the Pope prayed the Angelus from the window of the Pontifical apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square

the Pope prayed the Angelus from the window of the Pontifical apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square Photo: Vatican Media

Pope Francis explains why St. Peter has keys and what they mean

Allocution on the occasion of the recitation of the Angelus on Saturday, June 29, 2024

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(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 06.29.2024).- At noon on Saturday, June 29, the Pope prayed the Angelus from the window of the Pontifical apartment overlooking St. Peter’s Square. As is customary on liturgical solemnities, the Pope delivered an address followed by the Angelus prayer. At the end of the prayer, the Pope expressed his gratitude for the colorful sawdust and flower carpets adorning the Via della Conciliazione, greeted the faithful of the Diocese of Rome – of which he is the bishop – and thanked God for the release of two Greek-Catholic priests who had been kidnapped. Below is the English translation of the Pope’s address:


Today, Solemnity of the Saints Apostles Peter and Paul, in the Gospel Jesus says to Simon, whom He named Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16:19). This is why often we see Saint Peter depicted holding two large keys, as in the statue here in this Square. Those keys represent the ministry of authority that Jesus entrusted to him in the service of all the Church. Because authority is a service, and authority that is not service is dictatorship.

Let us be careful, though, to understand well the meaning of all this. The keys of Peter, in fact, are the keys of a Kingdom, which Jesus does not describe as a safe or a vault, but with other images: a tiny seed, a precious pearl, a hidden treasure, a handful of yeast (cf. Mt 13:1-33), that is, like something precious and rich, yes, but at the same time small and inconspicuous. To reach it, therefore, one does not need to operate mechanisms and safety locks, but to cultivate virtues such as patience, attention, constancy, humility, service.

Therefore, the mission that Jesus entrusts to Peter is not that of barring the doors to the house, permitting entry only to a few select guests, but of helping everyone find the way to enter, in faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus. For everyone: everyone, everyone, everyone can enter.

And Peter will do this throughout his life, faithfully, until his martyrdom, after having been the first to experience for himself, not without fatigue and with many setbacks, the joy and the freedom that come from meeting the Lord. He was the first to have to convert, and to understand that authority is a service, in order to open the door to Jesus, and it was not easy for him. Let us think: just after saying to Jesus, “You are the Christ”, the Master had to reproach him, because he refused to accept the prophecy of His passion and His death by the cross (cf. Mt 16:21-23).

Peter received the keys to the Kingdom not because he was perfect, no: he is a sinner; but because he was humble, honest, and the Father had given him sincere faith (cf. Mt 16:17). Therefore, entrusting himself to God’s mercy, he was able to support and fortify his brethren too, as was asked of him (cf. Lk 22:32).

Today we can ask ourselves, then: do I cultivate the desire to enter, with God’s grace, into His Kingdom, and to be, with His help, its welcoming guardian for others too? And to do so, do I let myself be “polished”, softened, modelled by Jesus and His Spirit, the Spirit who dwells in us, in each one of us?

May Mary, Queen of the Apostles, and the Saints Peter and Paul, grant for us, with their prayers, to be a guide and support to one another for the encounter with the Lord Jesus.

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