On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis installed 24 new archbishops with the pallium, urging them, like Peter, to place their security in the Lord when faced by the fear of their own weakness.
“I wonder, dear brother bishops, are we afraid? What are we afraid of? And if we are afraid, what forms of refuge do we seek, in our pastoral life, to find security?” the Pope asked in his June 29 homily.
“Peter experienced how God’s fidelity is always greater than our acts of infidelity, stronger than our denials. He realizes that the God’s fidelity dispels our fears and exceeds every human reckoning.”
Following the installation of the pallium onto the Metropolitan archbishops, Pope Francis took a moment to offer special greetings to the Delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, which was led by Metropolitan Ioannis, and to pray for the unity of the two churches.
The pallium is a white woolen garment that represents the traditional and peculiar sign of the metropolitan office, and is given annually to the new archbishops appointed during the throughout the year.
The Pope began his homily by returning to the Gospel in which the Lord sends an angel to free Peter from prison, drawing attention to how the apostle’s chains fell and the door of his cell was opened when the angel commanded him to rise and follow.
“Yes, the Lord liberates us from every fear and from all that enslaves us, so that we can be truly free,” the Pope said, explaining that “the problem for us, then, is fear and looking for refuge in our pastoral responsibilities.”
Asking the archbishops what their fears are, the Pope also questioned where they place their security, saying, “Do we look for support from those who wield worldly power? Or do we let ourselves be deceived by the pride which seeks gratification and recognition, thinking that these will offer us security?”
Observing how “the witness of the Apostle Peter reminds us that our true refuge is trust in God,” the pontiff explained that this trust “banishes all fear” and sets us free from slavery and worldly temptations.
“Today the Bishop of Rome and other bishops, particularly the metropolitans who have received the pallium, feel challenged by the example of Saint Peter to assess to what extent each of us puts his trust in the Lord.”
Recalling how Peter had regained his trust in the Lord when Jesus said to him three times “Feed my sheep,” enabling him to make up for his threefold denial, the pontiff noted how Peter was still filled with regret at that moment.
However in recognition of his weakness, he “does not trust himself and his own strength, but instead entrusts himself to Jesus and his mercy.”
It was at this moment “that fear, insecurity and cowardice dissipate,” the Bishop of Rome observed, explaining that God’s faithfulness is much greater than our own infidelity.
Pointing out how Jesus also asks us the question, “Do you love me,” Pope Francis stated that “He does so because he knows our fears and our struggles” and that Peter shows us how to trust the Lord, “who ‘knows everything’ that is in us.”
“Jesus never abandons us, for he cannot deny himself. He is faithful,” the Pope noted, stating that his fidelity to us is “the source of our confidence and our peace” which enables us to serve others in charity.
“The love of Jesus must suffice for Peter. He must no longer yield to the temptation of curiosity, jealousy, as when, seeing John nearby, he asks Jesus: ‘Lord, what about this man?’” to which Jesus replies “What is it to you? Follow me.”
Addressing the new archbishops directly, Pope Francis stated that this message is also directed toward all shepherds in the Church.
“Follow me! Waste no time in questioning or in useless chattering; do not dwell on secondary things, but look to what is essential and follow me. Follow me without regard for the difficulties. Follow me in preaching the Gospel,” he said.
“Follow me by the witness of a life shaped by the grace you received in baptism and holy orders. Follow me by speaking of me to those with whom you live, day after day, in your work, your conversations and among your friends.”
Concluding, the pontiff stated that Jesus asks them to follow him in preaching the Gospel “especially to the least among us, so that no one will fail to hear the word of life which sets us free from every fear and enables us to trust in the faithfulness of God. You, follow me.”
In addition to the 24 archbishops who received the pallium from Pope Francis are three others who were not present, and who will officially be installed at a later date. Among the 24 present was one American, Archbishop Leonard Paul Blair of Hartford, Conn.