Today we celebrate the great solemnity of the apostles Peter and Paul. How much this day reminds me of Rome and the two great basilicas there, St. Peter’s and St. Paul Outside-the-Walls!
Peter and Paul are considered the two great pillars of the Church. They shed their blood in Rome and are buried there. Millions of pilgrims over the years have made their way to their tombs to pay them homage and respect, as did I in the 70s and then again with my wife six years ago.
I would like to provide you with an English translation of some of the Holy Father’s comments today marking this feast day. The translation is mine, which I make from the original Italian:
With joy we celebrate the solemn liturgy of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, a feast day throughout the 2000 year history of the Christian people. They are called pillars of the infant Church. Renown witnesses to the faith, they expanded the Kingdom of God with their differing gifts and, with the example of the Divine Teacher, sealed with their blood their evangelical preaching. Their martyrdom is a sing of the unity of the Church, as St. Augustine says, “One day only is consecrated to these two apostles as a feast. But they were united as one. Even though they were martyred on different days, they were united as one. Peter led, Paul followed.” (Disc. 295, 8: PL 38, 1352)
In this journey of salvation, the Christian community, sustained by the presence of the Spirit of the living God, finds itself encouraged to firmly and serenely follow the road of faith that leads to Christ and to announcing his Gospel to men of every age. In this fruitful spiritual and missionary journey the archbishops and metropolitans are given the Pallium, which I did this morning in the Basilica. ………
Dear pilgrims, coming here from all parts of the world! In this feast day, we pray the expressions of the Eastern liturgy, “May Peter and Paul be praised, these two great lights of the Church; they shine in the firmament of faith.”
St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us!