Pope Francis said the Church is praying for the dozens of new archbishops whom he greeted and gave wool vestments symbolizing fidelity to during in a Mass at Saint Peter's Basilica.
“We pray for the metropolitan archbishops of different Churches of the world to which a little while ago I delivered the pallium, the symbol of communion,” Pope Francis said June 29.
“I pray for all of their communities, I particularly encourage the people of central Africa, who have been tested harshly, to walk with faith and hope,” he told pilgrims gathered at St. Peter's Square.
The Pope prayed the Angelus from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace after he celebrated Mass at Saint Peter's Basilica marking the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
During the Mass, he gave 34 world archbishops their pallium – a white wool vestment, emblazoned with six black silk crosses. Dating back to at least the fifth century, the wearing of the pallium by metropolitan archbishops symbolizes authority as well as unity with the Holy See.
Of the 34 recipients of the pallium, four were Americans: Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco; Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis; Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland; and Archbishop Michael O. Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa.
In his remarks given from the Apostolic Palace, the Pope said that June 29 is not only a special feast for Rome that marks the martyrdom of the two apostles, but is also “a big feast for the universal Church because the whole people of God is indebted to them for the gift of faith.”
“Peter was the first to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” and “Paul spread this proclamation in the Greek-Roman world,” he explained. “And providence wanted that both come to Rome and pay their faith with blood.”
The pontiff noted said that for this reason the Church of Rome has become “spontaneously, the reference point for all the churches around the world.”
“Not for the power of the empire, but for the strength of martyrdom, the testimony of Christ!” he said. “Think of Peter, when he confessed his faith in Jesus, it was not through his human power.”
The pontiff added that St. Peter's human power had been “conquered” by the grace of Jesus, and through “the love he felt in his words and saw in his gestures.”
The Pope noted that something similar happened to St. Paul, but in a different way and that it was an experience of the mercy and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ.
“Paul as a young man was an enemy of the Christians, and when the risen Christ called him on the Damascus road, his life was transformed.”
“He realized that Jesus was not dead, but alive, and he also loved him, who was his enemy!”
Pope Francis told pilgrims it is a joy to believe in a God who is all love and all grace. “We praise the Lord for these two glorious witnesses, and how they let us be conquered by Christ,” he added.
The Pope also recalled St. Peter's brother, St. Andrew, noting that he likes to remember him on this feast day. “Let us not forget that Peter had a brother, Andrew, who met Jesus first, spoke of him to Peter and took Peter to meet him.”
He then greeted the delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, led by Metropolitan Ioannis Zizoulas from Greece, who is regarded as the successor of St. Andrew.
“Happy feast to all!” Pope Francis concluded.