Before reciting the Angelus at noon today, Pope Benedict XVI explained that today, February 22, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. He asked the tens of thousands of pilgrims to pray that he is able to bring unity to the Church and “faithfully accomplish the task Divine Providence has placed upon him as Successor to the Apostle Peter.”
The Holy Father began his remarks, delivered from the window of his study overlooking St. Peter’s Square, with a brief commentary on Sunday’s Gospel about the episode of the paralytic whom Jesus forgave and healed. This Gospel, the Pontiff said, “shows that not only did Jesus have the power to heal a sick body, but that he also had the power to forgive sins.”
“Physical healing is a sign of the spiritual healing his forgiveness produces,” the Pope continued. “In effect, sin is a sort of paralysis of the spirit from which only the power of God’s merciful love can free us, allowing us to get up and restart our journey on the path of goodness.”
Turning to the day's feast, Pope Benedict XVI explained, “The Chair of Peter symbolizes the authority of the Bishop of Rome, [who is] called to fulfill a special service for the People of God as a whole.”
“Right after the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul the Church of Rome was acknowledged as having a primatial role among Catholics, a role attested to as early as the 2nd century by Saint Ignatius of Antioch and Saint Irenaeus of Lyons,” the Holy Father added. The Second Vatican Council, the Pope added, underscored the unique role of providing unity to the diversity of rites within the Church as well as the authority of the Bishop of Rome.
The Pontiff concluded with a prayer asking Mary to help Christians “begin Lent in the right state of mind, which starts Wednesday with its Ash ritual.” The Pope will receive ashes during an afternoon Mass that will be held in the Roman Basilica of Saint Sabina.
After the Marian prayer, Pope Benedict XVI greeted the English-speaking pilgrims present in the square: “I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims gathered for this Angelus. In today’s liturgy, we witness Jesus healing the paralytic lowered to him through the roof because of a large crowd. This passage reminds us that the Lord has power to forgive sins, and that nothing stands in the way of his mercy when we seek him with pure and contrite hearts. Let us never hesitate to ask his pardon, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that we may become better instruments of his love for others. God bless you all.”