On Peter's Mission

«To Feed the Flock of Christ, Keeping It United in Faith and Charity»

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. He had just celebrated a Mass with the 22 new cardinals.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

This Sunday is particularly festive here in the Vatican because of the consistory that occurred yesterday in which I created 22 new cardinals. I had the joy this morning to concelebrate the Eucharist in St. Peter’s Basilica at the tomb of the apostle whom Jesus called to be the «rock» on which he would build the Church (cf. Matthew 16:18). I therefore invite all of you also to add your prayer for these venerable brothers who are now more committed to collaborate with me in leading the universal Church and to give testimony to the Gospel even to the point of sacrificing their own lives. This is the meaning of the red color of their garb: the color of blood and love. Some of them work in Rome, in the service of the Holy See, others are shepherds of important diocesan Churches; others are distinguished and appreciated for long years of study and teaching. Now they are part of the College that assists the Pope most closely in his office of communion and evangelization: We welcome them with joy, recalling what Jesus said to his Apostles: «He who wishes to be first among you must be the slave of all. Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life for the ransom of many» (Mark 10:44-45).

This ecclesial event takes place against the background of the liturgical feast of the Chair of St. Peter, anticipated today since Feb. 22, the date of that feast, will be Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The chair reserved for the bishop is the «cathedra,» from which is derived the word «cathedral,» the name given to the church in which the bishop presides at the liturgy and teaches the people. The Cathedra of St. Peter, represented in the apse of the Vatican Basilica by a monumental sculpture of Bernini, is a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to feed the flock of Christ, keeping it united in faith and charity. Already at the beginning of the second century, St. Ignatius of Antioch attributed to the Church in Rome a singular primacy, greeting her, in his letter to the Romans, as she who «presides in charity.» This special task of service falls to the Roman community and its bishop because of the fact that in this city the Apostles Peter and Paul spilled their blood besides numerous other martyrs. We return thus to the witness of blood and of charity. The Chair of Peter, therefore, is indeed a sign of authority, but that of Christ, based on faith and love.

Dear friends, let us entrust the new cardinals to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, that she might always assist them in their ecclesial service and sustain them in trials. Mary, Mother of the Church, help me and those who tirelessly work with me for the unity of the People of God and to proclaim to all peoples the message of salvation, humbly and courageously accomplishing the service of truth in charity.

[Following the Angelus the Holy Father addressed those present in St. Peter’s Square in various languages. In English he said:]

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer, especially those accompanying the new Cardinals. In today’s Gospel, Jesus grants healing and life in body and soul in response to faith. May we too believe and trust in Christ, and seek from him both forgiveness of sin and the power to live a new life of grace. Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday, a good week. Have a good Sunday everyone!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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