(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 06.29.2023).- At 9:30 am in the Vatican Basilica, on the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, the Holy Father Francis blessed the Palliums, taken from the Confession of the Apostle Peter and destined to the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed during the year. The Palliums will be imposed on each Metropolitan Archbishop by the Papal Representative in the respective Metropolitan See.
After the blessing of the Palliums, Pope Francis presided over the Eucharistic Celebration with the Cardinals, the Metropolitan Archbishops and the Bishop Priests.
Present as usual on the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Patrons of the City of Rome, was a Delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, headed by His Eminence Job, Metropolitan Archbishop of Pisidia. Archbishop Job was accompanied by His Eminence Athenagoras, Secretary of the Eparchial Holy Synod of the Archdiocese of America and Revd. Kallinikos Chasapis, Deacon.
Here is the Text of Pope Francis’ homily in English.
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Peter and Paul, two Apostles in love with the Lord, two pillars of the faith of the Church. And as we contemplate their lives, today’s Gospel presents us with the question that Jesus asks his disciples: “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15). This is the fundamental question, the most important: who is Jesus for me? Who is Jesus in my life? Let’s see how the two Apostles responded to this question.
Peter’s response could be summed up in one word: follow-up. Peter lived following the Lord. When Jesus questioned His disciples that day in Caesarea Philippi, Peter responded with a beautiful profession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). An impeccable, precise, punctual response, we could say a perfect “catechism” response. But that answer is the fruit of a journey. Only after having lived the fascinating adventure of following the Lord, after having walked with Him and following Him for so long, does Peter reach that spiritual maturity that leads him, by grace, by sheer grace, to a profession of faith so lucid.
In fact, the evangelist Matthew himself tells us that it all began one day when, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus passed by and called him, along with his brother Andrew, and “immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (Matthew 4: 20). Peter left everything to follow the Lord. And the Gospel emphasizes that he did so “immediately.” Peter did not tell Jesus that he would think about it, he did not make calculations to see if it was convenient for him, he did not make excuses to delay the decision, but rather he left the nets and followed Him, without asking He would discover everything in advance, day by day, by following Jesus and walking behind Him. And it’s no accident that the last words the Jesus addresses to him in the Gospels are: “You follow Me” (John 21:22), that is, discipleship.
Peter, therefore, tells us that to the question “who is Jesus for me?” It is not enough to respond with an impeccable doctrinal formula, not even with an idea that we have built for ourselves once and for all. No. He it is by following the Lord that we learn to know Him every day; it is by becoming His disciples and welcoming His Word that we become His friends and experience His transforming love. That “immediately” also resonates with us: if we can postpone so many things in life, following Jesus cannot be postponed; there we cannot doubt, we cannot make excuses. And be careful, because some excuses are disguised as spirituality, like when we say “I am not worthy,” “I am not capable,” “what can I do?” This is a devil’s trick, which steals our confidence in God’s grace, making us believe that everything depends on our abilities.
Stripping ourselves of our earthly security, immediately, and following Jesus every day: this is the charge that Peter entrusts to us today, inviting us to be Church-in-following. Church-in-follow-up. A Church that wishes to be a disciple of the Lord and a humble servant of the Gospel. Only in this way will it be able to dialogue with everyone and become a place of accompaniment, closeness and hope for the women and men of our time. Only in this way, even those who are farthest away and often look at us with suspicion or indifference, will finally be able to recognize, with Pope Benedict: «The Church is the place of encounter with the Son of the living God, and so it is the place of encounter between us» (Homily on the Second Sunday of Advent, December 10, 2006).
And now we come to the Apostle of the Gentiles. If Peter’s response consisted of following, Paul’s was the announcement, the proclamation of the Gospel. For him, too, everything began by grace, with the initiative of the Lord. On the road to Damascus, while he was carrying out the persecution of Christians with fierce determination, entrenched in his religious convictions, the risen Jesus met him and blinded him with His light, or rather, thanks to that light, Saul realized how blind he was: locked up in the pride of his rigid observance, he discovered in Jesus the fulfilment of the mystery of salvation. And, compared to the sublimity of knowing Christ, he now considers all his human and religious certainties as “waste” (cf. Philippians 3:7-8). Thus, Paul dedicates his life to travel land and sea, cities and villages, without caring about suffering hardships and persecutions in order to announce Jesus Christ. Looking at his story, it seems that the more he announces the Gospel, the more he knows Jesus. The announcement of the Word to others also allows you to penetrate into the depths of the mystery of God; the Paul who wrote “woe to me if I did not preach the Gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9,16) is the same one who confesses “for me life is Christ” (Philippians 1,21).
Paul, then, tells us that the question “who is Jesus for me?” Is not answered with an intimate religiosity, which leaves us indifferent to the concern of taking the Gospel to others. The Apostle teaches us that we grow in faith and in the knowledge of the mystery of Christ the more we are heralds and witnesses of Him. This always happens: when we evangelize, we are evangelized. It is a daily experience, when we evangelize, we remain evangelized. The Word that we bring to others returns to us, because to the extent that we give, we receive much more (cf. Luke 6: 38). This is also necessary for the Church today: put the announcement in the center. To be a Church that never tires of repeating “for me life is Christ” and “woe to me if I don’t preach the Gospel.” A Church that needs the announcement like oxygen to breathe, that cannot live without transmitting the embrace of God’s love and the joy of the Gospel.
Brothers and sisters, let us celebrate Peter and Paul. They answered the fundamental question of life “who is Jesus for me?” — living the follow-up and announcing the Gospel. It is beautiful if we grow as a follow-up Church, as a humble Church that never takes the search for the Lord for granted.
It is beautiful if we become an extroverted Church, which does not find its joy in the things of the world, but in announcing the Gospel to the world, to sow the question about God in people’s hearts. Bring the Lord Jesus everywhere, with humility and joy: in our city of Rome, in our families, in relationships and in neighbourhoods, in civil society, in the Church, in politics, in the whole world, especially where poverty, degradation and marginalization nest.
And today, at the moment when some of our brother Archbishops receive the pallium, a sign of communion with the Church of Rome, I would like to say to them: be apostles like Peter and Paul. Be disciples in following and apostles in the proclamation, take the beauty of the Gospel everywhere, together with all the People of God. And finally, I would like to address an affectionate greeting to the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, sent here by my dear Brother His Holiness Bartholomew. Thank you for his presence, thank you: let us advance together, let us advance together, following and announcing the Word, growing in fraternity. May Peter and Paul accompany us and intercede for all of us.