WE CANNOT REMAIN SEPARATED
Pope John Paul II
Homily for Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul
June 29, 1995
1. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt
Today the Church returns to this confession, spoken by Peter
near Caesarea Philippi. This is the faith of the Apostolic
College, in whose name Peter is speaking. This is the faith of
Paul. Both Peter and Paul bore witness to it even to the
shedding of their own blood.
According to tradition, this happened here in Rome in Nero's
time, around the year 67 after the birth of Christ.
Today, in a particular way, we commemorate Andrew, Simon Peter's
brother, who was the first to be called (Protokletos) and who
brought Simon to Christ. With intense feeling, we call his
figure to mind today because on this solemn day the Church of
Rome welcomes as her guest Patriarch Bartholomew of
Constantinople, and the Church over which he presides is
especially linked to the person and martyrdom of the Apostle
Every year on 30 November, the Feast of St. Andrew, the Church
of Rome joins her sister Church in honouring her patron. It is a
deep joy for us today, as we recall the glorious memory of Simon
Peter, Andrew's brother, to be able to welcome to Rome the
Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew I of
Constantinople, the first See among the world's Orthodox
Churches. Today, with Andrew, Peter utters these words: "You are
the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16).
2. This confession discloses the mystery of God the Father to
us. Christ, in responding to Peter's words, said: "Blessed are
you, Simon-Bar Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this
to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 16:17). The Father
revels the Son because only the Father knows the Son, as only
the Son knows the Father (cf. Lk 10:22). The Church professes
this faith with the words of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan
Creed: "I believe in one God, Father almighty...."
This is a venerable text which we both recognize as a normative
and irrevocable expression of the Church's one faith. No
confession of faith which belongs to a specific liturgical
tradition can contravene such a fundamental expression of the
Trinitarian faith, taught and professed by the Church in all
3. In this regard, it is necessary to clear up a
misunderstanding which still casts its shadow on relations
between Catholics and Orthodox. To this end a Joint Commission
was established. Its task is to explain, in the light of our
common faith, the legitimate meaning and importance of different
traditional expressions concerning the eternal origin of the
Holy Spirit in the Trinity, expressions that are part of our
mutual doctrinal and liturgical heritages. On the Catholic side,
there is a firm desire to clarify the traditional doctrine of
the Filioque, present in the liturgical version of the Latin
Credo, in order to highlight its full harmony with what the
Ecumenical Council confesses in its creed: the Father as the
source of the whole Trinity, the one origin of both the Son and
the Holy Spirit.
The Son, consubstantial with the Father, is the eternal Word of
which the Apostle John wrote in his Prologue to the Fourth
gospel, confession the Word who "became flesh and dwelt among
us" (Jn 1:14).
According to tradition, St. John wrote the Gospel in Ephesus,
thereby becoming particularly dear to all the Christian East.
His Gospel was the light that illumined the Church throughout
We, the Successors of Peter and Andrew, united today in
veneration of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, would also like
to illumine our meeting with the light of John's Gospel, so that
it may be clear to all that the same truth about the Father and
the Son is professed by us and proclaimed in common.
4. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16).
Peter confesses this and, together with him, so does the whole
Church which was founded on the Apostles. In confessing Jesus of
Nazareth as the Christ, the Church is also indirectly
proclaiming the truth about the Holy Spirit. In fact the name
"Christ", from the Hebrew "Messiah", means one who is anointed
with God's Spirit. This truth was expressed by the Prophet
Isaiah many centuries before Christ in the words Jesus was to
proclaim and bring to fulfilment at the beginning of his
messianic activity: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because
he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor" (Lk 4:18).
The Holy Spirit, whom the Father sends in the name of the Son
(cf. Jn 14:26), has been the source of the Church's life since
the day of Pentecost, in accordance with the Redeemer's promise:
"He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all
that I have said to you" (Jn 14:26). The Spirit, who guides the
Church and teaches her, who consecrates the Bishops as
successors of the Apostles, is with us today in a particular
way, as he was with Peter and Paul on the day of their martyrdom
when they bore their definitive witness to Christ and sealed
their mission with blood, leaving it as an inheritance not only
to Rome, but to so many other places in the ancient world.
And how many of these places are found in Greece! It is enough
to list the communities to which St. Paul's letters are
addressed. From the "Pauline corpus", as it were, a common
tradition of the Church in the East and in the West emerges. The
whole series of Apostolic Letters in the New Testament are proof
of their concern for all the Churches entrusted by God to the
Apostles and to their successors until the end of time.
5. "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and
the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give
you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on
earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth
shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:18-19).
These words are overwhelming. The authority which Christ hands
over to the Apostles, that of the keys of the kingdom of heaven
and that of binding and loosing, is given to them in the person
of Peter and in union with him. An unfathomable mystery!
Today's feast of the martyrdom of the holy Apostles reveals what
is the true meaning of this authority: it is service. Peter,
Paul and Andrew served even to the shedding of their blood, just
as Christ had done before them: "For the Son of Man also came
not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom
for many" (Mk 10:45). The Apostles were called to participate in
their Master's service: a service by which they were able to
give the ultimate testimony; a service which was their true
strength, their glory in Christ who died and rose again.
Today we wish to honour those who, in the course of the 2000
years of the new era, have witnessed and continue to witness to
Christ in every corner of the earth, in the East and in the
West, in the North and in the South. We would especially like to
honour all those who have borne witness to the point of shedding
their blood. We prepared ourselves for today's meeting by
pondering again over the paths that this witness took in the
Roman Colosseum and in the many other "colosseums" scattered
throughout the world. Last year's Way of the Cross was a great
help in this common reflection, whose texts were prepared in
fact by our Brother, Bartholomew I.
6. Today's solemn liturgy is enriched by an additional and
meaningful rite, the imposition of the pallium.
The pallium, which today the Bishop of Rome confers on the new
Metropolitans, is an expression of a special spiritual bond with
the confession and witness of St. Peter in Rome, and with the
ministry of his Successor.
I embrace you with affection, beloved Brother Archbishops, and I
rejoice in the fact that, having been sent to preside over
Metropolitan Churches in various parts of the world, you will
receive the pallium in the presence of our guest, the Ecumenical
Patriarch of Constantinople.
7. The solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul invites us to reflect on
the way taken by Peter and Paul as they followed Christ from the
day of their calling to that of their martyrdom here in Rome.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles showed us St.
Peter while he was still in Jerusalem on the first stage of the
Church's long pilgrimage.
We listen together to the words of this passage, which in a
certain sense recounts our own history, Venerable Brother
Bartholomew I. We listen to it with deep veneration and feeling,
now that the 2,000th year since the birth of Christ is
approaching. It represents a great challenge for the whole of
humanity and especially for all Christians. When I think of this
historic goal, I am reminded of what St. Luke's Gospel says
about the disciples' mission: "He sent them on ahead of him, two
by two" (Lk 10:1). We should meditate on the meaning of these
words. Do they not suggest that Christ is also sending us out
two by two as messengers of his Gospel in the West and in the
Christ is sending us out together, so that we may jointly bear
witness to him. Thus we cannot remain separated! We must walk
together, because this is Our Lord's will. The world must
recover its faith at the end of the second millennium and at the
start of the third! This is why we should redouble our efforts;
we must commit ourselves actively to becoming truly one, just as
he, Christ, is one with the Father (cf. Jn 17:22).
At the altar of the "Confessio" over Peter's tomb, let us pray
for this together. Together with us, the whole Church in the
West and in the East is praying, the Church which Christ
entrusted to us, just as he once entrusted her to Peter and
Andrew, establishing her on the foundation of the Apostles as
the way of eternal salvation for every people and every nation,
until the end of the world.
© L'Osservatore Romano
July 5, 1995, pp. 6, 7
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