Cardinal at Vigil for Pope: It's the Pope Who Prays for Us

Speaks of Wonder of Knowing Church Today Is Church of the Apostles

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ROME, JUNE 21, 2011 (Zenit.org).- With Benedict XVI’s 60th anniversary as a priest coming next week, a Catholic family movement gathered people in St. Peter’s Square for a prayer vigil. The cardinal who opened the event recalled that it is the Pope who first prays for us.

The Movimento dell’Amore Familiare sponsored the prayer vigil Saturday.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, suggested that praying for God’s people is the Holy Father’s “life objective.”

But, he added, it is necessary for people to pray for the Pope, too — to sustain one another in prayer, “because we are in communion, we walk side by side.”

There was no official word from the Vatican as to whether the Pope followed the vigil. He was leaving for San Marino the next day at 8 A.M., but during the prayer service, the windows of his study were open and the light was on, while the lights of his room were off and the shutters were closed.

Papal wishes

“This initiative began seven years ago in response to what the Pope asked of us,” the president of Amore Familiare, Tommaso Benincasa, told ZENIT. “At the beginning, there wasn’t a big group, but later the initiative began to grow.”

Benincasa said that in mid-June every year they meet in the Square and Cardinal Comastri opens the vigil.

“We hope that everyone will understand — as His Eminence said in the homily — that by praying for the Pope we pray for the whole Church,” Benincasa said. “We, as a movement made up of families with children, see that today in some cases the family is mistreated and there is no lack of those who wish to destroy it. Hence, we ask for the Holy Father’s help; he prays for us, and we pray that he will sustain us.”

Peter’s steps

Cardinal Comastri’s homily reflected on the roots of papal authority in the early Church.

Recalling an address from Pope Paul VI on the privilege of being part of the Church of Christ, Cardinal Comastri reflected: “Jesus wanted his Church to have a center of unity, and it is here, the center around which communion is built, it is this one. [Jesus wanted it] to have a rock to guarantee the solidity of the faith of all of his teachings, and that rock is Peter, and after him is the Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter, who today is Benedict XVI.”

The 67-year-old cardinal considered the role of Peter as seen in the New Testament.

In the Acts of the Apostles, “which is the account of the first steps of the Church, that Church which we are today,” the cardinal said, we see that Peter decided to give Judas’ place to another disciple. “Peter’s act reveals his awareness of having received from Jesus the role of directing the Apostolic College, and the disciples, not doubting it, recognized this role entrusted to Peter by Jesus.”

More than that, Cardinal Comastri continued, “on the day of Pentecost, Luke narrates that Peter, outside the Cenacle, together with the others, cried out ‘Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.'”

“Peter’s words are the first missionary cry of the Church, which continues with the word of Benedict XVI, who encourages us to be missionaries today,” the cardinal stated.

And when the first persecutions began, Peter said before the Sanhedrin: “He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

The cardinal reflected: “The Church repeats the same teaching, the same message.

“In a very beautiful passage of Acts, it is also Peter who, illumined by a vision when he enters the house of a pagan, of Cornelius, makes the decision to baptize the first Gentile. It was a step forward, a missionary step, and Peter said ‘In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.’ And he accepted.”

“What is wonderful for us at this moment,” the cardinal declared, “is to be able to conclude saying that the present Catholic Church continues in perfect continuity with the Apostolic Church.”

“How lovely it is for us to know and exclaim at this moment: ‘We are the Church of the origins, we are the Apostolic Church that has come down through the centuries,'” he said. “And this guarantee comes from the fact that we are with Peter, with the one whom Jesus wanted as pivot, center, and rock of the unity of the Church. I am already in the will of Christ, I am in his flock because I am Catholic, because I am with Peter, and today we can say that we are with Benedict XVI.

“That is why we are here tonight, to pray for the Pope, to surround him with affection, to say to him: ‘We accompany you with our prayers, you continue being the rock on which Jesus builds also today, at this precise moment, his Church.'”

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