Homily: Let No Difficulty Hinder Us
Pope John Paul II
On Tuesday evening, 29 June, the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, the Holy Father presided at the Eucharistic Concelebration held in St Peter's Square, with the participation of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. During the Holy Mass, the Holy Father conferred the Pallium on 44 Metropolitan Archbishops. The following is a translation of the Pope's Homily, given in Italian.
1. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). When the Lord questions him, Peter, also speaking on behalf of the other Apostles, makes his profession of faith.
In it is affirmed the solid foundation of our journey towards full communion. Indeed, if we want unity among the disciples of Christ, we must start out afresh from Christ. Like Peter, we too are asked to profess that he is the cornerstone, the Head of the Church. In my Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint I wrote: "To believe in Christ means to desire unity; to desire unity means to desire the Church; to desire the Church means to desire the communion of grace which corresponds to the Father's plan from all eternity" (n. 9).
To be one in the 'indissoluble bond of theological faith'
2. Ut unum sint! It is from these words that our commitment to communion stems, in response to Christ's ardent desire. It is not a matter of a vague neighbourly relationship but of the indissoluble bond of theological faith, which is why our future is not one of division but of communion.
Today we profoundly regret what in the evolution of history broke our bond of unity in Christ. In this perspective, our meeting today is not only a courteous gesture, but a response to the Lord's commandment. Christ is the Head of the Church, and we want to continue together to do all that is humanly possible to remedy what still divides us and prevents us from communicating in the same Body and Blood of the Lord.
Fortieth anniversary of the meeting of Athenagoras I and Paul VI
3. With these sentiments, I would like to express my warm gratitude to you for coming here, Your Holiness, and for the reflections that you have desired to offer us. I am also delighted to celebrate together with you the day on which we commemorate Sts Peter and Paul; this year it coincides with the 40th anniversary of that blessed meeting in Jerusalem of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I, on 5 and 6 January 1964.
Your Holiness, I would like to thank you with all my heart for having accepted my invitation to make visible with our meeting the spirit that inspired those two outstanding pilgrims who directed their steps towards each other and chose to embrace for the first time in the very place where the Church was born.
Draw strength on journey to unity from our Predecessors' embrace
4. That meeting cannot be merely a memory. It is a challenge for us! It shows us the road to reciprocal rediscovery and reconciliation. The journey will certainly be far from easy, nor is it free from obstacles. In the moving gesture of our Predecessors in Jerusalem we can find the strength to overcome every misunderstanding and difficulty, in order to devote ourselves without interruption to this commitment to unity.
The Church of Rome has moved with firm determination and great sincerity on the path to full reconciliation, by means of initiatives that have proven on each occasion to be possible and appropriate. Today I would like to express the hope that all Christians, each in his or her own capacity, may redouble their efforts to hasten the day when the Lord's desire "that they may be one" (Jn 17:11, 21) is completely fulfilled. May our conscience never reprove us for having omitted something, for having wasted opportunities or for not having tried every possible approach!
Hastening the time of total unity depends on us and our prayers
5. We know very well that the unity we seek is first and foremost a gift of God. However, we are aware that hastening the time of its total achievement also depends on us, on our prayers and on our conversion to Christ.
Your Holiness, as far as I am concerned, I am eager to confess that I have always let myself be guided by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, as by a trustworthy compass. The Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, published just a few days before Your Holiness' memorable visit to Rome in 1995, reasserted exactly what the Council had declared in the Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, the 40th anniversary of whose promulgation occurs this year.
I reassert today what I have had several opportunities to emphasize in solemn circumstances, namely, that the commitment assumed by the Catholic Church with the Second Vatican Council is irrevocable. It cannot be renounced!
The Pallium, sign of communion with Peter and Paul
6. The rite of the conferral of the Palliums on the new Metropolitans helps to complete the solemnity and joy of today's celebration and to enrich its spiritual and ecclesial content.
Venerable Brothers, the Pallium that you will receive today in the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch, our Brother in Christ, is a sign of the communion that binds you in a special way to the apostolic witness of Peter and Paul. It links you to the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, called to carry out a special ecclesial service for the entire College of Bishops. I thank you for being here and offer you my best wishes for the ministry you carry out for the Metropolitan Churches present in the various nations. I willingly accompany you with affection and prayer.
Journey on with hope under the protection of Mary
7. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!". How often these words that constitute Peter's profession of faith recur in my daily prayers! The precious icon that Patriarch Athenagoras I gave to Pope Paul VI on 5 January 1964, shows the two Holy Apostles, Peter the "Corypheus" and Andrew the "Protokletos", embracing in an eloquent language of love, beneath Christ in glory. Andrew was the first to follow the Lord and Peter was called to strengthen his brethren in the faith.
Their embrace under Christ's gaze is an invitation to continue on the journey we have set out on, towards that goal of unity which we both want to reach.
Let no difficulty hinder us. Let us rather journey on with hope, sustained by the intercession of the Apostles and the maternal protection of Mary, Mother of Christ, Son of the living God.
Weekly Edition in English
7 July 2004, page 6/7
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