Pope Benedict XVI reflected that St. Peter and St. Paul are prime examples of the brotherhood that all Christians should live in Jesus Christ.
“Peter and Paul, much as they differ from one another in human terms and notwithstanding the conflicts that arose in their relationship, illustrate a new way of being brothers, lived according to the Gospel, an authentic way made possible by the grace of Christ’s Gospel working within them,” he said.
The Pope made his observations June 29 during his homily marking the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul at the Vatican.
Among the vast congregation in St. Peter’s Basilica were 43 new metropolitan archbishops upon whom he had just conferred the pallium. The woven strip of white lamb’s wool symbolizes the authority given to them by the Roman Pontiff.
Among those being conferred with the pallium were Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver and the Byzantine Archbishop William C. Skurla of Pittsburgh.
Pope Benedict used his homily to explore the life and spiritual legacy of Saints Peter and Paul who were both martyred in 1st century Rome thus making them, said the Pope, “a kind of counterbalance to the mythical Romulus and Remus, the two brothers held to be the founders of Rome.”
He noted how in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Saint Peter’s proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah which did not come “through flesh and blood” is quickly followed by the rebuke to “Get behind me, Satan!” as Christ foretells of his impending passion.
Thus we clearly see, said Pope Benedict, a “tension that exists between the gift that comes from the Lord and human capacities” that in some sense anticipates the drama of the history of the papacy itself.
“On the one hand, because of the light and the strength that come from on high, the Papacy constitutes the foundation of the Church during its pilgrimage through history,” he said, “on the other hand, across the centuries, human weakness is also evident, which can only be transformed through openness to God’s action.”
Pope Benedict then looked at the other promises given by Christ to Saint Peter including the assurance that the “gates of the underworld” will not prevail against the Church.
This guarantee, said the Pope, is foreshadowed by a similar pledge given by God to the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. However, while the promise to Jeremiah only pertained to him as a person, the promise to Peter concerns “the future of the Church, the new community founded by Jesus Christ, which extends to all of history, far beyond the personal existence of Peter himself.”
Meanwhile the “symbol of the keys” is also prefigured in the Old Testament in the granting of the keys to the House of David to the steward Eliakim.
The Pope said the New Testament parallel reveals that “the authority of loosing and binding consists in the power to remit sins” which “defuses the powers of chaos and evil” and “is at the heart of the Church’s ministry.”
“The Church is not a community of the perfect, but a community of sinners, obliged to recognize their need for God’s love, their need to be purified through the Cross of Jesus Christ,” he concluded.