06/29/2016, 13.46
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Pope: Prayer as the way out for the community in lieu of looking inward from persecution and fear

On the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Pope Francis greeted the delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. He expressed hope to see things go from "division to unity". He blessed the pallia for new major archbishops, a sign of communion with the See of Peter. Christian communities must be Churches “going out” through prayer to overcome fear and "Herod's complex", the feeling of persecution that drives inward when faced with dangers and “God’s surprises”.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis presided over the Holy Mass on the Solemnity of St Peter and St Paul. In his homily, he focused on the themes of “closing” and “opening”.

Prayer is the way to revive a Church that is “going out”, he said, rather than one that turns inward-looking “out of persecution and fear”. Prayer can allow the Church to go “from closure to openness, from fear to courage, from sadness to joy. And we can add: from division to unity.”

Following a well-established tradition, a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople took part in the liturgy. It was led by His Eminence Methodios, Metropolitan of Boston, accompanied by His Excellency Job, Archbishop of Telmessos, and the patriarchal deacon Nephon Tsimalis.

Several metropolitan archbishops were also present. Francis blessed their pallia, symbol of communion with the Bishop of Rome. Unlike the past, the pallia will be given to each archbishop in their sees by the local pontifical representative.

“In these three examples of ‘closing’, prayer appears as the main way out. It is a way out for the community, which risks closing in on itself out of persecution and fear. It is a way out for Peter who, at the very beginning of the mission given him by the Lord, is cast into prison by Herod and risks execution. While Peter was in prison, ‘the church prayed fervently to God for him’ (Acts 12:5). The Lord responds to that prayer and sends his angel to liberate Peter, ‘rescuing him from the hand of Herod’ (cf. v. 11). Prayer, as humble entrustment to God and his holy will, is always the way out of our becoming ‘closed’, as individuals and as a community.”

Speaking about today’s readings, the pope cited Paul’s imprisonment (2 Tim 4, 6-8.17.18). The “Lord stood by him and gave him strength to carry out the work of evangelizing the nations (cf. 2 Tim 4:17). But Paul speaks too of a much greater “opening”, towards an infinitely more vast horizon. It is the horizon of eternal life, which awaits him at the end of his earthly ‘race’. We can see the whole life of the Apostle in terms of ‘going out’ in service to the Gospel. Paul’s life was utterly projected forward, in bringing Christ to those who did not know him, and then in rushing, as it were, into Christ’s arms, to be ‘saved for his heavenly kingdom’ (v. 18).

In Simon Peter's life, prayer led him "to go out of himself, leaving all his human supports behind, especially his pride tinged with courage and generous selflessness. In this, his process of liberation, the prayer of Jesus is decisive: ‘I have prayed for you [Simon], that your own faith may not fail’ (Lk 22:32). Likewise, decisive is the compassionate gaze of the Lord after Peter had denied him three times: a gaze that pierces the heart and brings tears of repentance (cf. Lk 22:61-62). At that moment, Simon Peter was set free from the prison of his selfish pride and fear, and overcame the temptation of closing his heart to Jesus’s call to follow him along the way of the cross.

Francis focused on the account of Peter’s release from prison (12.1 to 11). "When Peter finds himself miraculously freed from Herod’s prison, he goes to the home of the mother of John called Mark. He knocks on the closed door and a servant by the name of Rhoda comes. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in disbelief and joy, instead of opening the door, she runs to tell her mistress. The account, which can seem comical, makes us perceive the climate of fear that led the Christian community to stay behind closed doors, but also closed to God’s surprises.” Indeed, “thus began Herod’s complex,” the perception of being persecuted, he added.

“This detail speaks to us of a constant temptation for the Church, that of closing in on herself in the face of danger. But we also see the small openings through which God can work. Saint Luke tells us that in that house ‘many had gathered and were praying’ (v. 12). Prayer enables grace to open a way out from closure to openness, from fear to courage, from sadness to joy. And we can add: from division to unity.

“Yes, we say this today with confidence, together with our brothers from the Delegation sent by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to take part in the celebration of the Holy Patrons of Rome. Today is also a celebration of communion for the whole Church, as seen by the presence of the metropolitan archbishops who have come for the blessing of the pallia, which they will receive from my representatives in their respective sees.

“May Saints Peter and Paul intercede for us, so that we can joyfully advance on this journey, experience the liberating action of God, and bear witness to it before the world.”

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