Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - "The Fathers of the Church liked to compare the holy Apostles Peter and Paul to two columns, on which the visible building of the Church rests. Both sealed with their own blood their testimony to Christ of preaching and service to the nascent Christian community". With these words, the Holy Father introduced the Marian prayer of the Angelus on the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul on 29 June. To the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope recalled the adversities encountered to carry on their evangelizing mission: "They were sent by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel in difficult and in some cases hostile environments. Both, with their personal and ecclesial events, show and tell us today that the Lord is always at our side, walking with us, never leaving us. Especially in times of trial, God tends a hand to us, comes to our aid, and frees us from enemy threats. But let us remember that our true enemy is sin, and the Evil One that drives us to it. When we reconcile ourselves with God, especially in the Sacrament of Penance, receiving the grace of forgiveness, we are freed from the bonds of evil and lightened from the burden of our mistakes. So we can continue our journey of joyful announcers and witnesses of the Gospel, demonstrating that we first received mercy".
The Pope celebrated the Eucharist yesterday in St. Peter's Square with the five Cardinals created in the Consistory the day before (see Fides 22/5/2017), with the 36 Metropolitan Archbishops nominated in the course of the year. The Holy Father Francis blessed the Pallia. The Pallium will then be imposed upon each metropolitan Archbishop by the Papal Representative in the respective metropolitan see, with numerous Bishops and priests from all over the world.
In the homily the Pope focused on "three words essential for the life of an apostle: confession, persecution, prayer". Confession is that of Peter in the Gospel, to the Lord's question "But you, who do you say I am?" Peter answers, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". "To confess the faith means this: to acknowledge in Jesus the long-awaited Messiah, the living God, the Lord of our lives", said Pope Francis. Today Jesus puts this crucial question to us, to each of us, and particularly to those of us who are Pastors. It is the decisive question. It does not allow for a non-committal answer, because it brings into play our entire life: and the question of life demands a response of life... Let us ask ourselves if we are parlour Christians who love to chat about how things are going in the Church and the world, or apostles on the go, who confess Jesus with their lives because they hold Him in their hearts".
The second word, persecution. "Peter and Paul shed their blood for Christ, but the early community as a whole also experienced persecution. Today too, in various parts of the world, sometimes in silence – often a complicit silence – great numbers of Christians are marginalized, vilified, discriminated against, subjected to violence and even death, not infrequently without due intervention on the part of those who could defend their sacrosanct rights... Apart from the cross, there is no Christ, but apart from the cross, there can be no Christian either...
Tolerating evil does not have to do simply with patience and resignation; it means imitating Jesus, carrying our burden, shouldering it for his sake and that of others. It means accepting the cross, pressing on in the confident knowledge that we are not alone: the crucified and risen Lord is at our side".
The third word is prayer. "The life of an apostle, which flows from confession and becomes self-offering, is one of constant prayer. Prayer is the water needed to nurture hope and increase fidelity. Prayer makes us feel loved and it enables us to love in turn. It makes us press forward in moments of darkness because it brings God’s light. In the Church, it is prayer that sustains us and helps us to overcome difficulties...
A Church that prays is watched over and cared for by the Lord. Prayer is the power and strength that unite and sustain us, the remedy for the isolation and self-sufficiency that lead to spiritual death. The Spirit of life does not breathe unless we pray; without prayer, the interior prisons that hold us captive cannot be unlocked". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 30/6/2017)