The Sistine Choir continues to improve and the Propers are chanted beautifully. This Mass is primarily in Latin and thus can be classified as a Traditional Latin Mass. The Pali are blessed after the greeting. These will not be placed on the new archbishops by the pope, but rather in a Mass back in the various archdioceses, a new or retrieved custom. The role of the commentator at Mass is used to explain what is happening as the deacons go to the tomb of St. Peter to retrieve the pali for the pope to bless. After the blessing which replaces the Penitential Act, the choir begins the Kyrie which should never, ever, never be omitted when the Penitential Act is omitted even for the Blessing and Sprinkling of Holy Water. Even then, after the absolution, the Kyrie should always and everywhere be chanted and never, ever and never omitted! A powerful Tu es Petrus is chanted at the recessional as the Holy Father and the Patriarch of Eastern Orthodoxy descend to the tomb of Saint Peter to pray!
The reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, speaks to us of the
first Christian community besieged by persecution. A community harshly
persecuted by Herod who “laid violent hands upon some who belonged to
the Church… proceeded to arrest Peter also… and when he had seized him
he put him in prison” (12:1-4).
However, I do not wish to dwell on these atrocious,
inhuman and incomprehensible persecutions, sadly still present in many
parts of the world today, often under the silent gaze of all. I would
like instead to pay homage today to the courage of the Apostles and that
of the first Christian community. This courage carried forward the
work of evangelisation, free of fear of death and martyrdom, within the
social context of a pagan empire; their Christian life is for us, the
Christians of today, a powerful call to prayer, to faith and to witness.
A call to prayer: the first community was
a Church at prayer: “Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for
him was made to God by the Church” (Acts 12:5). And if we think
of Rome, the catacombs were not places to escape to from persecution
but rather, they were places of prayer, for sanctifying the Lord’s day
and for raising up, from the heart of the earth, adoration to God who
never forgets his sons and daughters.
The community of Peter and Paul teaches us that the
Church at prayer is a Church on her feet, strong, moving forward!
Indeed, a Christian who prays is a Christian who is protected, guarded
and sustained, and above all, who is never alone.
The first reading continues: “Sentries before the door
were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and
a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side… And the
chains fell off his hands” (12:6-7).
Let us think about how many times the Lord has heard our prayer and sent us an angel?
An angel who unexpectedly comes to pull us out of a difficult
situation? Who comes to snatch us from the hands of death and from the
evil one; who points out the wrong path; who rekindles in us the flame
of hope; who gives us tender comfort; who consoles our broken hearts;
who awakens us from our slumber to the world; or who simply tells us,
“You are not alone”.
How many angels he places on our path, and yet when we
are overwhelmed by fear, unbelief or even euphoria, we leave them
outside the door, just as happened to Peter when he knocked on the door
of the house and the “maid named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing
Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the door” (12:13-14).
No Christian community can go forward without being
supported by persistent prayer! Prayer is the encounter with God, with
God who never lets us down; with God who is faithful to his word; with
God who does not abandon his children. Jesus asked himself: “And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night?” (Lk
18:7). In prayer, believers express their faith and their trust, and
God reveals his closeness, also by giving us the angels, his messengers.
A call to faith: in the second reading
Saint Paul writes to Timothy: “But the Lord stood by me and gave me
strength to proclaim the word fully… So I was rescued from the lion’s
mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his
heavenly Kingdom” (2 Tim 4:17-18). God does not take his
children out of the world or away from evil but he does grant them
strength to prevail. Only the one who believes can truly say: “The Lord
is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want” (Ps 23:1).
How many forces in the course of history have tried, and
still do, to destroy the Church, from without as well as within, but
they themselves are destroyed and the Church remains alive and fruitful!
She remains inexplicably solid, so that, as Saint Paul says, she may
acclaim: “To him be glory for ever and ever” (2 Tim 4:18).
Everything passes, only God remains. Indeed, kingdoms,
peoples, cultures, nations, ideologies, powers have passed, but the
Church, founded on Christ, notwithstanding the many storms and our many
sins, remains ever faithful to the deposit of faith shown in service;
for the Church does not belong to Popes, bishops, priests, nor the lay
faithful; the Church in every moment belongs solely to Christ. Only the
one who lives in Christ promotes and defends the Church by holiness of
life, after the example of Peter and Paul.
In the name of Christ, believers have raised the dead;
they have healed the sick; they have loved their persecutors; they have
shown how there is no power capable of defeating the one who has the
power of faith!
A call to witness: Peter and Paul, like
all the Apostles of Christ who in their earthly life sowed the seeds of
the Church by their blood, drank the Lord’s cup, and became friends of
Paul writes in a moving way to Timothy: “My son, I am
already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has
come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have
kept the faith. From now on there is laid up for me the crown of
righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on
that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his
appearing” (2 Tim 4: 6-8).
A Church or a Christian who does not give witness is
sterile; like a dead person who thinks they are alive; like a dried up
tree that produces no fruit; an empty well that offers no water! The
Church has overcome evil thanks to the courageous, concrete and humble
witness of her children. She has conquered evil thanks to proclaiming
with conviction: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (cf. Mt 16:13-18).
Dear Archbishops who today receive the Pallium, it is a
sign which represents the sheep that the shepherd carries on his
shoulders as Christ the Good Shepherd does, and it is therefore a symbol
of your pastoral mission. The Pallium is “a liturgical sign of
communion that unites the See of Peter and his Successor to the
Metropolitans, and through them to the other Bishops of the world”
(Benedict XVI, Angelus of 29 June 2005).
Today, by these Palliums, I wish to entrust you with this call to prayer, to faith and to witness.
The Church wants you to be men of prayer, masters of
prayer; that you may teach the people entrusted to your care that
liberation from all forms of imprisonment is uniquely God’s work and the
fruit of prayer; that God sends his angel at the opportune time in
order to save us from the many forms of slavery and countless chains of
worldliness. For those most in need, may you also be angels and
messengers of charity!
The Church desires you to be men of faith, masters of
faith, who can teach the faithful to not be frightened of the many
Herods who inflict on them persecution with every kind of cross. No
Herod is able to banish the light of hope, of faith, or of charity in
the one who believes in Christ!
The Church wants you to be men of witness. Saint Francis
used to tell his brothers: “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary,
use words!” (cf. Franciscan sources, 43). There is no witness
without a coherent lifestyle! Today there is no great need for masters,
but for courageous witnesses, who are convinced and convincing;
witnesses who are not ashamed of the Name of Christ and of His Cross;
not before the roaring lions, nor before the powers of this world. And
this follows the example of Peter and Paul and so many other witnesses
along the course of the Church’s history, witnesses who, yet belonging
to different Christian confessions, have contributed to demonstrating
and bringing growth to the one Body of Christ. I am pleased to emphasize
this, and am always pleased to do so, in the presence of the Delegation
of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, sent by my beloved
brother Bartholomew I.
This is not so straightforward: because the most
effective and authentic witness is one that does not contradict, by
behaviour and lifestyle, what is preached with the word and taught to
Teach prayer by praying, announce the faith by believing; offer witness by living!