* * *
Dear brothers and sisters!
Today, June 29, is the solemn feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. It is in a special way the feast of the Church of Rome, founded on the martyrdom of these 2 Apostles. But it is also a great feast for the universal Church because the whole People of God are in their debt for the gift of faith. Peter was the first to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Paul spread this teaching throughout the Greco-Roman world. And Providence willed that both come here to Rome and here shed blood for the faith. Because of this the Church of Rome immediately, spontaneously became the reference point for the all the Churches in the world. It was not by the power of the Empire but by the force of martyrdom, of witness to Christ! At bottom, it is always and only the love of Christ that generates faith and moves the Church forward.
We think of Peter. When he confessed his faith in Jesus he did not do it through his human powers but because he was conquered by the grace that Jesus unleashed, by the love that he heard in his worlds and saw in his actions. Jesus was the love of God in person! And the same thing happened to Paul, even if in a different way. From the time he was a young man Paul was an enemy of the Christians and when Jesus called him on the road to Damascus his life was transformed: he understood that Jesus was not dead, but alive, and loved him, his enemy, too! This is the experience of mercy, of the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ: this is the Good News, the Gospel that Peter and Paul experienced in themselves and for which they gave their lives. Mercy, forgiveness! The Lord always forgives us, the Lord has mercy, is mercy, has a merciful heart and he always waits for us. Dear brothers, what a joy to believe in God who is all love, all grace! This is the faith that Peter and Paul have received from Christ and have transmitted to the Church. Let us praise the Lord these 2 glorious witnesses, and like them let us allow ourselves to be conquered by Christ, by the mercy of Christ.
Let us also remember that Simon Peter had a brother, Andrew, who shared the experience of faith in Jesus with him. Indeed, Andrew met Jesus before Simon, and he immediately spoke to his brother about Jesus and brought him to him. I am glad to recall this because today, according to the beautiful tradition, the delegation of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who has the Apostle Andrew as patron, is present in Rome. We all send our cordial greeting to Patriarch Bartholomew I and we pray for him and that Church. I also invite all of you to pray together an Ave Maria for Patriarch Bartholomew I. Everyone together, Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women and blessed in the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Let us also pray for the metropolitan archbishops of the different Churches of the world to whom I just gave the pallium, the symbol of communion and unity.
May our beloved Mother, Mary Most Holy, accompany and sustain us.[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father said the following:]
Dear brothers and sisters,
With joy I greet the pilgrims who have come from different countries to celebrate the metropolitan archbishops. I pray for all of their communities; in particular I encourage the people of central Africa, sorely tried, to walk in faith and hope.
I greet everyone with affection: families, the faithful of many parishes and associations, especially of Iglesias (Sardinia), of the city of Aragona (Sicily) and of Casale Popolo (Piedmont).
I wish everyone a good feast and a good lunch. Goodbye![Translation by Joseph Trabbic]