surprises us. We might have expected instead that this would have concerned some attitude: what we should change in our behavior. But no: renewal must go to the very core. Our way of looking at the world, of understanding reality all our thought must change from its foundations. The reasoning of the former person, the common way of thinking is usually directed to possession, well-being, influence, success, fame and so forth. Yet in this way its scope is too limited. Thus, in the final analysis, one’s “self” remains the centre of the world. We must learn to think more profoundly. St Paul tells us what this means in the second part of the sentence: it is necessary to learn to understand God’s will, so that it may shape our own will. This is in order that we ourselves may desire what God desires, because we recognize that what God wants is the beautiful and the good. It is therefore a question of a turning point in our fundamental spiritual orientation. God must enter into the horizon of our thought: what he wants and the way in which he conceived of the world and of me. We must learn to share in the thinking and the will of Jesus Christ. It is then that we will be new people in whom a new world emerges.

Paul illustrates the same idea of a necessary renewal of our way of being human in two passages of his Letter to the Ephesians; let us therefore reflect on them briefly. In the Letter’s fourth chapter, the Apostle tells us that with Christ we must attain adulthood, a mature faith. We can no longer be “children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine...” (4: 14). Paul wants Christians to have a “responsible” and “adult faith”. The words “adult faith” in recent decades have formed a widespread slogan. It is often meant in the sense of the attitude of those who no longer listen to the Church and her Pastors but autonomously choose what they want to believe and not to believe hence a do-it-yourself faith. And it is presented as a “courageous” form of self-expression against the Magisterium of the Church. In fact, however, no courage is needed for this because one may always be certain of public applause. Rather, courage is needed to adhere to the Church’s faith, even if this contradicts the “logic” of the contemporary world. This is the non-conformism of faith which Paul calls an “adult faith”. It is the faith that he desires. On the other hand, he describes chasing the winds and trends of the time as infantile. Thus, being committed to the inviolability of human life from its first instant, thereby radically opposing the principle of violence also precisely in the defence of the most defenseless human creatures is part of an adult faith. It is part of an adult faith to recognize marriage between a man and a woman for the whole of life as the Creator’s ordering, newly re-established by Christ. Adult faith does not let itself be carried about here and there by any trend. It opposes the winds of fashion. It knows that these winds are not the breath of the Holy Spirit; it knows that the Spirit of God is expressed and manifested in communion with Jesus Christ. However, here too Paul does not stop at saying “no”, but rather leads us to the great “yes”. He describes the mature, truly adult faith positively with the words: “speaking the truth in love” (see Eph 4: 15). The new way of thinking, given to us by faith, is first and foremost a turning towards the truth. The power of evil is falsehood. The power of faith, the power of God, is the truth. The truth about the world and about ourselves becomes visible when we look to God. And God makes himself visible to us in the Face of Jesus Christ. In looking at Christ, we recognize something else: truth and love are inseparable. In God both are inseparably one; it is precisely this that is the essence of God. For Christians, therefore, truth and love go together. Love is the test of truth. We should always measure ourselves anew against this criterion, so that truth may become love and love may make us truthful.

Another important thought appears in this verse of St Paul. The Apostle tells us that by acting in accordance with truth in love, we help to ensure that all things (ta pánta) the universe may grow, striving for Christ. On the basis of his faith, Paul is not only concerned in our personal rectitude nor with the growth of the Church alone. He is interested in the universe: ta pánta. The ultimate purpose of Christ’s work is the universe the transformation of the universe, of the whole human world, of all creation. Those who serve the truth in love together with Christ contribute to the true progress of the world. Yes, here it is quite clear that Paul is acquainted with the idea of progress. Christ his life, his suffering and his rising was the great leap ahead in the progress of humanity, of the world. Now, however, the universe must grow in accordance with him. Where the presence of Christ increases, therein lies the true progress of the world. There, mankind becomes new and thus the world is made new.

Paul makes the same thing clear from yet another different perspective. In chapter three of the Letter to the Ephesians he speaks to us of the need to be “strengthened... in the inner man” (3: 16). With this he takes up a subject that earlier, in a troubled situation, he had addressed in the Second Letter to the Corinthians. “Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day” (4: 16). The inner person must be strengthened this is a very appropriate imperative for our time, in which people all too often remain inwardly empty and must therefore cling to promises and drugs, which then result in a further growth of the sense of emptiness in their hearts. This interior void the weakness of the inner person is one of the great problems of our time. Interiority must be reinforced the perceptiveness of the heart; the capacity to see and to understand the world and the person from within, with one’s heart. We are in need of reason illuminated by the heart in order to learn to act in accordance with truth in love. However, this is not realized without an intimate relationship with God, without the life of prayer. We need the encounter with God that is given to us in the sacraments. And we cannot speak to God in prayer unless we let him speak first, unless we listen to him in the words that he has given us. In this regard Paul says to us: “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3: 17ff.). With these words Paul tells us that love sees beyond simple reason. And he also tells us that only in communion with all the saints, that is, in the great community of all believers and not against or without it can we know the immensity of Christ’s mystery. He circumscribes this immensity with words meant to express the dimensions of the cosmos: breadth, length and height and depth. The mystery of Christ has a cosmic vastness; he did not belong only to a specific group. The Crucified Christ embraces the entire universe in all its dimensions. He takes the world in his hands and lifts it up towards God. Starting with St Irenaeus of Lyons thus from the second century the Fathers have seen in these words on the breadth, length and height and depth of Christ’s love an allusion to the Cross. In the Cross, Christ’s love embraced the lowest depths the night of death as well as the supreme heights, the loftiness of God himself. And he took into his arms the breadth and the vastness of humanity and of the world in all their distances. He always embraces the universe all of us.

Let us pray the Lord to help us to recognize something of the immensity of his love. Let us pray him that his love and his truth may touch our hearts. Let us ask that Christ dwell in our hearts and make us new men and women who act according to truth in love. Amen!


SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

HOLY MASS FOR THE IMPOSITION OF THE SACRED PALLIUM
ON METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOPS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI

Vatican Basilica, Monday, 29 June 2009

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I address my cordial greeting to you all with the words of the Apostle by whose tomb we stand: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1 Pt 1: 2). I greet in particular the Members of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the numerous Metropolitans who will receive the pallium today. In the opening prayer of this solemn day we ask the Lord that the Church may always follow the teaching of the Apostles from whom she first received the announcement of the faith. The request we address to God at the same time calls us into question: are we following the teaching of the great founder Apostles? Do we really know them? In the Pauline Year that ended yesterday, we endeavored to listen anew to him, the “teacher of the Gentiles”, hence to learn anew the alphabet of faith. We endeavored to recognize Christ with Paul and through Paul, and thus to find the way to an upright Christian life. In the Canon of the New Testament, in addition to the Letters of St Paul, there are also two other Letters under the name of St Peter. The first ends with an explicit greeting from Rome, which, however, appears under the apocalyptic pseudonym of Babylon: “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings” (1 Pt 5: 13). By calling the Church of Rome “likewise chosen”, he sets her within the great community of all the local Churches in the community of all those whom God has gathered, so that in the “Babylon” of this world’s time they might build up his People and introduce God into history. St Peter’s First Letter is a greeting addressed from Rome to the Christendom of all epochs. It invites us to listen to “the teaching of the Apostles”, which shows us the way to life.

This Letter is a very rich text that wells up from the heart and touches the heart. Its centre is and how could it be otherwise? the figure of Christ who is illustrated as the One who suffers and loves, as Crucified and Risen: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten.... By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pt 2: 23f.). Then starting from the centre that is Christ, the Letter is also an introduction to the fundamental Christian Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist and a discourse addressed to priests in which Peter describes himself as a fellow priest with them. He speaks to Pastors of all generations as one who was personally made responsible by the Lord for tending his sheep and has thus received a specific priestly mandate. So what does St Peter tell us precisely in the Year for Priests about the priest’s task? First of all he understands the priestly ministry as being based totally on Christ. He calls Christ the “Shepherd and Guardian of... souls” (2: 25). Where the Italian [and the English] translation speak of “Guardian”, the Greek text uses the word episcopos (bishop). A little further on, Christ is described as the chief Shepherd: archipoimen (5: 4). It is surprising that Peter should call Christ himself a Bishop, Bishop of souls. What did he mean by this? The Greek term “episcopos” contains the verb “to see”; for this reason it is translated as “guardian”, in other words “supervisor”. Yet external supervision, as might befit a prison guard, is certainly not what is meant here. Rather it means watching over, from above seeing from the lofty position of God. Seeing from God’s perspective is seeing with love that wants to serve the other, wants to help him to become truly himself. Christ is the “Bishop of souls”, Peter tells us. This means: he sees us from the perspective of God. In seeing from God’s viewpoint, one has an overall vision, one sees the dangers as well as the hopes and possibilities. From God’s perspective one sees the essential, one sees the inner man. If Christ is the Bishop of souls, the objective is to prevent the human soul from becoming impoverished and to ensure that the human being does not lose his essence, the capacity for truth and love; to ensure that he becomes acquainted with God; that he does not get lost in blind alleys; that he does not end in loneliness but remains altogether open. Jesus, the “Bishop of souls”, is the prototype of every episcopal and presbyteral ministry. To be a Bishop, to be a priest, means in this perspective to assume the position of Christ. It means thinking, seeing and acting from his exalted vantage point. It means starting from Christ in order to be available to human beings so that they find life.

Thus the word “Bishop” is very close to the term “Shepherd”; indeed the two concepts become interchangeable. It is the shepherd’s task to feed and tend his flock and take it to the right pastures. Grazing the flock means taking care that the sheep find the right nourishment, that their hunger is satisfied and their thirst quenched. The metaphor apart, this means: the word of God is the nourishment that the human being needs. Making God’s word ever present and new and thereby giving nourishment to people is the task of the righteous Pastor. And he must also know how to resist the enemies, the wolves. He must go first, point out the way, preserve the unity of the flock. Peter, in his discourse to priests, highlights another very important thing. It is not enough to speak. Pastors must make themselves “examples to the flock”. (5: 3). When it is lived, the word of God is brought from the past into the present. It is marvelous to see how in saints the word of God becomes a word addressed to our time. In such figures as Francis and then again, as Padre Pio and many others, Christ truly became a contemporary of their generation, he emerged from the past to enter the present. This is what being a Pastor means a model for the flock: living the word now, in the great community of holy Church.

Very briefly, I would like to call your attention further to two other affirmations in the First Letter of St Peter which concern us in a special way in our time. There is first of all the sentence, today discovered anew, on the basis of which medieval theologians understood their task, the task of the theologian: “in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you”. (3: 15). Christian faith is hope. It paves the way to the future. And it is a hope that possesses reasonableness, a hope whose reason we can and must explain. Faith comes from the eternal Reason that entered our world and showed us the true God. Faith surpasses the capacity of our reason, just as love sees more than mere intelligence. But faith speaks to reason and in the dialectic confrontation can be a match for reason. It does not contradict it but keeps up with it and goes beyond it to introduce us into the greater Reason of God. As Pastors of our time it is our task to be the first to understand the reason of faith. It is our task not to let it remain merely a tradition but to recognize it as a response to our questions. Faith demands our rational participation, which is deepened and purified in a sharing of love. It is one of our duties as Pastors to penetrate faith with thought, to be able to show the reason for our hope within the debates of our time. Yet although it is so necessary thought alone does not suffice. Just as speaking alone does not suffice. In his baptismal and Eucharistic catechesis in chapter 2 of his Letter, Peter alludes to the Psalm used by the ancient Church in the context of communion, that is, to the verse which says: “O taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps 34[33]: 8; 1 Pt 2: 3). Tasting alone leads to seeing. Let us think of the disciples of Emmaus: it was only in convivial communion with Jesus, only in the breaking of the bread that their eyes were opened. Only in truly experienced communion with the Lord were they able to see. This applies to us all; over and above thinking and speaking, we need the experience of faith, the vital relationship with Jesus Christ. Faith must not remain theory: it must be life. If we encounter the Lord in the Sacrament, if we speak to him in prayer, if in the decisions of daily life we adhere to Christ then “we see” more and more how good he is; then we experience how good it is to be with him. Moreover the capacity to communicate faith to others in a credible way stems from this certainty lived. The Curé d’Ars was not a great thinker; but he “tasted” the Lord. He lived with him even in the details of daily life, as well as in the great demands of his pastoral ministry. In this way he became “one who sees”. He had tasted so he knew that the Lord is good. Let us pray the Lord that he may grant us this ability to taste, and that we may thus become credible witnesses of the hope that is in us.

Lastly, I would like to point out another small but important statement of St Peter. Right at the beginning of his Letter he tells us that the goal of our faith is the salvation of souls (see 1: 9). In the world of language and thought of the Christianity of today this is a strange, and for some, perhaps even shocking assertion. The word “soul” had fallen into discredit. It is said that this could lead to a division of man into spiritual and physical, body and soul, whereas in reality he would be an indivisible unit. In addition, “the salvation of souls” as a goal of faith seems to indicate an individualistic Christianity, a loss of responsibility for the world overall, in its corporeity and in its materiality. Yet none of this is found in St Peter’s Letter. Zeal for the witness in favor of hope and responsibility for others characterizes the entire text. To understand what he says on the salvation of souls as a destination of faith, we must start from another angle. It remains true that the lack of care for souls, the impoverishment of the inner man, not only destroys the individual but threatens the destiny of humanity overall. Without the healing of souls, without the healing of man from within there can be no salvation for humanity. To our surprise, St Peter describes the true ailment of souls as ignorance, that is, not knowing God. Those who are not acquainted with God, or at least do not seek him sincerely, are left outside true life (see 1 Pt 1: 14). Yet another word from the Letter could be useful to understand better the formula “salvation of souls”. “Purify your souls by obedience to the truth” (see 1: 22). It is obedience to the truth that purifies the soul and it is coexistence with falsehood that pollutes it. Obedience to the truth begins with the small truths of daily life that can often be demanding and painful. This obedience then extends to obedience without reservations before the Truth itself that is Christ. This obedience not only purifies us but above all also frees us for service to Christ and thus for the salvation of the world, which nevertheless always begins with the obedient purification of one’s own soul through the truth. We may point out the way towards the truth only if by obedience and patience we let ourselves be purified by the truth.

And now I address you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, who will shortly receive the pallium from my hands. It was woven from the wool of lambs which the Pope blesses on the Feast of St Agnes. In this way it also recalls the lambs and sheep of Christ, which the Risen Lord entrusted to Peter with the task of tending them (see Jn 21: 15-18). The pallium recalls the flock of Jesus Christ which you, dear Brothers, must tend in communion with Peter. It reminds us of Christ himself, who, as the Good Shepherd, took the lost sheep, humanity, on his shoulders to bring it home. It reminds us that he, the supreme Pastor, wanted to make himself the Lamb, to take upon himself from within the destiny of us all; to carry us and to heal us from within. Let us pray the Lord that he will grant us to be just Pastors following in his footsteps, “not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it... eagerly... examples to the flock” (1 Pt 5: 2f). Amen.


SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the Church of Rome is celebrating her holy roots. She is celebrating the Apostles Peter and Paul whose relics are preserved in the two Basilicas dedicated to them that adorn the entire City, dear to Christians, residents and pilgrims. The Solemnity began yesterday evening with the prayer of First Vespers in the Ostian Basilica. The Liturgy of the day presents anew Peter’s profession of faith to Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). This declaration is not the product of reason but a revelation of the Father to the humble fisherman of Galilee, as Jesus himself confirms, saying: “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you” (Mt 16:17). Simon Peter is so close to the Lord that he himself becomes a rock of faith and love on which Jesus has built his Church and, as St John Chrysostom observes, “he has made her stronger than heaven itself” (Hom. in Matthum 54, 2: PG 58, 535). Indeed the Lord concludes by saying: “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19).

St Paul the 2,000th anniversary of whose birth we have recently celebrated spread the Gospel with divine Grace, sowing among pagan peoples the word of truth and salvation. Although the two Holy Patrons of Rome had received from God different charisms and different missions to fulfill, both are pillars of the Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic, “permanently open to missionary and ecumenical Endeavour, for she is sent to the world to announce and witness, to make present and spread the mystery of communion which is essential to her” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Communionis Notio, 28 May 1992, no. 4: ORE. 17 June 1992, p.8). For this reason, during Holy Mass this morning in the Vatican Basilica, I conferred on 38 Metropolitan Archbishops the Pallium, which symbolizes both communion with the Bishop of Rome and the mission to lovingly tend Christ’s one flock. On this solemn occasion, I also wish to thank warmly the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as a testimony of the spiritual bond between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople.

May the example of the Apostles Peter and Paul illumine minds and kindle in the hearts of believers the holy desire to do God’s will, so that the pilgrim Church on this earth may always be faithful to her Lord. Let us turn with trust to the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles, who from Heaven guides and sustains the Christian People on its journey. I wish everyone a happy feast day of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.


PAPAL MASS ON THE
SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

HOLY MASS FOR THE IMPOSITION OF THE SACRED PALLIUM
ON METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOPS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Vatican Basilica, Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In their great wealth, the biblical texts of this Eucharistic Liturgy on the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul highlight a theme that could be summed up in these words: God is close to his faithful servants and delivers them from all evil and delivers the Church from negative powers. It is the theme of the Church’s freedom, that presents an historical aspect and another that is more profoundly spiritual.

This theme runs through the whole of today’s Liturgy of the Word. The First and Second Readings speak respectively of St Peter and St Paul, stressing God’s liberating action in their regard.

The text of the Acts of the Apostles especially describes with an abundance of detail the intervention of the Angel of the Lord who sets Peter free from his chains and leads him out of the prison of Jerusalem in which Herod the King had had him locked up and placed under strict surveillance (see Acts 12:1-11). Paul, on the other hand, in writing to Timothy when he felt he was approaching the end of his earthly life, makes a concise summary of it from which emerges the fact that the Lord has always been close to him, has delivered him from many dangers and will free him again, introducing him into his eternal Kingdom (see 2 Tim 4:6-8, 17-18). The theme is reinforced by the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 34[33]), and is also given a special development in the Gospel passage of Peter’s profession where Christ promises that the powers of death shall not prevail over the Church (see Mt 16:18).

A close look at this theme reveals a certain progression. In the First Reading a specific episode is recounted that shows the Lord’s intervention to release Peter from prison. In the Second Reading Paul, on the basis of his extraordinary apostolic experience, says that he is convinced that the Lord, who has already rescued him “from the lion’s mouth”, will rescue him “from every evil”, opening the gates of Heaven to him; on the other hand, in the Gospel nothing further is said of the individual Apostles but it speaks rather of the Church as a whole and of her indemnity from the forces of evil, meant in the full and profound sense. Thus we see that Jesus’ promise “the powers of death shall not prevail against” the Church does indeed include the historical experiences of persecution that Peter and Paul and other Gospel witnesses suffered, but goes beyond them, with the intention of assuring protection, especially from threats of a spiritual kind; in accordance with what Paul himself writes in his Letter to the Ephesians: “for we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present world of darkness, against the evil spirits in the heavens” (see Eph 6:12).

Indeed if we think of the two millenniums of the Church’s history, we may note as the Lord Jesus had foretold (see Mt 10:16-33) that trials for Christians have never been lacking and in certain periods and places have assumed the character of true and proper persecution. Yet, despite the suffering they cause, they do not constitute the gravest danger for the Church. Indeed she is subjected to the greatest danger by what pollutes the faith and Christian life of her members and communities, corroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening her capacity for prophecy and witness, and marring the beauty of her face. The Pauline Letters already testified to this reality. The First Letter to the Corinthians, for example, responds precisely to certain problems of division, inconsistence and infidelity to the Gospel that seriously threaten the Church. However, the Second Letter to Timothy a passage to which we listened also speaks of the perils of the “last days”, identifying them with negative attitudes that belong to the world and can contaminate the Christian community: selfishness, vanity, pride, the attachment to money, etc. (see 3:1-5). The Apostle’s conclusion is reassuring: men who do evil, he writes, “will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all” (3:9). Therefore a guarantee exists of the freedom that God assures the Church, freedom both from material ties that seek to prevent or to coerce her mission and from spiritual and moral evils that can tarnish her authenticity and credibility.

The subject of the Church’s freedom, which Christ guaranteed to Peter, is also specifically relevant to the rite of the conferral of the Pallium, which today we renew for 38 Metropolitan Archbishops, to whom I address my most cordial greeting, which I extend with affection to all who have wished to accompany them on this pilgrimage. Communion with Peter and with his Successors is in fact a guarantee of freedom for the Church’s Pastors and for the Communities entrusted to them. It has been highlighted at both levels in the previous reflections. At the historical level, union with the Apostolic See guarantees the particular Churches and the Bishops’ Conferences freedom from local, national or supranational powers that in some cases can hinder the Church’s mission. In addition, and more essentially, the Petrine ministry is a guarantee of freedom in the sense of full adherence to the truth, to the authentic tradition, so that the People of God may be preserved from errors concerning faith and morals. Therefore the fact that new Metropolitans come to Rome every year to receive the Pallium from the Pope’s hands as a gesture of communion should be understood in its true sense, and the subject of the Church’s freedom gives us a particularly important key to its interpretation. This appears obvious in the case of Churches marked by persecution or subjected to political interference or other harsh trials. However, this is equally important in the case of Communities that suffer the influence of misleading doctrines or ideological trends and practices contrary to the Gospel. In this sense, therefore, the Pallium becomes a pledge of freedom, comparable to the “yoke” of Jesus which he invites each person to take upon his or her shoulders (see Mt 11:29-30). Just as Christ’s commandment although exacting is “easy and light” and, instead of weighing on those who carry it uplifts them, so the bond with the Apostolic See although demanding sustains the Pastor and the portion of the Church entrusted to his care, making them freer and stronger.

I would like to draw one last instruction from the word of God, and in particular from Christ’s promise that the powers of death will not prevail over his Church. These words can also have an ecumenical meaning since, as I mentioned just now, one of the typical effects of the action of the Evil One is, precisely, the internal division of the ecclesial Community. Ruptures are in fact symptoms of the power of sin that continues to act in members of the Church even after the redemption. However, Christ’s word is clear: “Non praevalebunt they shall not prevail” (Mt 16:18). The unity of the Church is rooted in her union with Christ and the cause of full Christian unity that must ever be sought and renewed, from generation to generation is also sustained by his prayer and his promise. In the struggle against the spirit of evil, God gave us in Jesus, the “Advocate” defender, and after his Pasch, “another Counselor” (see Jn 14:16), the Holy Spirit, who stays with us always and leads the Church towards the fullness of the truth (see Jn 14:16; 16:13) that is also the fullness of love and of unity. With these sentiments of trusting hope, I am glad to greet the Delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople which, in accordance with the beautiful custom of reciprocal visits, is taking part in the celebrations for the Holy Patrons of Rome. Let us thank God together for the progress in ecumenical relations between Catholic and Orthodox, and let us renew our commitment to respond generously to God’s grace that is leading us to full communion.

Dear friends, I cordially greet each one of you, Your Eminences, my Brothers in the Episcopate, the Ambassadors and the Civil Authorities and, in particular, the Mayor of Rome, the priests, religious and lay faithful. Thank you for coming. May the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul obtain that you increase in love for the Holy Church, Mystical Body of Christ and Messenger of Unity and Peace for all mankind. May they also obtain that you joyfully offer for her holiness and her missionary efforts your endeavors and suffering, borne out of faithfulness to the Gospel. May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles and Mother of the Church always watch over you and in particular over the ministry of the Metropolitan Archbishops. With her heavenly help may you always live and act in that freedom which Christ won for us. Amen.


PAPAL MASS ON THE
SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

FIRST VESPERS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Sunday, 28 June 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With the celebration of First Vespers we enter the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul. We have the grace to do so gathered in prayer by the tomb of the Apostle to the Gentiles, in the Papal Basilica named after him. For this reason I wish to focus my brief reflection on the perspective of the Church’s missionary vocation. The third Antiphon of the Psalter which we have prayed in addition to the biblical Reading is oriented in this direction. The first two Antiphons are dedicated to St Peter and the third to St Paul, and it says: “You are the chosen instrument of God, St Paul, Apostle, the preacher of truth in all the world”. And in the brief Reading, taken from the opening address of the Letter to the Romans, Paul introduces himself as “apostle by God’s call, set apart for the service of the Gospel” (see Rom 1:1). The figure of Paul his person and his ministry, the whole of his life and his hard work for the Kingdom of God is entirely dedicated to the service of the Gospel. In these texts one notices a sense of movement where the protagonist is not man, but God, the breath of the Holy Spirit, that impels the Apostle on the highways of the world to bring the Good News to everyone: the promises of the Prophets are fulfilled in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, who died for our sins and was raised for our justification. Saul is no longer, instead there is Paul, indeed there is Christ who lives in him (see Gal 2:20) and wants to reach out to all people. Although the Feast of the Holy Patrons of Rome thus calls to mind the twofold aspiration to unity and to universality that is characteristic of this Church, the context in which we are gathered this evening calls us to give priority to the latter, letting ourselves, so to speak, be “drawn” by St Paul and his extraordinary vocation.

When, during the Second Vatican Council, the Servant of God Giovanni Battista Montini was elected Successor of Peter he chose to take the name of the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul VI included in his programme for the implementation of the Council the convocation, in 1974, of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme of evangelization in the modern world. About a year later, he published the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, which begins with these words: “There is no doubt that the effort to proclaim the Gospel to the people of today, who are buoyed up by hope but at the same time often oppressed by fear and distress, is a service rendered to the Christian community and also to the whole of humanity” (no. 1). The timeliness of these words is striking. Paul VI’s special missionary sensitivity can be perceived in them and, through his voice, the Council’s deep yearning for the evangelization of the contemporary world. This yearning culminates in the Decree Ad Gentes but runs through all the documents of the Second Vatican Council and, even earlier, inspired the thoughts and work of the Council Fathers, convoked to represent, in an unprecedented, tangible way, the dissemination throughout the world achieved by the Church.

Words are useless to explain how Venerable John Paul II, in his long Pontificate, developed this missionary outreach that it should always be remembered corresponded with the very nature of the Church which, with St Paul, can and must always repeat: “If I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). Pope John Paul II represented the Church’s missionary nature “in the flesh” with his Apostolic Journeys and with the insistence of his Magisterium on the urgent need for a “new evangelization”: “new” not in its content but in its inner thrust, open to the grace of the Holy Spirit which constitutes the force of the new law of the Gospel that always renews the Church; “new” in ways that correspond with the power of the Holy Spirit and which are suited to the times and situations; “new” because of being necessary even in countries that have already received the proclamation of the Gospel. It is evident to all that my Predecessor gave the Church’s mission an extraordinary impetus, not only I repeat because of the distances he covered but above all because of the genuine missionary spirit that motivated him and that he left as a legacy at the dawn of the third millennium.

In receiving this legacy, I was able to state, at the beginning of my Petrine ministry, that the Church is young and open to the future. And I repeat this today, close to the tomb of St Paul. The Church is an immense force for renewal in the world. This is not, of course, because of her own strength but because of the power of the Gospel in which the Holy Spirit of God breathes, God Creator and Redeemer of the world. The challenges of the present time, the historical and social and, especially, the spiritual challenges, are certainly beyond the human capacity. It sometimes seems to us Pastors of the Church that we are reliving the experience of the Apostles when thousands of needy people followed Jesus and he asked them: what can we do for all these people? They were then aware of their powerlessness. Yet Jesus himself had shown them that with faith in God nothing is impossible and that a few loaves and fish, blessed and shared, could satisfy the hunger of all. However, there was not and there is not hunger solely for material food: there is a deeper hunger that only God can satisfy. Human beings of the third millennium want an authentic, full life; they need truth, profound freedom, love freely given. Even in the deserts of the secularized world, man’s soul thirsts for God, for the living God. It was for this reason that John Paul II wrote: “The mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion”, and he added: “an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service” (Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, no. 1). There are regions of the world that are still awaiting a first evangelization; others that have received it, but need a deeper intervention; yet others in which the Gospel put down roots a long time ago, giving rise to a true Christian tradition but in which, in recent centuries with complex dynamics the secularization process has produced a serious crisis of the meaning of the Christian faith and of belonging to the Church.

From this perspective, I have decided to create a new body, in the form of a “Pontifical Council”, whose principal task will be to promote a renewed evangelization in the countries where the first proclamation of the faith has already resonated and where Churches with an ancient foundation exist but are experiencing the progressive secularization of society and a sort of “eclipse of the sense of God”, which pose a challenge to finding appropriate to propose anew the perennial truth of Christ’s Gospel.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the challenge of the new evangelization calls into question the universal Church and asks us to continue with commitment our search for full Christian unity. An eloquent sign of hope in this regard is the custom of reciprocal visits between the Church of Rome and that of Constantinople for the Feast day of their respective Holy Patrons. Today, therefore, we welcome with renewed joy and gratitude the Delegation sent by Patriarch Bartholomaios I, to whom we address our most cordial greeting. May the intercession of Sts Peter and Paul obtain for the entire Church ardent faith and apostolic courage, to proclaim to the world the truth we all need, the truth that is God, the beginning and end of the universe and of history, the merciful and faithful Father, hope of eternal life. Amen.


SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Forgive me for the long delay. The Mass in honor of Sts Peter and Paul was long and beautiful. And we also thought of the beautiful hymn of the Church of Rome which begins: “O Roma felix!”

Today, on the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, Patrons of this city, let us sing in: “Happy Rome, for you are stained purple by the precious blood of such great Princes. Not for your praise, but because of their merits you exceed all beauty!”

As the hymns of the Eastern tradition sing, the two great Apostles are the “wings” of the knowledge of God who walked across the earth to its very end and were lifted up to Heaven; they are the “hands” of the Gospel of grace, the “feet of wisdom, the “arms” of the Cross (see MHN, t. 5 1899, p. 385).

May the witness of the love and faithfulness of Sts Peter and Paul illumine pastors of the Church, to lead people to the truth, instilling in them faith in Christ. St Peter, in particular, represents the unity of the Apostolic College. For this reason, during the liturgy celebrated this morning in the Vatican Basilica, I imposed the Pallium upon 41 Metropolitan Archbishops. The Pallium expresses communion with the Bishop of Rome in the mission of guiding the People of God towards salvation. St Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, wrote that “propter potentiorem principalitatem, every Church”, in other words the faithful everywhere, “must converge with the Church of Rome, because in her has been preserved the tradition derived from the Apostles” (Adversus Haereses, III, 3, 2).

The Church is founded on the faith professed by Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, we read in Matthew’s Gospel (16:16). Peter’s primacy is a divine predilection, as his priestly vocation also is: “For flesh or blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven” (Mt 16:17).

This is what happens to those who decide to respond to God’s call with the totality of their life. I remember it willingly today, which is the 60th anniversary of my priestly ordination. Thank you for your presence, and for your prayers! I am grateful to you, I am grateful above all to the Lord for his call and for the ministry he entrusted to me, and I thank those who, in this circumstance have expressed to me their closeness and their support of my mission with prayer, which every ecclesial community raises ceaselessly to God (see Acts 12:5), expressed in adoration of Christ in the Eucharist to increase the strength and freedom of Gospel proclamation.

In this atmosphere, I am glad to greet cordially the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, present in Rome today, in accordance with the important custom, to venerate Sts Peter and Paul, and to share with me the hope of Christian unity which the Lord desired. Let us invoke with trust the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles, so that every baptized person may become more and more a “living stone” in the construction of the Kingdom of God.


FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL

HOLY MASS FOR THE IMPOSITION OF THE SACRED PALLIUM
ON METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOPS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Vatican Basilica, Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Non iam dicam servos, sed amicos” - “I no longer call you servants, but friends” (see Jn 15:15).

Sixty years on from the day of my priestly ordination, I hear once again deep within me these words of Jesus that were addressed to us new priests at the end of the ordination ceremony by the Archbishop, Cardinal Faulhaber, in his slightly frail yet firm voice. According to the liturgical practice of that time, these words conferred on the newly-ordained priests the authority to forgive sins. “No longer servants, but friends”: at that moment I knew deep down that these words were no mere formality, nor were they simply a quotation from Scripture. I knew that, at that moment, the Lord himself was speaking to me in a very personal way. In baptism and confirmation he had already drawn us close to him, he had already received us into God’s family. But what was taking place now was something greater still. He calls me his friend. He welcomes me into the circle of those he had spoken to in the Upper Room, into the circle of those whom he knows in a very special way, and who thereby come to know him in a very special way. He grants me the almost frightening faculty to do what only he, the Son of God, can legitimately say and do: I forgive you your sins. He wants me – with his authority – to be able to speak, in his name (“I” forgive), words that are not merely words, but an action, changing something at the deepest level of being. I know that behind these words lies his suffering for us and on account of us. I know that forgiveness comes at a price: in his Passion he went deep down into the sordid darkness of our sins. He went down into the night of our guilt, for only thus can it be transformed. And by giving me authority to forgive sins, he lets me look down into the abyss of man, into the immensity of his suffering for us men, and this enables me to sense the immensity of his love. He confides in me: “No longer servants, but friends”. He entrusts to me the words of consecration in the Eucharist. He trusts me to proclaim his word, to explain it aright and to bring it to the people of today. He entrusts himself to me. “You are no longer servants, but friends”: these words bring great inner joy, but at the same time, they are so awe-inspiring that one can feel daunted as the decades go by amid so many experiences of one’s own frailty and his inexhaustible goodness.

“No longer servants, but friends”: this saying contains within itself the entire programme of a priestly life. What is friendship? Idem velle, idem nolle – wanting the same things, rejecting the same things: this was how it was expressed in antiquity. Friendship is a communion of thinking and willing. The Lord says the same thing to us most insistently: “I know my own and my own know me” (Jn 10:14). The Shepherd calls his own by name (see Jn 10:3). He knows me by name. I am not just some nameless being in the infinity of the universe. He knows me personally. Do I know him? The friendship that he bestows upon me can only mean that I too try to know him better; that in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, in prayer, in the communion of saints, in the people who come to me, sent by him, I try to come to know the Lord himself more and more. Friendship is not just about knowing someone, it is above all a communion of the will. It means that my will grows into ever greater conformity with his will. For his will is not something external and foreign to me, something to which I more or less willingly submit or else refuse to submit. No, in friendship, my will grows together with his will, and his will becomes mine: this is how I become truly myself. Over and above communion of thinking and willing, the Lord mentions a third, new element: he gives his life for us (see Jn 15:13; 10:15). Lord, help me to come to know you more and more. Help me to be ever more at one with your will. Help me to live my life not for myself, but in union with you to live it for others. Help me to become ever more your friend.

Jesus’ words on friendship should be seen in the context of the discourse on the vine. The Lord associates the image of the vine with a commission to the disciples: “I appointed you that you should go out and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15:16). The first commission to the disciples, to his friends, is that of setting out – appointed to go out -, stepping outside oneself and towards others. Here we hear an echo of the words of the risen Lord to his disciples at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ...” (see Mt 28:19f.) The Lord challenges us to move beyond the boundaries of our own world and to bring the Gospel to the world of others, so that it pervades everything and hence the world is opened up for God’s kingdom. We are reminded that even God stepped outside himself, he set his glory aside in order to seek us, in order to bring us his light and his love. We want to follow the God who sets out in this way, we want to move beyond the inertia of self-centeredness, so that he himself can enter our world.

After the reference to setting out, Jesus continues: bear fruit, fruit that abides. What fruit does he expect from us? What is this fruit that abides? Now, the fruit of the vine is the grape, and it is from the grape that wine is made. Let us reflect for a moment on this image. For good grapes to ripen, sun is needed, but so too is rain, day and night. For noble wine to mature, the grapes need to be pressed, patience is needed while the juice ferments, watchful care is needed to assist the processes of maturation. Noble wine is marked not only by sweetness, but by rich and subtle flavors, the manifold aroma that develops during the processes of maturation and fermentation. Is this not already an image of human life, and especially of our lives as priests? We need both sun and rain, festivity and adversity, times of purification and testing, as well as times of joyful journeying with the Gospel. In hindsight we can thank God for both: for the challenges and the joys, for the dark times and the glad times. In both, we can recognize the constant presence of his love, which unfailingly supports and sustains us.

Yet now we must ask: what sort of fruit does the Lord expect from us? Wine is an image of love: this is the true fruit that abides, the fruit that God wants from us. But let us not forget that in the Old Testament the wine expected from noble grapes is above all an image of justice, which arises from a life lived in accordance with God’s law. And this is not to be dismissed as an Old Testament view that has been surpassed – no, it still remains true. The true content of the Law, its summa, is love for God and for one’s neighbour. But this twofold love is not simply saccharine. It bears within itself the precious cargo of patience, humility, and growth in the conforming of our will to God’s will, to the will of Jesus Christ, our friend. Only in this way, as the whole of our being takes on the qualities of truth and righteousness, is love also true, only thus is it ripe fruit. Its inner demand – faithfulness to Christ and to his Church – seeks a fulfilment that always includes suffering. This is the way that true joy grows. At a deep level, the essence of love, the essence of genuine fruit, coincides with the idea of setting out, going towards: it means self-abandonment, self-giving, it bears within itself the sign of the cross. Gregory the Great once said in this regard: if you are striving for God, take care not to go to him by yourselves alone – a saying that we priests need to keep before us every day (H Ev 1:6:6 PL 76, 1097f.).

Dear friends, perhaps I have dwelt for too long on my inner recollections of sixty years of priestly ministry. Now it is time to turn our attention to the particular task that is to be performed today.

On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul my most cordial greeting goes first of all to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I and to the Delegation he has sent, to whom I express sincere thanks for their most welcome visit on the happy occasion of this feast of the holy Apostles who are Rome’s patrons. I also greet the Cardinals, my brother bishops, the ambassadors and civil authorities as well as the priests, the confrères of my first Mass, religious and lay faithful. I thank all of you for your presence and your prayers.

The metropolitan archbishops appointed since the feast of Saints Peter and Paul last year are now going to receive the pallium. What does this mean? It may remind us in the first instance of Christ’s easy yoke that is laid upon us (see Mt 11:29f.). Christ’s yoke is identical with his friendship. It is a yoke of friendship and therefore “a sweet yoke”, but as such it is also a demanding yoke, one that forms us. It is the yoke of his will, which is a will of truth and love. For us, then, it is first and foremost the yoke of leading others to friendship with Christ and being available to others, caring for them as shepherds. This brings us to a further meaning of the pallium: it is woven from the wool of lambs blessed on the feast of Saint Agnes. Thus it reminds us of the Shepherd who himself became a lamb, out of love for us. It reminds us of Christ, who set out through the mountains and the deserts, in which his lamb, humanity, had strayed. It reminds us of him who took the lamb – humanity – me – upon his shoulders, in order to carry me home. It thus reminds us that we too, as shepherds in his service, are to carry others with us, taking them as it were upon our shoulders and bringing them to Christ. It reminds us that we are called to be shepherds of his flock, which always remains his and does not become ours. Finally the pallium also means quite concretely the communion of the shepherds of the Church with Peter and with his successors – it means that we must be shepherds for unity and in unity, and that it is only in the unity represented by Peter that we truly lead people to Christ.

Sixty years of priestly ministry – dear friends, perhaps I have spoken for too long about this. But I felt prompted at this moment to look back upon the things that have left their mark on the last six decades. I felt prompted to address to you, to all priests and bishops and to the faithful of the Church, a word of hope and encouragement; a word that has matured in long experience of how good the Lord is. Above all, though, it is a time of thanksgiving: thanks to the Lord for the friendship that he has bestowed upon me and that he wishes to bestow upon us all. Thanks to the people who have formed and accompanied me. And all this includes the prayer that the Lord will one day welcome us in his goodness and invite us to contemplate his joy.


SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St. Peter’s Square, Friday, 29 June 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are celebrating with joy the liturgical Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, a Feast that accompanies the 2,000-year-old history of the Christian people. They are called the pillars of the nascent Church. Outstanding witnesses of the faith who spread the Kingdom of God with their various gifts and, following the example of the Divine Master, they sealed their Gospel preaching with blood. Their martyrdom is a sign of the Church’s unity, as St Augustine says: “Only one day is consecrated to the Feast of the two Apostles. But they too are only one. Although they were martyred on different days they were one. Peter came first and Paul followed” (Disc. 295, 8: PL 38, 1352).

The Vatican Basilica and this square, so important to Christianity, are an eloquent sign of Peter’s sacrifice. Significant traces even remain in our City of the martyrdom of Paul, especially the Basilica dedicated to him on the Ostian Way. Rome has engraved in its history signs of the glorious life and death of the humble Fisherman from Galilee and the Apostle to the Gentiles, who have been rightly chosen as Protectors. In recalling their luminous testimony, we remember the venerable beginnings of the Church which believes, prays and announces Christ the Redeemer in Rome. But Sts Peter and Paul shine not only in the sky of Rome but also in the hearts of all believers who, illuminated by their teaching and their example, walk in every part of the world on the path of faith, hope and love.

On this path of salvation, the Christian community, supported by the presence of the Spirit of the living God, feels encouraged to move forward with strength and serenity on the road of fidelity to Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel to men and women in every era. On this fruitful route, spiritual and missionary, we situate the conferral of the Pallium on the Metropolitan Archbishops, which I performed this morning in the Basilica. An ever eloquent rite which highlights the intimate communion of Pastors with the Successor of Peter and the deep bond that links us to the Apostolic Tradition. It is a double treasure of holiness where unity and the catholicity of the Church are fused together: a precious treasure to rediscover and to live with renewed enthusiasm and constant commitment.

Dear pilgrims, come here from every part of the world! On this Feast day, we pray with the phrases from the Eastern Liturgy: “Praise to Peter and Paul, two great lights of the Church; may they shine in the firmament of the faith”. In this climate, I would like to address a special thought to the Delegation from the Patriarchate of Constantinople which, as every year, has come to take part in our traditional celebrations. May the Holy Virgin lead all believers in Christ to the goal of full unity!


FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL

HOLY MASS FOR THE IMPOSITION OF THE SACRED PALLIUM
ON METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOPS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Vatican Basilica, Friday, 29 June 2012

Your Eminences,
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are gathered around the altar for our solemn celebration of Saints Peter and Paul, the principal Patrons of the Church of Rome. Present with us today are the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed during the past year, who have just received the Pallium, and to them I extend a particular and affectionate greeting. Also present is an eminent Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, sent by His Holiness Bartholomaios I, and I welcome them with fraternal and heartfelt gratitude. In an ecumenical spirit, I am also pleased to greet and to thank the Choir of Westminster Abbey, who are providing the music for this liturgy alongside the Cappella Sistina. I also greet the Ambassadors and civil Authorities present. I am grateful to all of you for your presence and your prayers.

In front of Saint Peter’s Basilica, as is well known, there are two imposing statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, easily recognizable by their respective attributes: the keys in the hand of Peter and the sword held by Paul. Likewise, at the main entrance to the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, there are depictions of scenes from the life and the martyrdom of these two pillars of the Church. Christian tradition has always considered Saint Peter and Saint Paul to be inseparable: indeed, together, they represent the whole Gospel of Christ. In Rome, their bond as brothers in the faith came to acquire a particular significance. Indeed, the Christian community of this City considered them a kind of counterbalance to the mythical Romulus and Remus, the two brothers held to be the founders of Rome. A further parallel comes to mind, still on the theme of brothers: whereas the first biblical pair of brothers demonstrate the effects of sin, as Cain kills Abel, yet Peter and Paul, much as they differ from one another in human terms and notwithstanding the conflicts that arose in their relationship, illustrate a new way of being brothers, lived according to the Gospel, an authentic way made possible by the grace of Christ’s Gospel working within them. Only by following Jesus does one arrive at this new brotherhood: this is the first and fundamental message that today’s solemnity presents to each one of us, the importance of which is mirrored in the pursuit of full communion, so earnestly desired by the ecumenical Patriarch and the Bishop of Rome, as indeed by all Christians.

In the passage from Saint Matthew’s Gospel that we have just heard, Peter makes his own confession of faith in Jesus, acknowledging him as Messiah and Son of God. He does so in the name of the other Apostles too. In reply, the Lord reveals to him the mission that he intends to assign to him, that of being the “rock”, the visible foundation on which the entire spiritual edifice of the Church is built (see Mt 16:16-19). But in what sense is Peter the rock? How is he to exercise this prerogative, which naturally he did not receive for his own sake? The account given by the evangelist Matthew tells us first of all that the acknowledgment of Jesus’ identity made by Simon in the name of the Twelve did not come “through flesh and blood”, that is, through his human capacities, but through a particular revelation from God the Father. By contrast, immediately afterwards, as Jesus foretells his passion, death and resurrection, Simon Peter reacts on the basis of “flesh and blood”: he “began to rebuke him, saying, this shall never happen to you” (16:22). And Jesus in turn replied: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me ...” (16:23). The disciple who, through God’s gift, was able to become a solid rock, here shows himself for what he is in his human weakness: a stone along the path, a stone on which men can stumble – in Greek, skandalon. Here we see the tension that exists between the gift that comes from the Lord and human capacities; and in this scene between Jesus and Simon Peter we see anticipated in some sense the drama of the history of the papacy itself, characterized by the joint presence of these two elements: on the one hand, because of the light and the strength that come from on high, the papacy constitutes the foundation of the Church during its pilgrimage through history; on the other hand, across the centuries, human weakness is also evident, which can only be transformed through openness to God’s action.

And in today’s Gospel there emerges powerfully the clear promise made by Jesus: “the gates of the underworld”, that is, the forces of evil, will not prevail, “non praevalebunt”. One is reminded of the account of the call of the prophet Jeremiah, to whom the Lord said, when entrusting him with his mission: “Behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you - non praevalebunt -, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you!” (Jer 1:18-19). In truth, the promise that Jesus makes to Peter is even greater than those made to the prophets of old: they, indeed, were threatened only by human enemies, whereas Peter will have to be defended from the “gates of the underworld”, from the destructive power of evil. Jeremiah receives a promise that affects him as a person and his prophetic ministry; Peter receives assurances concerning the future of the Church, the new community founded by Jesus Christ, which extends to all of history, far beyond the personal existence of Peter himself.

Let us move on now to the symbol of the keys, which we heard about in the Gospel. It echoes the oracle of the prophet Isaiah concerning the steward Eliakim, of whom it was said: “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open” (Is 22:22). The key represents authority over the house of David. And in the Gospel there is another saying of Jesus addressed to the scribes and the Pharisees, whom the Lord reproaches for shutting off the kingdom of heaven from people (see Mt 23:13). This saying also helps us to understand the promise made to Peter: to him, inasmuch as he is the faithful steward of Christ’s message, it belongs to open the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven, and to judge whether to admit or to refuse (see Rev 3:7). Hence the two images – that of the keys and that of binding and loosing – express similar meanings which reinforce one another. The expression “binding and loosing” forms part of rabbinical language and refers on the one hand to doctrinal decisions, and on the other hand to disciplinary power, that is, the faculty to impose and to lift excommunication. The parallelism “on earth ... in the heavens” guarantees that Peter’s decisions in the exercise of this ecclesial function are valid in the eyes of God.

In Chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel, dedicated to the life of the ecclesial community, we find another saying of Jesus addressed to the disciples: “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 18:18). Saint John, in his account of the appearance of the risen Christ in the midst of the Apostles on Easter evening, recounts these words of the Lord: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven: if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23). In the light of these parallels, it appears clearly that the authority of loosing and binding consists in the power to remit sins. And this grace, which defuses the powers of chaos and evil, is at the heart of the Church’s mystery and ministry. The Church is not a community of the perfect, but a community of sinners, obliged to recognize their need for God’s love, their need to be purified through the Cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ sayings concerning the authority of Peter and the Apostles make it clear that God’s power is love, the love that shines forth from Calvary. Hence we can also understand why, in the Gospel account, Peter’s confession of faith is immediately followed by the first prediction of the Passion: through his death, Jesus conquered the powers of the underworld, with his blood he poured out over the world an immense flood of mercy, which cleanses the whole of humanity in its healing waters.

Dear brothers and sisters, as I mentioned at the beginning, the iconographic tradition represents Saint Paul with a sword, and we know that this was the instrument with which he was killed. Yet as we read the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles, we discover that the image of the sword refers to his entire mission of evangelization. For example, when he felt death approaching, he wrote to Timothy: “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim 4:7). This was certainly not the battle of a military commander but that of a herald of the Word of God, faithful to Christ and to his Church, to which he gave himself completely. And that is why the Lord gave him the crown of glory and placed him, together with Peter, as a pillar in the spiritual edifice of the Church.

Dear Metropolitan Archbishops, the Pallium that I have conferred on you will always remind you that you have been constituted in and for the great mystery of communion that is the Church, the spiritual edifice built upon Christ as the cornerstone, while in its earthly and historical dimension, it is built on the rock of Peter. Inspired by this conviction, we know that together we are all cooperators of the truth, which as we know is one and “symphonic”, and requires from each of us and from our communities a constant commitment to conversion to the one Lord in the grace of the one Spirit. May the Holy Mother of God guide and accompany us always along the path of faith and charity. Queen of Apostles, pray for us! Amen. 



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