Archive of November 25, 2012

Church responsible for spreading Christ's kingdom, Pope recalls

Vatican City, Nov 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - After he celebrated Mass with six new cardinals for the feast of Christ the King, Pope Benedict spoke about God's kingdom and the Church’s role in making it present in the world.

 "The whole mission of Jesus and the content of his message consists in proclaiming the Kingdom of God and its practical application in the midst of men with signs and wonders," he said on the feast of Christ the King.

"But, as recalled by Vatican Council II, the Kingdom first manifests itself in the person of Christ, who established it through his death on the cross and his resurrection," he said.

"This Kingdom of Christ has been given to the Church, which is the seed and the beginning, and it has the task of proclaiming and spreading it among all nations by the power of the Holy Spirit."

The Pope also reminded the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Nov. 25 Angelus prayer that "at the end of the prescribed time, the Lord will deliver the kingdom to God the Father and offer him all those who have lived according to the commandment of love."

Pope Benedict then turned his attention to the Gospel for today’s feast.

He recalled that Pilate asked Jesus if he is a king and Jesus replied 'Yes, I'm a king. I was born for this. I came unto the world for this: to bear witness to the truth and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.'

The Pope explained that all Christians are called to “prolong God’s saving work by converting ourselves to the Gospel, by placing ourselves with conviction in the footsteps of that King who came not to be served but to serve and to bear witness to the truth.”

"In this perspective,” he added, “I invite everyone to pray for the six new cardinals that I created yesterday, that the Holy Spirit may strengthen them in faith and charity and fill them with his gifts, so that they may live their new responsibilities as a further commitment to Christ and his kingdom.”

The new members of the College of Cardinals, he said, "represent well the universal dimension of the Church and one of them has long been at service of the Holy Spirit," referring to American Cardinal James Michael Harvey.

He was head of the Papal Household for 14 years, in charge of arranging the Pope's schedule, including private and public audiences and looked after visiting world leaders. He will now serve as the cardinal-deacon for San Pio V a Villa Carpegna and as archpriest of the St. Paul Outside the Walls Basilica.

Pope Benedict pointed out that on Dec. 1 Rome's university students will partake in a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter to celebrate the Year of Faith. Their visit will include the Pope celebrating First Vespers with them on the first Sunday of Advent.

The pontiff then offered a warm welcome to all the visitors and pilgrims in different languages.

He included greetings to English speakers, especially those who accompanied the new cardinals created in yesterday's consistory.

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Church remembers St. Peter of Alexandria, 'Seal of the Martyrs'

Denver, Colo., Nov 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Local commemorations of the fourth-century martyr Saint Peter of Alexandria will take place on Nov. 25 and 26. Although his feast day in the Western tradition (on the latter date) is no longer a part of the Roman Catholic Church’s universal calendar, he remains especially beloved among Catholic and Orthodox Christians of the Egyptian Coptic tradition.

Tradition attests that the Egyptian bishop was the last believer to suffer death at the hands of Roman imperial authorities for his faith in Christ. For this reason, St. Peter of Alexandria is known as the “Seal of the Martyrs.” He is said to have undertaken severe penances for the sake of the suffering Church during his lifetime, and written letters of encouragement to those in prison, before going to his death at the close of the “era of the martyrs.”

Both the date of Peter’s birth, and of his ordination as a priest, are unknown. It is clear, however, that he was chosen to lead Egypt’s main Catholic community in the year 300 after the death of Saint Theonas of Alexandria. He may have previously been in charge of Alexandria’s well-known catechetical school, an important center of religious instruction in the early Church. Peter’s own theological writings were cited in a later fifth-century dispute over Christ’s divinity and humanity.

In 302, the Emperor Diocletian and his subordinate Maximian attempted to wipe out the Church in the territories of the Roman Empire. They used their authority to destroy Church properties, imprison and torture believers, and eventually kill those who refused to take part in pagan ceremonies. As the Bishop of Alexandria, Peter offered spiritual support to those who faced these penalties, encouraging them to hold to their faith without compromise. 

One acute problem for the Church during this period was the situation of the “lapsed.” These were Catholics who had violated their faith by participating in pagan rites under coercion, but who later repented and sought to be reconciled to the Church. Peter issued canonical directions for addressing their various situations, and these guidelines became an important part of the Eastern Christian tradition for centuries afterward.

Around the year 306, Peter led a council that deposed Bishop Meletius of Lycopolis, a member of the Catholic hierarchy who had allegedly offered sacrifice to a pagan idol. Peter left his diocese for reasons of safety during some portions of the persecution, giving Meletius an opening to set himself up as his rival and lead a schismatic church in the area.

The “Meletian schism” would continue to trouble the Church for years after the death of Alexandria’s legitimate bishop. Saint Athanasius, who led the Alexandrian Church during a later period in the fourth century, claimed that Meletius personally betrayed Peter of Alexandria to the state authorities during the Diocletian persecution.

Although Diocletian himself chose to resign his rule in in 305, persecution continued under Maximinus Daia, who assumed leadership of the Roman Empire’s eastern half in 310. The early Church historian Eusebius attests that Maximinus, during an imperial visit to Alexandria, unexpectedly ordered its bishop to be seized and killed without imprisonment or trial in 311. Three priests – Faustus, Dio, and Ammonius – were reportedly beheaded along with him.

St. Peter of Alexandria’s entry in the “History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria” (a volume first compiled by a Coptic Orthodox bishop in the 10th century) concludes with a description of the aftermath of his death. 

“And the city was in confusion, and was greatly disturbed, when the people beheld this martyr of the Lord Christ. Then the chief men of the city came, and wrapped his body in the leathern mat on which he used to sleep; and they took him to the church … And, when the liturgy had been performed, they buried him with the fathers. May his prayers be with us and all those that are baptized!”

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