SOLEMNITY OF STS PETER AND PAUL
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II
Tuesday, 29 June 1999
1. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”! (Matthew 16:16).
Peter, speaking on behalf of the group of Apostles, proclaims his own faith in Jesus of Nazareth, the long-awaited Messiah, Saviour of the world. In response to his profession of faith, Christ entrusts him with the mission of being the visible foundation on which he would build the whole edifice of the community of believers: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18).
This is the faith which down the ages has spread around the world through the ministry and witness of the Apostles and their successors. This is the same faith that we proclaim today as we celebrate the solemn memorial of Peter and Paul, the Princes of the Apostles. Following an ancient and venerable tradition, Rome's Christian community, which has the honour of preserving the tombs of these two Apostles, the “pillars” of the Church, expresses its devotion to them in a single liturgical feast and venerates them together as its heavenly patrons.
2. Peter, the fisherman from Galilee, was called by Jesus with his brother Andrew at the beginning of his public ministry to become a “fisher of men” (cf. Matthew 4:18-20). Peter witnessed the most important moments of Jesus' public life, such as the Transfiguration (cf. Matthew 17:1-2) and his prayer in the Garden of Olives just before the Passion (Matthew 26:36-37); after the paschal events Christ entrusted him with the task of tending God's flock in his name (cf. John 21:15-17).
From the day of Pentecost Peter governed the Church, watching over her fidelity to the Gospel and guiding her first contacts with the world of the Gentiles. His ministry was expressed in a particular way at the crucial moments that marked the growth of the apostolic Church. Indeed, it is he who welcomed into the community of believers the first convert from paganism (cf. Acts 10:1-48), and it was he who spoke authoritatively in the Jerusalem assembly on the problem of freedom from the obligations of the Jewish law (cf. Acts 15:7-11).
The mysterious plan of divine Providence led the Apostle Peter to Rome where he shed his blood as a supreme witness of faith and love for the divine Teacher (cf. John 21:18-19). In this way he fulfilled his mission to be a sign of fidelity to Christ and of the unity of all God's People.
3. Paul, the former persecutor of the new-born Church, was touched by God's grace on the road to Damascus and became the tireless Apostle of the Gentiles. During his missionary journeys he continually preached the crucified Christ and drew groups of faithful in various cities of Europe and Asia to the Gospel cause.
His intense labour did not prevent the “Apostle of the Gentiles” from engaging in extensive reflection on the Gospel message, which he applied to the various situations he encountered in his preaching.
The Acts of the Apostles describes the long journey which led him from Jerusalem first to Syria and Asia Minor, then to Greece and finally to Rome. It is precisely here, at the centre of the then-known world, that his witness to Christ was crowned with martyrdom. As he himself says in the second reading proclaimed a few moments ago, the mission entrusted to him by the Lord is to take the Gospel message to the pagans: “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it” (2 Timothy 4:17).
4. According to a well-established custom, on this day dedicated to the memory of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the Pope confers the pallium on the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed during the past year, as a sign of communion with the See of Peter.
It is therefore a great joy for me to greet you, beloved Brothers in the Episcopate, who have come to Rome from various parts of the world for this happy event. With you I would like to greet the Christian communities entrusted to your pastoral care: under your wise guidance they are called to offer a courageous witness of fidelity to Christ and his Gospel. The gifts and charisms of each community are a treasure for everyone and together form one hymn of praise to God, the source of all good. One of the most important of these gifts is certainly that of unity, well symbolized by today's conferral of the pallium.
5. Moreover, the longing for Christian unity is underscored by the presence of delegates from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, who have come to share the joy of today's liturgy and to venerate the Apostles, patrons of the Church in Rome. I address my respectful greetings to them and, through them, I greet the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. May the Apostles Peter, Paul and Andrew, who were instruments of communion in the early Christian communities, sustain all of Christ's disciples on their journey towards full unity by their example and intercession.
The imminence of the Jubilee of the Year 2000 invites us to make our own the prayer for unity which Jesus offered to the Father on the eve of his Passion (John 17:20-23). We are called to accompany our petition with concrete signs that encourage the progress of Christians towards full communion. For this reason I have asked that a day of prayer and fasting for the Jubilee be included in the calendar of the Year 2000 on the vigil of the feast of the Transfiguration, as His Holiness Bartholomew I suggested. This initiative will be a practical expression of our intention to join in the initiatives of our brethren in the Orthodox Churches and of the desire that they take part in ours.
May the Lord, through the intercession of the Apostles Peter and Paul, grant that the ecumenical commitment be intensified in the hearts of believers, so that everyone will forget the errors committed in the past and attain the full unity that Jesus desired.
6. “Blessed is the Lord who delivers his friends” (Response, Responsorial Psalm; Italian Lectionary). In their apostolic mission, Saints Peter and Paul were obliged to face difficulties of every kind. But, far from deterring their missionary activity, these difficulties reinforced their zeal for the Church's welfare and for the salvation of mankind. They were able to overcome every trial because their trust was not based on human resources but on the grace of the Lord, who, as the readings of today's solemnity recall, delivers his friends from every evil and saves them for his kingdom (cf. Acts of the Apostles 12:11; 1 Timothy 4:18).
It is this same trust in God which must also sustain us. Yes, the “Lord delivers his friends”. This awareness must instil courage in us as we face the difficulties encountered in proclaiming the Gospel in daily life. May our holy patrons, Peter and Paul, sustain us and obtain for us that missionary zeal which made them witnesses of Christ to the ends of the then-known world.
Pray for us, holy Apostles Peter and Paul, “pillars” of God's Church!
And you, Queen of the Apostles, whom Rome venerates with the beautiful title of “Salus Populi Romani”, place the Christian people under your protection as they advance towards the third millennium. Support every sincere effort to promote Christian unity and watch over the journey of the disciples of your Son, Jesus.
SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL
HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II
Saturday, 29 June 2002
1. "Wrap your mantle round you and follow me" (Acts of Apostles 12:8).
This is how the angel spoke to Peter, detained in prison in Jerusalem. As the sacred text recounts, Peter "went out and followed him" (Acts 12:9).
With this extraordinary intervention God comes to the help of his Apostle so that he could continue on his mission. It was not an easy one and entailed a complicated and tiring route, that was to end with his martyrdom in Rome, where still today Peter's tomb is the goal of unceasing pilgrimage from every part of the world.
Paul was struck down by divine grace on the road to Damascus and from being persecutor of Christians became the Apostle to the Gentiles. Having met the Lord on the road, he dedicated himself without reserve to the cause of the Gospel.
For Paul too, Rome the capital of the empire, was reserved as a distant goal, where, with Peter, he was to preach Christ, our only Lord and the Saviour of the world. For the faith he was also destined one day to pour out his blood here, so that his name would be linked forever to Peter's in the history of Christian Rome.
3. Today the Church is joyfully celebrating the memory of both of them. The "Rock" and the "Chosen Instrument" definitively met each other here in Rome. Here they brought to completion their apostolic ministry, sealing it with the shedding of their blood.
The mysterious route of faith and love that led Peter and Paul from their native land to Jerusalem, then to other parts of the world, and finally to Rome, is a model of the journey that every Christian is called to accomplish to witness to Christ in the world.
How can we fail to see in the experience of both the saints we commemorate today the fulfilment of the words of the Psalmist? The Church is constantly put to the test. The message that has always come to her from the holy Apostles Peter and Paul is clear and eloquent: by God's grace, in every circumstance it is possible for the human being to become a sign of the victorious power of God. For this reason he must not be afraid. Those who put their confidence in God, freed from all fear, feel the consoling presence of the Spirit, especially in moments of trial and sorrow.
I turn in particular to you Metropolitans who have come from many countries of the world to receive the pallium from the Successor of Peter. I greet you cordially, with all those who have accompanied you. The special bond with the Apostolic See which this liturgical insignia expresses is a stimulus to a more intense diligence in seeking the spiritual and pastoral communion that will benefit the faithful, and foster in them a sense of the unity and universality of the Church. In yourselves and in those entrusted to you, keep faithfully that holiness of life which is a supernatural gift of grace of the Lord.
I also greet with special affection the Delegation sent by Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, led by the Metropolitan Panteleimon. The traditional visit of the Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is a providential moment in the journey towards re-establishing full communion between us. At the beginning of the third millennium, we powerfully realize that we must "set out anew from Christ", the foundation of our common faith and mission. "Heri, hodie et in saecula" (Yesterday, today and forever) (Hebrews 13,8), Christ is the solid rock on which the Church is built.
5. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" (Matthew 16,16). The profession of faith that Peter made at Cesarea Philippi when the Master asked the disciples: "Who do you say that I am?" (ibid., v. 15), assumes a particularly unique value and meaning for us who make up the ecclesial community of Rome. The witness of Peter and Paul, sealed by the final sacrifice of their lives, reminds this Church of the mission that obliges her to "preside in charity" (Ignatius of Antioch, Ep. ad. Rom., 1,1).
Faithful of my beloved Diocese, we are more and more conscious of our responsibility. Let us persevere in prayer with Mary, Queen of the Apostles.
In following the example of our glorious Patrons and with their constant support, let us try to repeat at every moment to Christ: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God! You are the only Redeemer", the Redeemer of the world!
At the end of the Mass, the Holy Father thanked those who were present and greeted the Delegation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
At the end of this solemn celebration, I want to thank you all, dear brothers and sisters, who with your devout participation have honoured the commemoration of Sts Peter and Paul. I cordially greet the Delegation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, led by Metropolitan Simeon. I shall always remember my recent visit to Bulgaria, and invoke heavenly blessings upon the faithful of that beloved nation.
Best wishes today to all who are named Peter or Paul.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Saint Pope John Paul II, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
13 July 2014