John Paul II's Homily on Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

«God Came to the Aid of His Apostle»

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2002 ( John Paul II last Saturday presided over the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul in the courtyard of the Papal Chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state.

In the course of the eucharistic celebration, the Pope blessed and conferred the pallium on 28 metropolitan archbishops from around the world. The pallium, a band of white wool decorated with black crosses, symbolizes their bond with the See of Rome. Two other archbishops will receive the pallium in their Metropolitan Sees.

As usual on the occasion of this solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, patrons of the city of Rome, the Mass was attended by a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. This year, a delegation of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria was also present.

Following is a translation of the text of the Holy Father’s homily after the reading of the Gospel and his address at the end of the Mass.


1. «Put on your cloak and follow me.» (Acts 12:8)

This is how the angel addressed himself to Peter, detained in the prison of Jerusalem. And, according to the account in the sacred text, Peter «followed him out.» (Acts 12:9)

With this extraordinary intervention, God came to the aid of his apostle, so that he could continue in his mission. Not an easy mission, which entailed a complex and exhausting journey. A mission that would conclude with his martyrdom, here in Rome, where even today the tomb of Peter is the object of incessant pilgrimages from all over the world.

2. «Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? … Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.» (Acts 9:4,6)

Paul was dazzled by divine grace on the way to Damascus, and after being a persecutor of Christians he became the Apostle to the Gentiles. Having encountered Christ on the road, he pledged himself without reservations to the cause of the Gospel.

For Paul also, Rome, the capital of the empire, was kept as a distant goal, where together with Peter, he was to preach Christ, only Lord and Savior of the world. He, too, one day would spill his blood for the faith precisely here, forever associating his name with that of Peter in the history of Christian Rome.

3. Today the Church celebrates with joy the memory of both of them together. The «Rock» and the «Chosen instrument» finally met here, in Rome, fulfilling their apostolic ministry, sealing it with the effusion of blood.

The mysterious journey of faith and love, which leads Peter and Paul from the land of their birth to Jerusalem, and then to other parts of the world and finally to Rome, in a certain sense is a model of the journey that every Christian is called to undertake to witness to Christ in the world.

«I sought the Lord, who answered me, delivered me from all my fears.» (Psalm 33[34]:5) How can one not perceive in the experience of both these saints, whom we commemorate today, the realization of these words of the Psalmist? The Church is continually put to the test. The message that always comes to her from the holy Apostles Peter and Paul is clear and eloquent: by the grace of God, in every circumstance it is possible for man to become a sign of the victorious power of God. Because of this, he must not fear. Whoever has confidence in God, free from every fear, experiences the consoling presence of the Spirit also, and especially, in times of trial and suffering.

4. Dear and venerable brothers in the episcopate! The example of Peter and Paul above all challenges us, constituted with the episcopal ordination, successors of the apostles. Like them, we are invited to undertake a journey of conversion and of love of Christ. Is it not him, perhaps, who has called us? Is it not always him whom we must proclaim with consistency and faithfulness?

I address you in particular, dear Metropolitans, who have come from numerous countries of the world to receive the pallium from the Successor of Peter. I greet you cordially together with all those who have accompanied you. The special bond with the Apostolic See that this liturgical sign expresses, is a stimulus to more intense commitment in receiving spiritual and pastoral communion for the benefit of the faithful, promoting in them the sense of the unity and universality of the Church. Guard faithfully in yourselves and in the persons entrusted to you, that holiness of life that is a supernatural gift of the grace of the Lord.

In addition, I greet with affection the delegation sent by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, led by Metropolitan Panteleimon. The traditional visit of representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul constitutes a providential moment on the way toward the re-establishment of full communion among us.

At the beginning of the third millennium, we strongly see the need of having «to begin again from Christ,» foundation of our common faith and mission. «Yesterday, today and forever» (Hebrews 13:8), Christ is the solid rock on which the Church is built.

5. «You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!» (Matthew 16:16) The profession of faith made by Peter at Caesarea Philippi, when the Master asked his disciples: «But who do you say that I am?» (Ibid., verse 15), assumes an all together singular value and meaning for us who form the ecclesial community of Rome. The witness of Peter and Paul, sealed by the extreme sacrifice of their life, reminds this Church of the commitment made to give «precedence to charity.» (Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans, 1, 1)

Faithful to this, my beloved diocese, let us always be more aware of this responsibility of ours. Let us persevere in prayer together with Mary, Queen of the Apostles.

Following the example of our glorious patrons and with their constant support, let us try to repeat every instant to Christ: «You are the Christ, the Son of the living God! You are our only Redeemer!»

[Original text in Italian]

The Holy Father’s address at the end of the Mass

At the end of this solemn celebration, I wish to thank all of you, dear brothers and sisters, who with your devoted participation have honored the memory of Sts. Peter and Paul. I address, in particular, a cordial and grateful greeting to the delegation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, led by Metropolitan Simeon. Always remembering my recent visit in Bulgaria, I invoke heavenly blessings on the faithful of that dear nation.

[Original text in Italian. Translation by ZENIT]

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