Thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica to celebrate the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul this morning. Pope Francis presided the Mass, which saw the traditional presence of the Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The Holy Father also invested the pallium on 21 Metropolitan archbishops present at the celebration. The pallium, a woolen cloak that is a sign of their office, is made from the wool of lambs blessed by the Pope on the Feast of St. Agnes.
During his homily, Pope Francis greeted the delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch, who he met with yesterday in a private audience at the Apostolic Palace. After welcoming the delegation, the Holy Father reflected on today’s readings, which recalled Peter’s release from prison by an angel.
“Peter realized that the Lord had ‘rescued him from the hand of Herod’; he realized that the Lord had freed him from fear and from chains,” he said. “Yes, the Lord liberates us from every fear and from all that enslaves us, so that we can be truly free. Today’s liturgical celebration expresses this truth well in the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm: ‘The Lord has freed me from all my fears’. The problem for us, then, is fear and looking for refuge in our pastoral responsibilities.”
Addressing the metropolitan archbishops receiving the pallium, the Pope called on them to reflect on where they seek their refuge, whether it comes from the support of “those who wield worldly power” or by pride “which seeks gratification or recognition.”
“The witness of the Apostle Peter reminds us that our true refuge is trust in God,” he said. “Trust in God banishes all fear and sets us free from every form of slavery and all worldly temptation.”
“Today,” he continued, “the Bishop of Rome and other bishops, particularly the metropolitans who have received the pallium, feel challenged by the example of Saint Peter to assess to what extent each of us puts his trust in the Lord.”
The 77 year old Pontiff went on to say that the Apostle Peter, rather than trusting himself and his own strengths, entrusts himself to “Jesus and His mercy.” This is evident in Peter’s threefold confession of his love for Christ after His resurrection. St. Peter’s experience, the Holy Father said, shows that “God’s fidelity is always greater than our acts of infidelity.”
“Today Jesus also asks us: “Do you love me?”,” the Pope said. “He does so because he knows our fears and our struggles. Peter shows us the way: we need to trust in the Lord, who “knows everything” that is in us, not counting on our capacity to be faithful, but on his unshakable fidelity.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis encouraged the metropolitan Archbishops to take upon themselves the message of Christ’s faithfulness and follow Him.
“Today the Lord repeats to me, to you, and to all pastors: Follow me! Waste no time in questioning or in useless chattering; do not dwell on secondary things, but look to what is essential and follow me. Follow me without regard for the difficulties. Follow me in preaching the Gospel,” he concluded. (J.A.E.)