“The Chair of Peter,” the Pontiff explained, “symbolises the authority of the Bishop of Rome, [who is] called to fulfil a special service for the People of God as a whole. Right after the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul the Church of Rome was acknowledged a primatial role in the whole Catholic community, a role attested as early as the 2nd century by Saint Ignatius of Antioch (Ad. Rom, praef. Funk, I, 252) and Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (Against Heresies III, 3, 2-3).”
This unique and specific ministry of the Bishop of Rome was reiterated in the Second Vatican Council. “[W]ithin the Church,” says the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, “particular Churches hold a rightful place; these Churches retain their own traditions, without in any way opposing the primacy of the Chair of Peter, which presides over the whole assembly of charity (cf S. Ignatius M., Ad Rom., Praef.: Ed. Funk, I, p. 252),) and protects legitimate differences, while at the same time assuring that such differences do not hinder unity but rather contribute toward it” (Lumen gentium, 13).
Speaking earlier to the tens of thousands of people present in the square, he Holy Father gave a brief commentary on this Sunday’s Gospel, which refers to the episode of the paralytic whom Jesus forgave and healed (Mk, 2:1-12). “When Jesus was preaching, among the sick brought to him, there was a paralytic on a litter. ‘Child, your sins are forgiven’ (Mk, 2:5), said the Lord upon seeing him. Because some of those present were scandalised by these words, he added: ‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth’—he said to the paralytic—, ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home’ (Mk, 2:10-11). And the paralytic got up, left, healed. This Gospel story shows that not only did Jesus have the power to heal a sick body, but that he also had the power to forgive sins. Indeed physical healing is a sign of the spiritual healing his forgiveness produces. In effect, sin is a sort of paralysis of the spirit from which only the power of God’s merciful love can free us, allowing us to get up and restart our journey on the path of goodness.”
Before the Marian prayer and his multilingual greetings, Benedict XVI said a prayer to Our Lady so that she may help us “begin in the right state of mind Lent, which starts next Wednesday with its suggestive Ash ritual.”
The Pope will receive the ashes during the afternoon ceremony that will be held in Basilica of Saint Sabina.