.- During his address for today's feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Holy Father asserted that the “greatest danger” to the Church is not external persecution, but the “negative attitudes” of the world that can pollute and “infect the Christian community” from within.
The Pope made his remarks on Tuesday morning at Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, where he concelebrated with 38 metropolitan archbishops whom he bestowed the pallium upon after delivering his homily.
The pallium is a white stole made of wool from lambs blessed and presented to the Pope each year on the feast of St. Agnes. It is reserved for use by the Pope and all metropolitan archbishops and expresses communion with the Bishop of Rome.
In his homily, Pope Benedict first reflected on the theme of freedom for the Church, emphasizing that Sts. Peter and Paul demonstrate that “God is close to his faithful servants and frees them from all evil, and frees the Church from negative powers.”
Speaking on Christ's promise in the Gospel that the “powers of hell shall not prevail” on the Church, the Pontiff explained that this not only “includes the historical experience of persecution suffered by Peter and Paul and other witnesses of the Gospel,” but “it goes further, wanting to protect especially against threats of a spiritual order.”
“Indeed, if we think of the two millennia of Church history, we can see that - as the Lord Jesus had announced, Christians have never been lacking in trials, which in some periods and places have assumed the character of real persecution.
“These, however, despite the suffering they cause, are not the greatest danger for the Church,” the Pope said.
“In fact,” he noted, “it suffers greatest damage from what pollutes the Christian faith and life of its members and its communities, eroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening its ability to prophesy and witness, tarnishing the beauty of its face.”
Reflecting on the Scripture readings, the Pope explained that the “Second Letter to Timothy – of which we heard an excerpt – speaks about the dangers of the 'last days,' identifying them with negative attitudes that belong to the world and can infect the Christian community: selfishness, vanity, pride, love of money, etc.”
“There is therefore a guarantee of freedom promised by God to the Church, it is freedom from the material bonds that seek to prevent or coerce mission, both through spiritual and moral evils, which may affect its authenticity and credibility.”
“The theme of the freedom of the Church, guaranteed by Christ to Peter, also has a specific relevance to the rite of the imposition of the pallium,” the Holy Father explained, “which we renew today for thirty-eight metropolitan archbishops, to whom I address my most cordial greeting, extending with it affection to all who have wanted to accompany them on this pilgrimage.”