Pope Francis celebrated the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the patrons of the Church of Rome, on Saturday during a Mass held in St. Peter’s Square. During the Mass, the Holy Father imposed the pallium on 34 metropolitan archbishops who were installed this past year. The woolen vestment is a symbol of the metropolitan’s office.
Also present at the Mass was the Delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople who were led by Metropolitan Ioannis.
After his initial greetings to those present, he Holy Father began his homily by offering three thoughts on the Petrine ministry, which he said were guided by the word “confirm”: to confirm in faith, to confirm in love and to confirm in unity.
Reflecting on the Gospel of Peter’s profession of faith, the Holy Father said that Peter’s ecclesial service is based on his confession of Christ as the Son of the Living God. The Pope however pointed out Peter’s “perils of thinking in worldly terms” when he advises Jesus to not proceed to his death.
“Jesus’ response is harsh: ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me’, the Pope said. “Whenever we let our thoughts, our feelings or the logic of human power prevail, and we do not let ourselves be taught and guided by faith, by God, we become stumbling blocks. Faith in Christ is the light of our life as Christians and as ministers in the Church!”
The Holy Father cited Saint Paul’s second letter to Timothy as an example of confirming in love, where Paul speaks of fighting the good fight of faith.
“But what is this fight?” the Holy Father asked. “It is not one of those fights fought with human weapons which sadly continue to cause bloodshed throughout the world; rather, it is the fight of martyrdom.”
“Saint Paul has but one weapon: the message of Christ and the gift of his entire life for Christ and for others. It is precisely this readiness to lay himself open, personally, to be consumed for the sake of the Gospel, to make himself all things to all people, unstintingly, that gives him credibility and builds up the Church.”
Pope Francis stated that, in this light, the Bishop of Rome’s role is to live and confirm Christ’s love to all, “without distinction, limits or barriers.” Directing his words to the metropolitan archbishops receiving the pallium, the Pope stated that the same task belonged to them in their ministry.
“Let yourselves be consumed by the Gospel, to become all things to everyone. It is your task to hold nothing back, to go outside of yourselves in the service of the faithful and holy people of God.”
Contemplating on the rite of investing the pallium, the Pope cited the Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium, which refers to the pallium as a symbol of communion with the Successor of Peter, “a lasting and visible source and foundation” of unity.
“The Second Vatican Council,” the Pope said, ‘in speaking of the hierarchical structure of the Church, states that the Lord “established the apostles as college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from their number’”.
“To confirm in unity: the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the primate. Let us go forward on the path of synodality, and grow in harmony with the service of the primacy,” the Pope exhorted.
The Holy Father compared the unity of the Church to a mosaic where every small piece joins together as a part of God’s “one great plan.”
“This should inspire us to work always to overcome every conflict which wounds the body of the Church. United in our differences: there is no other Catholic way to be united,” the Pope said.
“This is the Catholic spirit, the Christian spirit: to be united in our differences. This is the way of Jesus! The pallium, while being a sign of communion with the Bishop of Rome and with the universal church, with the Synod of Bishops, also commits each of you to being a servant of communion.”
After the mass, the Holy Father addressed thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the recitation of the Angelus on the Solemnity.
Contemplating on the witness given by both Saints, Pope Francis said that in their ministry, Saints Peter and Paul manifested the forgiveness of God.
“This is the Good News, the Gospel that Peter and Paul experienced in themselves and for which they gave their lives. Mercy, forgiveness!” the Pope exclaimed. “The Lord always forgives us, the Lord has mercy, is mercy, has a merciful heart and he always waits for us.”
“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.”