Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul
As we remember these two great saints, let us read again Pope John Paul’s homily from 1995 commemorating them,
|WE CANNOT REMAIN SEPARATED|
Pope John Paul II
Homily for Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul June 29, 19951.”You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).Today the Church returns to this confession, spoken by Peter nearCaesarea Philippi.This is the faith of the Apostolic College, inwhose name Peter is speaking.This is the faith of Paul.Both Peterand Paul bore witness to it even to the shedding of their own blood.
According to tradition, this happened here in Rome in Nero’s time,around the year 67 after the birth of Christ.
Today, in a particular way, we commemorate Andrew, Simon Peter’sbrother, who was the first to be called (Protokletos) and who broughtSimon to Christ.With intense feeling, we call his figure to mindtoday because on this solemn day the Church of Rome welcomes as herguest Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, and the Church overwhich he presides is especially linked to the person and martyrdom ofthe Apostle Andrew.
Every year on 30 November, the Feast of St. Andrew, the Church ofRome joins her sister Church in honouring her patron.It is a deepjoy for us today, as we recall the glorious memory of Simon Peter,Andrew’s brother, to be able to welcome to Rome the EcumenicalPatriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the firstSee among the world’s Orthodox Churches.Today, with Andrew, Peterutters these words:”You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”(Mt 16:16).
2.This confession discloses the mystery of God the Father to us. Christ, in responding to Peter’s words, said:”Blessed are you,Simon-Bar Jona!For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 16:17).The Father revels theSon because only the Father knows the Son, as only the Son knows theFather (cf. Lk 10:22).The Church professes this faith with thewords of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed:”I believe in one God,Father almighty….”
This is a venerable text which we both recognize as a normative andirrevocable expression of the Church’s one faith.No confession offaith which belongs to a specific liturgical tradition can contravenesuch a fundamental expression of the Trinitarian faith, taught andprofessed by the Church in all ages.
3. In this regard, it is necessary to clear up a misunderstandingwhich still casts its shadow on relations between Catholics andOrthodox.To this end a Joint Commission was established.Its taskis to explain, in the light of our common faith, the legitimatemeaning and importance of different traditional expressionsconcerning the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity,expressions that are part of our mutual doctrinal and liturgicalheritages.On the Catholic side, there is a firm desire to clarifythe traditional doctrine of the Filioque, present in the liturgicalversion of the Latin Credo, in order to highlight its full harmonywith what the Ecumenical Council confesses in its creed:the Fatheras the source of the whole Trinity, the one origin of both the Sonand the Holy Spirit.
The Son, consubstantial with the Father, is the eternal Word of whichthe Apostle John wrote in his Prologue to the Fourth gospel,confession the Word who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14).
According to tradition, St. John wrote the Gospel in Ephesus, therebybecoming particularly dear to all the Christian East.His Gospel wasthe light that illumined the Church throughout the world.
We, the Successors of Peter and Andrew, united today in veneration ofthe holy Apostles Peter and Paul, would also like to illumine ourmeeting with the light of John’s Gospel, so that it may be clear toall that the same truth about the Father and the Son is professed byus and proclaimed in common.
4.”You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).
Peter confesses this and, together with him, so does the whole Churchwhich was founded on the Apostles.In confessing Jesus of Nazarethas the Christ, the Church is also indirectly proclaiming the truthabout the Holy Spirit.In fact the name “Christ”, from the Hebrew”Messiah”, means one who is anointed with God’s Spirit.This truthwas expressed by the Prophet Isaiah many centuries before Christ inthe words Jesus was to proclaim and bring to fulfilment at thebeginning of his messianic activity:”The Spirit of the Lord is uponme, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” (Lk4:18).
The Holy Spirit, whom the Father sends in the name of the Son (cf. Jn14:26), has been the source of the Church’s life since the day ofPentecost, in accordance with the Redeemer’s promise:”He will teachyou all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said toyou” (Jn 14:26).The Spirit, who guides the Church and teaches her,who consecrates the Bishops as successors of the Apostles, is with ustoday in a particular way, as he was with Peter and Paul on the dayof their martyrdom when they bore their definitive witness to Christand sealed their mission with blood, leaving it as an inheritance notonly to Rome, but to so many other places in the ancient world.
And how many of these places are found in Greece!It is enough tolist the communities to which St. Paul’s letters are addressed.Fromthe “Pauline corpus”, as it were, a common tradition of the Church inthe East and in the West emerges.The whole series of ApostolicLetters in the New Testament are proof of their concern for all theChurches entrusted by God to the Apostles and to their successorsuntil the end of time.
5. “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and thepowers of death shall not prevail against it.I will give you thekeys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shallbe bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosedin heaven” (Mt 16:18-19).
These words are overwhelming.The authority which Christ hands overto the Apostles, that of the keys of the kingdom of heaven and thatof binding and loosing, is given to them in the person of Peter andin union with him.An unfathomable mystery!
Today’s feast of the martyrdom of the holy Apostles reveals what isthe true meaning of this authority:it is service.Peter, Paul andAndrew served even to the shedding of their blood, just as Christ haddone before them:”For the Son of Man also came not to be served butto serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45).TheApostles were called to participate in their Master’s service:aservice by which they were able to give the ultimate testimony; aservice which was their true strength, their glory in Christ who diedand rose again.
Today we wish to honour those who, in the course of the 2000 years ofthe new era, have witnessed and continue to witness to Christ inevery corner of the earth, in the East and in the West, in the Northand in the South.We would especially like to honour all those whohave borne witness to the point of shedding their blood.We preparedourselves for today’s meeting by pondering again over the paths thatthis witness took in the Roman Colosseum and in the many other”colosseums” scattered throughout the world.Last year’s Way of theCross was a great help in this common reflection, whose texts wereprepared in fact by our Brother, Bartholomew I.
6.Today’s solemn liturgy is enriched by an additional andmeaningful rite, the imposition of the pallium.
The pallium, which today the Bishop of Rome confers on the newMetropolitans, is an expression of a special spiritual bond with theconfession and witness of St. Peter in Rome, and with the ministry ofhis Successor.
I embrace you with affection, beloved Brother Archbishops, and Irejoice in the fact that, having been sent to preside overMetropolitan Churches in various parts of the world, you will receivethe pallium in the presence of our guest, the Ecumenical Patriarch ofConstantinople.
7.The solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul invites us to reflect on theway taken by Peter and Paul as they followed Christ from the day oftheir calling to that of their martyrdom here in Rome.The firstreading from the Acts of the Apostles showed us St. Peter while hewas still in Jerusalem on the first stage of the Church’s longpilgrimage.
We listen together to the words of this passage, which in a certainsense recounts our own history, Venerable Brother Bartholomew I.Welisten to it with deep veneration and feeling, now that the 2,000thyear since the birth of Christ is approaching.It represents a greatchallenge for the whole of humanity and especially for allChristians.When I think of this historic goal, I am reminded ofwhat St. Luke’s Gospel says about the disciples’ mission:”He sentthem on ahead of him, two by two” (Lk 10:1).We should meditate onthe meaning of these words.Do they not suggest that Christ is alsosending us out two by two as messengers of his Gospel in the West andin the East?
Christ is sending us out together, so that we may jointly bearwitness to him.Thus we cannot remain separated!We must walktogether, because this is Our Lord’s will.The world must recoverits faith at the end of the second millennium and at the start of thethird!This is why we should redouble our efforts; we must commitourselves actively to becoming truly one, just as he, Christ, is onewith the Father (cf. Jn 17:22).
At the altar of the “Confessio” over Peter’s tomb, let us pray forthis together.Together with us, the whole Church in the West and inthe East is praying, the Church which Christ entrusted to us, just ashe once entrusted her to Peter and Andrew, establishing her on thefoundation of the Apostles as the way of eternal salvation for everypeople and every nation, until the end of the world.
Weekly Edition in English
5 July 1995, pp. 6, 7
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