VATICAN CITY, OCT. 22, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily John Paul II prepared for today’s Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with the new cardinals.
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1. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). How many times, in these 25 years of pontificate, have I repeated these words! I have pronounced them in the principal languages of the world and in so many parts of the earth. Indeed, the Successor of Peter cannot ever forget the dialogue established between the Master and the apostle: “You are the Christ …,” “You are Peter …”
But this “you” [singular] is preceded by “you” [plural]: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Jesus’ question is addressed to the group of disciples, and Simon replies on behalf of all. The first service that Peter and his Successors render to the community of believers is precisely this: to profess faith in “Christ, Son of the living God.”
2. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Today we renew the profession of faith of the Apostle Peter in this basilica, which bears his name. In this basilica, the bishops of Rome, who succeeded one another in the course of the centuries, convoke the believers of the city and the world and confirm them in the truth and unity of the faith. But at the same time, as the Bernini colonnade opposite well expresses, this basilica opens its arms wide to the whole of humanity, as if to indicate that the Church is sent to proclaim the Good News to all men, without exception.
Unity and openness, communion and mission: This is the breath of the Church. This, in particular, is the double dimension of the Petrine ministry: service of unity and of mission. The Bishop of Rome has the joy of sharing this service with the other successors of the apostles, united to him in the one episcopal college.
3. According to an old tradition, in this service the Successor of Peter makes use in a particular way of the collaboration of the cardinals. In their college is reflected the universality of the Church, the one People of God living in a multiplicity of nations (see “Lumen Gentium,” 13).
I am pleased to express to you on this occasion, dear and venerable brother cardinals, my gratitude for the valuable help that you give me. In a special way, I would like to greet the new members of the College of Cardinals. The ring that I will give you in a while, venerable brothers, is a symbol of the renewed bond with which you are united to the Church and to the Pope, her visible head.
4. Let us listen again to the words of the Psalm, which resounded a short while ago: “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Psalm 33:4).
It is an invitation to joy and praise that, in concentric circles, extends to you, dear cardinals, patriarchs, bishops, priests, men and women religious, and lay faithful. Therefore, it involves all of you, men and women of good will, who look with kindness on the Church of Christ. I repeat to one and all: Celebrate with me the name of the Lord, because he is Father, love, mercy. By this name, venerable brother cardinals, we are called to render our testimony “to the spilling of blood” (“usque ad sanguinis effusionem”).
If at times one is overcome by fear and discouragement, may the consoling promise of the divine Master be of comfort: “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).
Jesus announced clearly that the persecutions of the apostles and of their successors would not be an extraordinary event (see Matthew 10:16-18). We were reminded of it in the first reading, which recounted the imprisonment and miraculous liberation of Peter.
5. The Book of Acts underlines that, while Peter was in prison “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church” (Acts 12:5). What great courage is infused by the support of the unanimous prayer of the Christian people! I myself have been able to experience its comfort.
This, dear brothers, is our strength. And it is also one of the reason why I desired that the 25th year of my pontificate be dedicated to the holy rosary: to stress the primacy of prayer, in a special way of contemplative prayer, made in spiritual union with Mary, Mother of the Church.
The presence of Mary — desired, invoked and welcomed — helps us to live this celebration also as a moment in which the Church is renewed in the encounter with Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let us unite ourselves with Christ, living stone! Peter told us in the second reading (see 1 Peter 2:4-9). Let us start afresh from him, from Christ, to proclaim to all the wonders of his love. Without fear and without hesitation, because he assures us: “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world!”
Yes, Lord, we trust in you and with you we continue on our way in the service of the Church and of humanity!
[Translation by ZENIT]