Woolen palliums are carried by servers during Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Basilica June 29, 2011. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Today, on the
Solemnity of Saints Peter
and Paul, Pope Francis conferred
the pallium on 24 archbishops from around the world during Mass at St.
Peter’s Basilica. The pallium is a white garment made of lamb’s wool that is
worn by the metropolitan archbishops as a symbol of their role as shepherd.
Also present at the Mass was a delegation
representing the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. It has
become tradition for the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope to exchange
greetings on the feast of St. Peter, the patron of the Holy See, and in
November on the feast of St. Andrew, the patron of the patriarchate of
Vatican Radio, is the full text of Pope Francis’ homily.
On this Solemnity
of Saints Peter and Paul, the principal patrons of Rome, we welcome with joy
and gratitude the Delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch, our venerable
and beloved brother Bartholomaios, and led by Metropolitan Ioannis. Let
us ask the Lord that this visit too may strengthen our fraternal bonds as we
journey toward that full communion between the two sister Churches which we so
“Now I am sure
that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod” (Acts
12:11). When Peter began his ministry to the Christian community of
Jerusalem, great fear was still in the air because of Herod’s persecution of
members of the Church. There had been the killing of James, and then the
imprisonment of Peter himself, in order to placate the people. While
Peter was imprisoned and in chains, he heard the voice of the angel telling
him, “Get up quickly… dress yourself and put on your sandals… Put on your
mantle and follow me!” (Acts 12:7-8). The chains fell from him and the
door of the prison opened before him. Peter realized that the Lord had
“rescued him from the hand of Herod”; he realized that the Lord had freed him
from fear and from chains. Yes, the Lord liberates us from every fear and
from all that enslaves us, so that we can be truly free. Today’s
liturgical celebration expresses this truth well in the refrain of the
Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord has freed me from all my fears”.
The problem for
us, then, is fear and looking for refuge in our pastoral responsibilities.
I wonder, dear
brother bishops, are we afraid? What are we afraid of? And if we
are afraid, what forms of refuge do we seek, in our pastoral life, to find
security? Do we look for support from those who wield worldly
power? Or do we let ourselves be deceived by the pride which seeks
gratification and recognition, thinking that these will offer us
security? Dear brother Bishops, where do we find our security?
The witness of the
Apostle Peter reminds us that our true refuge is trust in God. Trust in
God banishes all fear and sets us free from every form of slavery and all
worldly temptation. Today the Bishop of Rome and other bishops,
particularly the metropolitans who have received the pallium, feel challenged
by the example of Saint Peter to assess to what extent each of us puts his
trust in the Lord.
this trust when Jesus said to him three times: “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21:
15,16,17). Peter thrice confessed his love for Jesus, thus making up for
his threefold denial of Christ during the passion. Peter still regrets
the disappointment which he caused the Lord on the night of his betrayal.
Now that the Lord asks him: “Do you love me?”, Peter does not trust himself and
his own strength, but instead entrusts himself to Jesus and his mercy: “Lord,
you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). Precisely at
this moment fear, insecurity and cowardice dissipate.
how God’s fidelity is always greater than our acts of infidelity, stronger than
our denials. He realizes that the God’s fidelity dispels our fears and
exceeds every human reckoning. Today Jesus also asks us: “Do you love
me?”. He does so because he knows our fears and our struggles. Peter
shows us the way: we need to trust in the Lord, who “knows everything” that is
in us, not counting on our capacity to be faithful, but on his unshakable
fidelity. Jesus never abandons us, for he cannot deny himself (cf. 2 Tim
2:13). He is faithful. The fidelity which God constantly shows to us
pastors, far in excess of our merits, is the source of our confidence and our
peace. The Lord’s fidelity to us keeps kindled within us the desire to
serve him and to serve our sisters and brothers in charity.
love of Jesus must suffice for Peter. He must no longer yield to the
temptation to curiosity, jealousy, as when, seeing John nearby, he asks Jesus:
“Lord, what about this man?” (Jn 21:21). But Jesus, in the face of these
temptations, says to him in reply: “What is it to you? Follow me” (Jn
21:22). This experience of Peter is a message for us too, dear brother
archbishops. Today the Lord repeats to me, to you, and to all pastors:
Follow me! Waste no time in questioning or in useless chattering; do not
dwell on secondary things, but look to what is essential and follow me.
Follow me without regard for the difficulties. Follow me in preaching the
Gospel. Follow me by the witness of a life shaped by the grace you
received in baptism and holy orders. Follow me by speaking of me to those
with whom you live, day after day, in your work, your conversations and among
your friends. Follow me by proclaiming the Gospel to all, especially to
the least among us, so that no one will fail to hear the word of life which
sets us free from every fear and enables us to trust in the faithfulness of
God. Follow me!