Today is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul – the feast day of the two great apostles and the patronal feast of the Holy See.
Today also marks the 60th anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s ordination to the priesthood, an event that the Holy Father described in his autobiography Milestones as “the high point of my life.” Gloria.tv has a video of that ordination day in Freising in 1951, at the Concathedral of St. Mary and St. Corbinian (4:53 affords the best shot of the very youthful-looking Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, who is processing behind his older brother Georg, also ordained that day).
Benedict’s homily for today’s feast includes more moving recollections of that day, and a meditation on the nature of the priesthood:
“No longer servants, but friends”: at that moment I knew deep down that these words were no mere formality, nor were they simply a quotation from Scripture. I knew that, at that moment, the Lord himself was speaking to me in a very personal way. In baptism and confirmation he had already drawn us close to him, he had already received us into God’s family. But what was taking place now was something greater still. He calls me his friend. He welcomes me into the circle of those he had spoken to in the Upper Room, into the circle of those whom he knows in a very special way, and who thereby come to know him in a very special way. He grants me the almost frightening faculty to do what only he, the Son of God, can legitimately say and do: I forgive you your sins. He wants me – with his authority – to be able to speak, in his name (“I” forgive), words that are not merely words, but an action, changing something at the deepest level of being. … He entrusts himself to me. “You are no longer servants, but friends”: these words bring great inner joy, but at the same time, they are so awe-inspiring that one can feel daunted as the decades go by amid so many experiences of one’s own frailty and his inexhaustible goodness.
At the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Holy Father bestowed the lamb’s wool pallium on 41 of the archbishops named to new archdioceses in the last year, four of whom are from the U.S. The USCCB’s Media Blog has some info on the pallium and what it signifies, and Rocco Palmo has brief profiles of the American archbishops who received it today.
Also, in what has become a tradition on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict greeted Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, who is visiting Rome with an official delegation for the feast day. The Holy See, in turn, sends a delegation of representatives to Istanbul for the Feast of St. Andrew, the patronal feast of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Last November the Vatican delegation was headed by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.
Meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew yesterday, Pope Benedict said, “Your participation in this, our feast day, like the presence of our representatives in Istanbul for the Feast of St. Andrew, expresses the true friendship and brotherhood which unites the Church of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, bonds that are solidly based on the faith received from the testimony of the Apostles.”
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