Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "The impoverishment" of the soul "not only destroys the individual, but threatens the destiny of humanity as a whole. Without the healing of souls, without the healing of mankind from within, there can be no salvation for humanity. " And to avoid this impoverishment "obedience to the truth" is needed which "often begins with small daily truths, which can often be tiring and painful. This obedience then extends to obedience without reserve in front of the one Truth that is Christ”. This is Benedict XVI’s warning to mankind on a particularly solemn day in which the Church of Rome celebrates its patron saints, Peter and Paul, and in which the newly appointed metropolitan archbishops receive the pallium from the pope, the stole that indicates their special communion with the head of the Catholic Church. On this occasion too, the statue of St. Peter in the basilica is traditionally draped in papal vestments.
The feast of the apostles Peter and Paul sees the presence of a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in St. Peter's, a participation that is acknowledged and returned by Rome during the feast of Saint Andrew, patron saint of the Patriarchate. Recalling this presence, during the Angelus, Benedict XVI expressed the hope that "the common veneration of these martyrs be a pledge towards full communion, increasingly felt among Christians all over the world."
This year there are 34 metropolitan archbishops, from all over the world, upon which the Pope imposed the pallium. Among them, Msgr. Anicetus Bongsu Sinaga Antonius, Archbishop of Medan (Indonesia), Msgr. Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, archbishop of Bangkok (Thailand) and Msgr. Albert Malcolm Patabendige Ranjit Don, Archbishop of Colombo (Sri Lanka).
In his homily, Benedict XVI underlined some passages from the First Letter of Saint Peter, starting with St. Peter's affirmation that Christ is the "Bishop of souls." "If Christ is the bishop of souls - highlighted the Pope - the goal is to prevent the soul’s impoverishment in humans, to ensure that man does not lose his essence, the ability for truth and love. To ensure that he comes to know God, that he is not lost in dead ends, that he is not isolated, but remains open to all. Jesus, the 'bishop of souls', is the prototype for all episcopal and priestly ministry. To this ends being a bishop, being a priest means: taking on the place of Christ. Think, see and act from his elevated position. Starting from Him, be at mankind’s disposal, so they may find life. "
Another sentence of the Petrine letter: "Worship the Lord Christ in your hearts, always ready to answer whoever asks you to account for the hope that is in you" (3:15), was indicated by the Pope as the assertion "The Christian faith is hope. It opens the path to the future. And it is a reasonable hope; we can and we must expose the reason of this hope. Faith – he continued - comes from the eternal Reason, which came into our world and showed us the true God. It goes beyond the capacity of our own reason, just as love sees more than simple intelligence. But faith speaks to reason and in the dialect of discussion can hold it’s own with reason. It does not contradict it, but goes along with it, and at the same time, leads beyond it - introducing us to the greater Reason of God. As pastors of our time, it stands to us first and foremost to understand the reason of faith. Not to simply leave it as a tradition, but to recognize it as the answer to our questions. Faith requires our rational participation, which is deepened and purified by a shared love. It is part of our duties as Pastors to penetrate the faith with our thoughts in order to be able to show the reason for our hope in the disputes of our time. However - thought, alone, is not enough. Just as talk, alone, is not enough”. “Only by tasting will you see. Let us think of the disciples in Emmaus: only in convivial communion with Jesus, only in the breaking of the bread were their eyes opened. Only in truly experienced communion with the Lord did they see. This applies to all of us; beyond thinking and talking, we need the experience of faith, of the vital relationship with Jesus Christ. Faith must not remain theory: it must be life. If we meet the Lord in the sacrament; if we speak with him in prayer, and if we adhere to Christ in our daily decisions - then we 'see' more and more that He is good. Then we experience that it is good to be with him Only from such an experience of certainty comes the ability to communicate the faith to others in a credible way. The Curé d'Ars was not a great thinker. But he 'tasted' the Lord. He lived with him in the minutiae of his daily life as well as in the larger demands of his pastoral ministry. In this way he became 'one who sees'. He tasted, and so knew that the Lord is good. We pray the Lord grant us to enjoy this so that we can become credible witnesses to the hope that is within us. "
“Finally I would like to point out one small but important word of St. Peter. Immediately at the beginning of the letter he tells us that the goal of our faith is the salvation of souls (cf. 1:9). In the world of language and thought of current Christianity this is a strange affirmation, for some perhaps even scandalous. The word 'soul' has fallen into disrepute. It is said that this leads to a division of man into spirit and physical, body and soul, while in reality he is indivisible. Moreover 'the salvation of souls' as a goal of faith suggests an individualistic Christianity, a loss of responsibility for the world as a whole, in its body and its materiality. But none of this is found in the Letter of Saint Peter. The entire text is characterised by zeal for a witness in favour of hope, responsibility for others. In order to understand his words about the salvation of souls as a goal of the faith we have to look at it from another point of view. It is still true that lack of care for souls, the impoverishment of man’s inner self not only destroys the individual, but threatens the destiny of humanity as a whole. Without the restoration of souls, without recovery from within, there can be no salvation for humanity. The real sickness of the souls, Peter qualified as ignorance – of not being aware of God. He who does not know God, who does sincerely seek him, remains outside of true life (cf. 1 Pt1, 14). Yet another word of the letter may be useful to better understand the formula 'salvation of souls': “Purify your souls by obedience to the truth '(cf. 1:22). It is obedience to the truth that makes the soul pure. And it is to living with lies that pollutes it. Obedience to the truth begins with the small truths of daily life, which can often be tiring and painful. This obedience the extends up to obedience without reserve in to the one Truth that is Christ. Obedience that makes us not only pure, but above all free to serve Christ and thus the salvation of the world, which always starts from the purification of the soul obedient to the truth. We can show the way toward the truth only if we ourselves - in obedience and patience - allow ourselves to be purified by the truth. "
Concluding Benedict XVI, after the Angelus prayer, returned to speak of his next encyclical. "The publication of my third encyclical is rapidly approaching, - he said - which is titled Caritas in Veritate. Taking up the social issues contained in Populorum Progressio, written by the Servant of God Paul VI in 1967, this document - which bears today’s date, June 29, Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul - will explore some aspects of development in our era, in the light of love in truth. "