.- During the celebration of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul at the Vatican Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI called the Archbishops who had just received the pallium to be shepherds of the whole world. He said the world, like the Gospel’s lost sheep, has lost its way home.
The Mass was attended by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, who in an unprecedented gesture was invited to deliver a homily.
The Patriarch's homily, which preceded the Pope's, centered upon the growing links of friendship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, whose see is in Constantinople. The majority of the Christians who remain in the areas once evangelized by St. Paul belong to the Orthodox Church.
Following the tradition established by Pope John Paul II, during the solemnity 40 of the 42 Archbishops of the world appointed during the last year received the pallium from the Pope’s hands as a symbol of both their pastoral authority and their unity with the Pope.
“By their martyrdom,” Pope Benedict said during the homily, “Peter and Paul are now part of Rome: by his martyrdom Peter too has become a Roman citizen forever. By their martyrdom, their faith and their love, both Apostles show us where true hope is found. They are the founders of a new kind of city, which always has to be rebuilt in the midst of the old human city, which remains threatened by the opposing forces of sin and human selfishness.”
”By virtue of their martyrdom,” the Holy Father continued, “Peter and Paul are forever in a mutual relationship. A beloved image of Christian iconography is the embrace of the two apostles on their way to martyrdom.”
“We can say: their own martyrdom, deep inside, is the achievement of a brotherly embrace,” he added.
Pope Benedict then explained that the permanent mission of Peter is “to ensure that the Church is never identified with a single nation, a single culture or a single state, that it may always be the Church of all. That she may gather humanity beyond any border and, in the midst of the divisions of this world, that she may always bring the presence of God’s peace and the reconciling strength of His Love.”
Addressing the Archbishops who were about to receive the pallium, the Holy Father recalled that the pallium “has been made with the wool of lambs, which the Bishop of Rome blesses every year during the feast of the Chair of St. Peter,” thus making the pallium “a symbol of Christ’s flock, over which you preside.”
“When we take the pallium over our shoulders, we are reminded of the Shepherd who takes over his shoulders the lost little lamb, which by itself can’t find the road back home, and brings it back to the flock.”
“The Fathers of the Church,” he continued, “have seen in this little lamb the image of the whole of humanity, which is lost and can no longer find the way home. The Shepherd who brings it home can only be the Logos, the eternal Word of God Himself.”
The pallium, the Pope added, is also “a symbol of our love for Christ the Shepherd and of our love, together with Him. It becomes a symbol of our calling to love humanity like Him, together with Him: those who are searching; those who have questions; those who are sure of themselves, and the humble, the simple and the great. The pallium becomes a symbol of the calling to love all of them with the strength of Christ, so that they may find Him and in Him, find themselves.”
“This is the ministry to which the Lord is calling us,” the Pope concluded. “Let us pray now that He may help us to exercise it rightly.”