Bishop of Rome Takes Possession of His Cathedral

At Basilica of St. John Lateran

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 8, 2005 ( Benedict XVI took possession of the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, commenting on essential aspects of his new ministry.

«Dear Romans, now I am your bishop and I want to try to be your bishop with all my heart, the Bishop of Rome,» said the Pope extemporaneously on Saturday during a Mass he celebrated in the basilica.

«And all of us want to be increasingly Catholic, increasingly brothers and sisters of the great family of God, that family in which there are no foreigners,» he added.

The Holy Father arrived at the basilica around 5:15 p.m., in an open car from which he greeted thousands of people gathered outside the basilica, across town from the Vatican.

In his homily, Benedict XVI opened his heart to express some of the ideas which he considers key to his Petrine ministry.

The Pontiff reminded the congregation that «Peter expressed in the first place, on behalf of the apostles, the profession of faith: ‘You are the Christ, the son of the living God.’ This is the task of all the Successors of Peter — to be the guide in the profession of faith in Christ, the son of the living God.»

Benedict XVI acknowledged that «this teaching authority frightens many men within and outside the Church. They wonder if it is not a threat to the freedom of conscience, if it is not a presumption that is opposed to freedom of thought. It is not so.»

He continued: «The power conferred by Christ to Peter and his Successors is, in the absolute sense, a mandate to serve. The authority to teach, in the Church, entails a commitment to the service of obedience to the faith. The Pope is not an absolute monarch, whose thought and will are law. On the contrary, the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his word.

«He must not proclaim his own ideas, but constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to the word of God, in face of attempts to adapt and water down, as well as of all opportunism.»

According to the Benedict XVI, this was Pope John Paul II’s mission, «when, in face of all attempts, apparently benevolent, in face of erroneous interpretations of freedom, he underlined in an unequivocal way the inviolability of the human being, the inviolability of human life, from its conception until natural death.»

«The freedom to kill is not true freedom, but a tyranny that reduces the human being to slavery,» stated Benedict XVI in his homily, which was interrupted often with applause.

«The Pope is conscious of being, in his important decisions, bound to the great community of faith of all times, to the binding interpretations developed through the Church’s journey of pilgrimage,» he said.

Before heading back to the Vatican, the Holy Father visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he prayed before the icon of Mary «Salus Populi Romani,» very much venerated by the citizens of Rome.

With this visit, the Pope concluded the process of taking of possession of the four great basilicas of Rome: St. Peter’s; St. Paul Outside the Walls, which he visited April 25; St. John Lateran; and St. Mary Major.

The Diocese of Rome comprises five patriarchal basilicas, 58 minor basilicas, 330 parishes and 279 non-parish churches.

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