Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday celebrated Mass marking the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, patron saints of the city of Rome. During the Eucharistic celebration, the Pope also conferred the Pallium on 41 new Metropolitan archbishops, from countries all over the world, who have been appointed over the past year.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report… (Vatican Radio) : >>
Attending the Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday morning was a special delegation of three Orthodox leaders representing the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, part of a traditional exchange of ecumenical delegations which has helped to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the Churches of the East and West since shortly after the 2nd Vatican Council.
But the Mass also marked a personal moment of reflection for the Pope himself who was celebrating the 60th anniversary of his own ordination to the priesthood.
“Sixty years on from the day of my priestly ordination….
In his homily Pope Benedict said that sixty years on from his ordination, he can still hear the words that were addressed to the new young priests that day in 1951, the words of St John’s Gospel, ‘I no longer call you servants but friends.’ Words, the Pope added, that bring great inner joy and can also be seen as the entire programme of a priestly life.
“Friendship is not just about knowing someone, it is above all a communion of the will..
Reflecting on the meaning of that friendship with Christ, the Pope said it is above all learning to grow in ever greater conformity with His will, to know Him better through the Scriptures, through prayer, through the communion of Saints. Jesus’ words on friendship, he said, should be seen in the context of His commission to His followers to go and make disciples of all nations – a command which challenges us to move beyond the boundaries of our own world and to bring the Gospel to all people.
“On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul my most cordial greeting goes first of all to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1st …
After his intimate reflection on the meaning of his own priestly ministry, the Pope also greeted the Orthodox delegation present in the Basilica, as well as the new Metropolitan Archbishops who received the white, woollen Pallum, a symbol of service and a sign of a communion with St Peter and his successors. Pope Benedict concluded with heartfelt words of thanks to the Lord for the past six decades of his own service to the Church, as well as thanks to all the people who, he said, have formed and accompanied me.