Patriarch’s Homily for Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

With Benedict XVI’s Introduction

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2008 ( Here is a translation of the homily from Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I for the Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Square on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, which was Sunday.

At vespers on Saturday, Benedict XVI inaugurated the Pauline Jubilee Year, which ends June 29, 2009.

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The Holy Father’s Introduction to the Patriarch’s Homily

Brothers and Sisters,

The great feast of Saints Peter and Paul — patrons of this Church of Rome and, together with the other apostles, pillars of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church — brings to us every year the welcome presence of a fraternal delegation of the Church of Constantinople which, this year, because of the opening of the “Pauline Year,” is led by the Patriarch himself, His Holiness Bartholomew I. I address my cordial greeting to him as I express my joy of once again having the happy opportunity of exchanging the kiss of peace with him in the common hope of seeing the coming of the day of “unitatis redintegratio” — the day of full communion between us.

I also greet the members of the patriarchal delegation, the representatives of the Churches and ecclesial communities, who honor us with their presence, offering with this presence a sign of the will to intensify the movement toward the full unity of the disciples of Christ. We dispose ourselves now to listen to the reflections of His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, words that we desire to receive with an open heart because they come from our dearly beloved brother in the Lord.

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Homily of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

Your Holiness,

Having again experienced, in November 2006, the joy and emotion of the personal and blessed participation of Your Holiness in the patronal feast of Constantinople, the commemoration of the St. Andrew the Apostle, the First Called, I set out “with a joyous step” from Fener in the New Rome, to come to you to participate in your joy in the patronal feast of Old Rome. And we have come to you “with the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:29), returning the honor and love, celebrating with our beloved brother in the land of the West, “the certain and inspired heralds, the coryphaei of the disciples of the Lord,” the holy apostles Peter, brother of Andrew, and Paul — these two great, central pillars of the whole Church stretched out toward heaven, which, in this historic city, also offered the ultimate shining confession of Christ and gave their souls to the Lord here through martyrdom, one on the cross and the other by the sword, and thus sanctified this city.

We greet, with the deepest and most devoted love, on the part of the Most Holy Church of Constantinople and her children throughout the world, You Holiness, desired brother, wishing from the heart “those who live in Rome beloved of God” (Romans 1:7), good health, peace, prosperity and progress day and night toward salvation “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, joyful in hope, strong in tribulation, steadfast in prayer” (Romans 12:11-12).

In both Churches, Your Holiness, we duly honor and greatly venerate Peter — he who made his salvific confession of the divinity of Christ, as much as Paul — the vessel of election, who proclaimed this confession and faith to the ends of the universe in the midst of the most unimaginable difficulties and dangers. Since the year of salvation 258 we have celebrated their memory in the West and in the East on June 29. In the East we also prepare for this feast by a fast observed in their honor on the preceding days, following a tradition of the ancient Church. To strongly emphasize their equal importance, but also their weight in the Church and her regenerative and salvific work through the centuries, the East honors them in an icon in which they either hold a little ship in their hands, which symbolizes the Church, or they embrace and exchange the kiss in Christ.

It is indeed this kiss that we have come to exchange with you, Your Holiness, emphasizing the ardent desire and love in Christ, things which are closely related to each other.

The theological dialogue between our Churches “in faith, truth and love,” thanks to divine help, goes forward despite the considerable difficulties that exist and the well-known problems. We truly desire and fervently pray that these difficulties will be overcome and that the problems will disappear as soon as possible so that we may reach the desired final goal for the glory of God.

We know well that this is your desire too, as we also are certain that Your Holiness will neglect nothing, personally working, together with your illustrious collaborators, through a perfect smoothing of the way, toward a positive fulfillment of the labors of dialogue, God willing.

Your Holiness, we too have proclaimed the year 2008 “Year of the Apostle Paul” on the 2,000 anniversary of the great apostle’s birth. In regard to the events of the anniversary celebration, in which we have also venerated the precise place of the St. Paul’s martyrdom, we are planning, among others things, a sacred pilgrimage to some of the monuments of the apostolic activity of the apostle in the East: Ephesus, Perge, and other cities in Asia Minor, but also Rhodes and Crete, the places called “good ports.” Be assured, Your Holiness, that on this sacred journey, you too will be present, walking with us in spirit, and that in each place we will offer up an ardent prayer for you and our brothers of the venerable Roman Catholic Church, fervently asking the divine Paul’s intercession with the Lord for you.

And now, venerating the sufferings and the cross of Peter and embracing Paul’s chains and stigmata, honoring the confession and martyrdom and the venerable death of both for the name of the Lord, which truly leads to Life, we glorify the Thrice-Holy God and we supplicate him, so that through the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul, who are his protocoryphaei and apostles, he will, here below, grant us and all his children of the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world “union of faith and communion in the Spirit” in the “bond of peace” and there above eternal life and great mercy. Amen.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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