Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The communion with the Pope guarantees the freedom of churches and bishops from "local, national and international power" and of all the faithful “in the sense of full adherence to truth and authentic tradition”, so that the People of God may be preserved from mistakes regarding faith and morals". On the day dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, Benedict XVI has reaffirmed this principle and the true meaning of the "primacy" of the bishop of Rome. His words were heard by 38 archbishops who have come from every continent to receive the pallium – which the Pope explained during the Angelus, "symbolizes both the communion with the Bishop of Rome, and the mission to nurture with love the one flock of Christ”. Also present, a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which for years has taken part in the celebration of two apostles, just as a Catholic delegation goes to Istanbul for the Feast of Saint Andrew, founder of that Church.
The "Freedom of the Church”, guaranteed by Christ to Peter, is tied to communion with the successor of Peter. In the two millennia of Christian history the faithful "have never been lacking in trials, which in some periods and places have assumed the character of real persecution. These, however, despite the suffering they cause, are not the greatest danger for the Church. In fact it suffers greatest damage from what pollutes the Christian faith and life of its members and its communities, eroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening its ability to prophesy and witness, tarnishing the beauty of its face".
"This reality - continued the Pope - This reality is already attested in the Pauline Epistle. The First Epistle to the Corinthians, for example, responds to some problems of divisions, inconsistencies, of infidelity to the Gospel which seriously threaten the Church. But the Second Letter to Timothy – of which we heard an excerpt - speaks about the dangers of the "last days", identifying them with negative attitudes that belong to the world and can infect the Christian community: selfishness, vanity, pride, love of money, etc (cf. 3.1 to 5 ).
The theme of the Freedom of the Church, Benedict XVI then stated, "also has a particular relevance to the rite of the imposition of the pallium. "The communion with Peter and his successors, in fact, is the guarantee of freedom for the Church's Pastors and the Communities entrusted to them." “Historically, union with the Apostolic See, ensures the particular Churches and Episcopal Conferences freedom with respect to local, national or supranational powers, that can sometimes hinder the mission of the ecclesial Church. Furthermore, and most essentially, the Petrine ministry is a guarantee of freedom in the sense of full adherence to truth and authentic tradition, so that the People of God may be preserved from mistakes concerning faith and morals. Hence the fact that each year the new Metropolitans come to Rome to receive the pallium from the hands of the Pope, must be understood in its proper meaning, as a gesture of communion, and the issue of freedom of the Church gives us a particularly important key for interpretation. This is evident in the case of churches marked by persecution, or subject to political interference or other hardships. But this is no less relevant in the case of communities that suffer the influence of misleading doctrines or ideological tendencies and practices contrary to the Gospel".
A final point drawn by the Pope from today's readings and “in particular from Christ's promise that the powers of hell shall not prevail against his Church. These words may also have a significant ecumenical value, since, as I mentioned earlier, one of the typical effects of the Devil is division within the Church community. The divisions are in fact symptoms of the power of sin, which continues to act in members of the Church even after redemption. But the word of Christ is clear: " Non praevalebunt – it will not prevail" (Matt. 16:18). The unity of the Church is rooted in its union with Christ, and the cause of full Christian unity - always to be sought and renewed from generation to generation - is well supported by his prayer and his promise. In the fight against the spirit of evil, God has given us in Jesus the 'Advocate', defender, and after his Easter, "another Paraclete" (Jn 14:16), the Holy Spirit, which remains with us always and leads the Church into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 14:16; 16:13), which is also the fullness of charity and unity. With these feelings of confident hope, I am pleased to greet the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which, in the beautiful custom of reciprocal visits, participates in the celebrations of the patron saints of Rome. Together we thank God for progress in ecumenical relations between Catholics and Orthodox, and we renew our commitment to generously reciprocate to God's grace, which leads us to full communion”.
During the rite, Benedict XVI "imposed" the pallium - a strip of white wool with six black silk crosses, resembling the wounds of Jesus - on 38 archbishops, including Archbishop. Socrates B. Villegas, of Lingayen-Dagupan (Philippines), Mgr. Francis Kallarakal of Verapoly (India), Mgr. Hyginus Kim Hee-Joong, Kwangju (Korea) and Mgr. Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon, of Hanoi (Vietnam)