In the Vatican Basilica yesterday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, the Pope presided at a Eucharistic concelebration with 27 metropolitan archbishops from 17 countries, upon whom in the course of the ceremony he imposed the pallium. Yesterday also marked the 55th anniversary of Benedict XVI's own priestly ordination.
In keeping with tradition, the Mass was attended by a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, led this year by Ioannis (Zizioulas), metropolitan of Pergamo and president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, and including Kallistos (Timothy Ware), bishop of Diokleia and assistant to the archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain, and the archimandrite Dionysius Papavasileiou.
In his homily, the Pope recalled how Peter recognized Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God and how, on this basis, his special task was conferred upon him "through three images: the rock that becomes the foundation stone or cornerstone, the keys, and the image of binding and loosening."
Benedict XVI then highlighted the fact that Jesus, having made His promise to Peter, starts out towards Jerusalem and the Cross. "The Church - and in her Christ - also suffers today," he said. "In her, Christ is once again scorned and beaten; once again an attempt is made to push Him out of the world. Once again, the little ship of the Church is shaken by the winds of ideologies ... and she seems condemned to sink under the waters. And yet, it is precisely in the suffering Church that Christ is triumphant. Despite everything, faith in Him always reacquires new strength."
The Lord "remains in His ship, in the little vessel of the Church," the Pope added. "In the same way, Peter's ministry reveals, on the one had, the weakness of man's faculties, but at the same time the strength of God. It is precisely in the weakness of men that the Lord shows His strength."
Peter's task, the Holy Father continued, was also "never to let this faith become mute, but ever to reinvigorate it, even before the cross and all the contradictions of the world."
After mentioning Peter's three denials, Benedict XVI said: "through this fall, Peter - and with him the Church in all times - must learn that one's own strength is not enough to build and guide the Church of the Lord. No one can manage it alone. However capable and able Peter many seem, at the first moment of trial he failed."
"For all those who have responsibility in the Church; for all those who suffer the confusion of these times; for the great and the small: Lord, protect us always and anew and thus raise us up when we fall and take us into Your good hands."
The Lord also entrusted Peter, Pope Benedict said, with the task of "presiding over universal communion, and of maintaining it present in the world in the form of unity, a unity that is also visible."
After greeting the metropolitan archbishops appointed in the course of the last year, who received the pallium during today's ceremony, the Pope also addressed some words to the delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate: "I thank Patriarch Bartholomew I and the Holy Synod for this sign of fraternity, which expresses the desire and commitment to progress more rapidly along the road to the full unity invoked by Christ for all His disciples. We share the burning desire once expressed by Patriarch Atenagora and by Pope Paul VI: to drink together from the same chalice and to eat together the same bread, which is the Lord Himself. On this occasion, we again implore that this gift be granted us soon."
Palliums were conferred on the following metropolitian archbishops:
1. Cardinal Jorge Liberato UROSA SAVINO, archbishop of Caracas, Venezuela.
2. Cardinal Crescenzio SEPE, archbishop of Naples, Italy.
3. Archbishop Louis CHAMNIERN SANTISUKNIRAN of Thare and Nonseng, Thailand.
4. Archbishop Jose Belisario DA SILVA, O.F.M., of Sao Luis do Maranhao, Brazil.
5. Archbishop Jabulani NXUMALO, O.M.I., of Bloemfontein, South Africa.
6. Archbishop Jorge Enrique JIMENEZ CARVAJAL, C.I.M., of Cartagena, Colombia.
7. Archbishop Tommaso VALENTINETTI of Pescara-Penne, Italy.
8. Archbishop Fabriciano SIGAMPA of Resistencia, Argentina.
9. Archbishop Odon Marie Arsene RAZANAKOLONA of Antananarivo, Madagascar.
10. Archbishop George Hugh NIEDERAUER of San Francisco, United States.
11. Archbishop Jose Luis MOLLAGHAN of Rosario, Argentina.
12. Archbishop Cornelius Fontem ESUA of Bamenda, Cameroon.
13. Archbishop Daniel N. DiNARDO of Galveston-Houston, United States.
14. Archbishop Antonio Javellana LEDESMA, S.J., of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines.
15. Archbishop Jose Serofia PALMA of Palo, Philippines.
16. Archbishop Sylvain LAVOIE, O.M.I., of Keewatin-Le Pas, Canada.
17. Archbishop Joviano DE LIMA JUNIOR, S.S.S., of Ribeirao Preto, Brazil.
18. Archbishop Luigi CONTI of Fermo, Italy.
19. Archbishop Franc KRAMBERGER of Maribor Slovenia.
20. Archbishop Ignazio SANNA of Oristano, Italy.
21. Archbishop Francois-Xavier MAROY RUSENGO of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo).
22. Archbishop Jean-Pierre KUTWA of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
23. Archbishop Andrea MUGIONE of Benevento, Italy.
24. Archbishop Orlando BRANDES of Londrina, Brazil.
25. Archbishop Georges PONTIER of Marseille, France.
26. Archbishop Donald William WUERL of Washington, United States.
27. Archbishop Wojciech ZIEMBA of Warmia, Poland.