Thursday, June 29, 2006

"Receive the Sacred Pallium..."

Archbishop of San Francisco George Niederauer receives his pallium

On the 55th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, Joseph Ratzinger celebrated the feast which has recently taken on a new dimension in his life when he presided at Mass this morning for the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul, the patrons of the church and city of Rome. The liturgy was commemorated with the annual conferral of the pallium -- the symbol of the metropolitan archbishop -- to the 27 new archbishops appointed over the past year.

In a rarity, this year's "pallium class" included two cardinals: Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino of Caracas, who Benedict elevated to the College of Cardinals in March; and Crescenzio Sepe, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples who was named last month as archbishop of Naples.

Given the day's place as the major Petrine celebration of the liturgical calendar, a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople showed up. (While the Vatican normally reciprocates by sending a delegation to the Patriarchate for its patronal feast of St Andrew at the end of November, this year Benedict himself will be in Istanbul to mark the feast alongside Patriarch Bartholomew I.)

Archbishop of Galveston-Houston Daniel Dinardo with the Pope

From the homily, in which the Pope lamented that the church -- and the Petrine primacy -- is "forever being buffeted by the wind of ideologies":
A man sharing in the infirm weakness of the Cross, but also in the strength of God, he whose faith Jesus himself prayed for and to whom the Risen Lord entrusted his flock. This is the Petrine Primacy as Benedict XVI described it today, by his own admission leaving aside the juridical, so to speak, aspect of sentences in the Gospels that indicate the “power” of the primacy, a traditional subject of disagreement between Christians. Instead he underlined the aspect of service to the faith and charity of the entire Church. A Church that “suffers” today, “shaken by the wind of ideologies” tending to sideline it, but that finds its defence in the prayer of Jesus for the faith of Peter....

During the mass, explaining the logic of the three Gospel passages, he said they “tackle the same task, but the diversity of situations and imagery used makes it clear for us what interested and interests the Lord.” The first was the passage from Matthew in which “his specific task is conferred upon him through three images: that of the rock that becomes the foundation or cornerstone; that of the keys and of loosening and binding”. At this time, continued the pope, “I do not intend to interpret once again these three images, which the Church, throughout the centuries, has constantly explained anew; rather, I would like to draw attention to the geographical and chronological context of these words. The promise was made near the source of the Jordan, at the border of Jewish land, on edge of the Pagan world. The moment in which the promise was made marks a decisive turning point in the journey of Jesus: now the Lord is walking toward Jerusalem, and for the first time, he tells his disciples that this journey towards the Holy City is a journey to the Cross.” “Both things go together and determine the inner place of the Primacy, in fact, of the church in general: the Lord is continually on a journey towards the Cross, towards the lowliness of the suffering and killed servant of God, but at the same time, he is also headed for the vastness of the world, in which He goes before us as the Risen Lord, so that the light of his word and the presence of his love may shine in the world.”

“The Church – and Christ in it – still suffers today. In the Church, Christ is relentlessly mocked and stricken over and again; there are always efforts to push it out of the world. The small boat of the Church is forever being buffeted by the wind of ideologies that penetrate it with their waters, seemingly condemning it to sink. And yet, right in the suffering Church, Christ is victorious. Notwithstanding everything, faith in Him is renewed in strength again and again. Still today, the Lord commands the waters and reveals himself as the Lord of the elements. He stays on his boat, the ship of the Church. Thus even in the ministry of Peter is revealed on the one hand the weakness of what comes from man, but together with the strength of God.”
The second passage recalled by Benedict XVI was that from the Gospel of Luke which is about the Last Supper, when “Jesus, straight after the institution of the Sacrament, talked about the meaning of being disciples, the ‘ministry’, in the new community: he said it was a commitment of service, the same as He himself, who was among them as one who served. And then he turned to Peter. He said Satan had demanded to sift the disciples like wheat.” Akin to the biblical narrative of Job, “this is what happens to the disciples of Jesus – in all times.” However, “Jesus continues: ‘I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail’ (Lk 22:32). The prayer of Jesus is the limit posed on the power of evil. The prayers of Jesus are the protection of the Church. We can seek refuge under this protection, cling to it and be sure of it. But, as the Gospel tells us, Jesus prayed especially for Peter: ‘that your faith may not fail’. There it is: don’t ever allow this faith to become dumb, always reinvigorate it again, even in the face of the cross and all the contradictions of the world – this is the task of Peter. This is precisely why the Lord does not only pray for the personal faith of Peter but for his faith in the service of others. This is what He means when He says: ‘and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers’ (Lk22:32).”

“The Lord entrusts to Peter the responsibility for his brothers through the promise of his prayer.”

PHOTOS 1-2: Reuters/Max Rossi
PHOTO 3: AP/Pier Paolo Cito