ministry is based on Christ's promise
On Tuesday, 22 February, the feast of the Chair of. St Peter, the Cardinals,
Bishops, priests, religious and laity who assist the Holy Father in his Petrine
ministry through their work in the Roman Curia celebrated their Jubilee with the
Pope. After assembling at the obelisk in St Peter's Square, they walked in
procession through the Holy Door of the Vatican Basilica and then participated
in a solemn concelebrated Mass at the Altar of the Confession. After the
proclamation of the Gospel the Holy Father gave the following homily in
Italian. Here is a translation.
1. "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church" (Mt
As pilgrims we have passed through the Holy Door of the Vatican Basilica, and
now the Word of God draws our attention to what Christ said to Peter and of
We are gathered around the Altar of the Confession, above the Apostle's tomb,
and our- assembly is composed of that special community of service known as the
Roman Curia, The "ministerium petrinum", that is, the service
proper to the Bishop of Rome, in which each of you is called to collaborate in
your own area of work, unites us in one family and inspires our prayer at the
solemn moment that the Roman Curia is observing today, the feast of the Chair
of St Peter.
All of us, and I myself first of all., are deeply touched by the words of the
Gospel just proclaimed: "You are the Christ.... You are Peter" (Mt
16:16, 18). In this basilica, a memorial to the martyrdom of the Fisherman from
Galilee, they echo with extraordinary eloquence, enhanced by the intense
spiritual climate of the Jubilee of the 2,000th anniversary of the Incarnation.
Church is founded on Peter's profession of faith
2. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt
16:16): this is the confession of faith made by the Prince of the Apostles. This
is also the confession we renew today, venerable Brother Cardinals, Bishops and
priests, together with all of you, dear men and women religious and. laity, who
offer your appreciated collaboration in the Roman Curia. We repeat the Apostle's
clear words with particular feeling today as we celebrate our special Jubilee.
Christ's response echoes forcefully in our hearts: "You are
Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16:18). The
Evangelist John testifies that Jesus gave Simon the name "Cephas" at
their first meeting, when his brother Andrew had brought him to him (cf. Jn
1:41-42). On the other hand, Matthew's account puts the greatest emphasis on
Christ's action by situating it at an important moment in the messianic ministry
of Jesus, who explains the significance of the name "Peter" by
relating it to the building of his Church.
"You are the Christ": the Church is founded on Peter's profession
of faith and on Jesus' subsequent declaration: "You are Peter". An
invincible foundation, against which the forces of evil can never prevail: this
foundation is safeguarded by the very will of the "Father who is in
heaven" (Mt 16:17). The Chair of Peter, which we celebrate today, is
not based on human assurances – "flesh and blood"—but on
Christ, the cornerstone. And like Simon, we too are "blessed", for
we know we have no reason to boast except in the eternal and providential plan
3. "1 myself will search for my sheep ... and will seek them out" (Ez
34:11). The first reading, from the well-known oracle of the prophet Ezekiel
about the shepherds of Israel, forcefully recalls the pastoral nature of the
Petrine ministry. It is this aspect that is reflected in the nature and
service of the Roman Curia, whose mission is to collaborate with the Successor
of Peter in carrying out the task entrusted to him by Christ of tending his
"I myself will search for my sheep, and I will make them lie down" (Ez
34: 11, 15). "1 myself": these are the most important words,
for they express God's determination to take the initiative in personally caring
for his people. We know that the promise—"I myself"— came
true. It came true in the fullness of time, when God sent his Son, the
Good Shepherd, to feed his flock "in the strength of the Lord, in the
majesty of the name of the Lord" (Mi 5:4). He sent him to gather into
one the dispersed children of God by offering himself as the lamb, the meek
victim of expiation, on the altar of the Cross.
It is this model of the Shepherd which Peter and the other Apostles learned
to recognize and imitate by being with Jesus and sharing in his messianic
ministry (cf. Mk 3:14-15). We hear an echo of it in the second reading, in which
Peter calls himself "a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a
partaker in the glory that is to be revealed" (1 Pt 5:1). Peter the
shepherd is totally moulded by Jesus the Shepherd and by the dynamism
of his paschal mystery. The "Petrine ministry is rooted in this unique
conformation to Christ the Shepherd on the part of Peter and his Successors,
a conformation which is based on a special charism of love: "Do you love
me more than these? ... Feed my lambs" (Jn 21:15).
Night before Christ's Passion was critical turning point
4. On an occasion such as this, the Successor of Peter cannot forget what
happened before Christ's Passion in the Garden of Olives after the Last
Supper. None of the, Apostles seemed to realize what was about to happen and
Jesus knew that well: he knew he had to go there to watch and to pray, and thus
prepare for "his hour", the hour of his death on the Cross.
He had told the Apostles: "You will all fall away; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’"
(Mk 14:27). And Peter replied: "Even though they all fall away, I will
not" (Mk 14:29). Never will I fall away, never will I leave you.... And
Jesus said to him: "Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock
crows twice, you will deny me three times" (Mk 14:30). "If I must die
with you, I will not deny you" (Mk 14:31), Peter replied vehemently and the
other Apostles with him. And Jesus said: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan
demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for
you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen
your brethren" (Lk 22:31-32).
This is Christ's promise, our consoling certainty: the Petrine ministry is
not founded on human abilities and strengths, but on the prayer of Christ who
implores the Father that Simon's faith "may not fail" (Lk 22:32). When he has
"turned again", Peter will be able to carry out his service among his brethren.
The Apostle's repentance—we could almost say his second conversion—becomes
the decisive turning point on his journey of following the Lord.
5. Dear brothers and taking part in this Jubilee celebration. for the Roman
Curia, Christ's words to Peter must never be forgotten. Our passing through the
Holy Door to receive the grace of the Great Jubilee must be inspired by a deep spirit
of conversion. We are helped in this by Peter's example, his experience of
human weakness which led him, shortly after the conversation with Jesus just
recounted, to forget the promises he had made with such insistence and to deny
his Lord. Despite his sin and limitations, Christ chose him and called him to a
most high task: that of being the foundation of the Church's visible unity and
of strengthening his brethren in the faith.
May Christ grant us a superabundance of grace
The decisive moment occurred on the night between the Thursday and Friday of
the Passion. Christ, led out of the high priest's house, looked directly at
Peter. The Apostle, who had just denied him three times, was struck by that gaze
and understood everything. He remembered the Master's words and felt pierced to
the heart. "And he went out and wept bitterly" (Lk 22:62).
We are so deeply moved by Peter's tears as to be spurred to an authentic
inner purification. "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O
Lord", he exclaimed one day after the miraculous catch (Lk 5:8). Dear
brothers and sisters, let us make Peter's invocation our own, as we celebrate
our holy Jubilee. Christ will renew his wonders for us too, we hope with humble
trust: he will grant us a superabundance of his healing grace and will work new
miraculous catches, filled with promise for the Church's mission in the third
Blessed Virgin, who accompanied the first steps of the newborn Church with
your prayer, watch over our Jubilee journey. Grant that, like Peter, we may
experience Christ's continual support. Help us to five our mission of service to
the Gospel in fidelity and joy, as we await the glorious return of our Lord,
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and for ever.