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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has urged members of the Roman Curia to renew their profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and has added that “the first one called [to do so] is the successor of Peter, who bears the responsibility of confirming the brethren.”
Addressing curia officials at Holy Mass, on the February 22 Solemnity of the Chair of St. Peter — the day marking the Jubilee of the Roman Curia, Governorate, and Institutions connected to the Holy See — the Holy Father also stressed that every pastor is called to act “according to the heart of Christ,” and to become a “model” of the Lord’s faithfulness and mercy to all.
Before offering the Mass, the Holy Father joined curia officials and Vatican personnel in the Paul VI Hall for midmorning prayer and a meditation on “mercy in our daily lives.” The pope then joined clerics, religious and laity as they processed through St. Peter’s Square into the Vatican Basilica, passing through the Holy Door.
Here below we publish an English translation of the pope’s homily.
The liturgical feast of the Chair of St. Peter sees us gathered to celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy as a community of service of the Roman Curia, the Governorate, and Institutions connected with the Holy See. We have passed through the Holy Door and come to the tomb of the Apostle Peter to make our profession of faith; and today the Word of God enlightens our gestures in a special way.
In this moment, the Lord Jesus repeats his question to each of us: “And you, who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). A clear and direct question, before which it is not possible to escape or remain neutral, put off a response or delegate it to someone else. But in it there is nothing inquisitorial; indeed, it is full of love! The love of our only Master, who today calls us to renew our faith in him, recognizing him as the Son of God and Lord of our lives. And the first one called to renew his profession of faith is the Successor of Peter, who bears the responsibility of confirming the brethren (Luke 22:32).
Let us allow grace to mold our hearts anew to belief, and open our mouths to make the profession of faith and obtain salvation (Rom. 10:10). Let us make our own, then, the words of Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). May our thoughts and gaze be fixed on Jesus Christ, the beginning and end of all the Church’s action. He is the foundation, and no one can lay any other (1 Cor. 3:11). He is the “rock” on which we must build.
St. Augustine reminds us of this with eloquent words, when he writes that the Church, while tossed and shaken by the events of history, “does not collapse, because it is founded on rock (petra), from which Peter derives his name. For petra (rock) is not derived from Peter, but Peter from petra; just as the name Christ is not derived from Christian, but the name Christian which comes from Christ. … The rock is Christ, on whose foundation Peter also was built” (John 124, 5: PL 35, 1972).
From this profession of faith derives for each one of us the duty of corresponding with God’s call. Pastors, above all, are asked to have as their model God himself, who cares for his flock.
The prophet Ezekiel described God’s way of acting: He seeks out the lost sheep, leads the strayed back to the fold, binds up the wounded, and heals the sick (34, 16). This conduct is a sign of a love that knows no boundaries. It is a faithful, constant, unconditional dedication, so that his mercy might reach all those who are weakest.
And yet we must not forget that the prophecy of Ezekiel follows on the observation of the shortcomings of the shepherds of Israel. Therefore, it is also good for us, who are called to be pastors in the Church, to allow the face of God, the Good Shepherd, to enlighten us, purify us, transform us and restore us fully renewed to our mission. Even in our workplaces may we feel, cultivate, and practice a strong pastoral sense, first of all with the people we meet every day. May no one feel neglected or mistreated, but may everyone experience, here first of all, the loving care of the Good Shepherd.
We are called to be coworkers of God in an undertaking so important and unique as that of witnessing with our lives to the power of grace which transforms, and the might of the Spirit who renews. Let us allow the Lord to liberate us from every temptation that draws us away from what is essential to our mission, and rediscover the beauty of professing faith in the Lord Jesus.
Fidelity to the ministry combines well with the mercy we want to experience. In Sacred Scripture, moreover, faithfulness and mercy are an inseparable combination. Where you find one you also find the other, and in their reciprocity and complementary one can see the very presence of the Good Shepherd. The fidelity required of us is to act according to the Heart of Christ. As we heard in the words of the apostle Peter, we must tend the flock “willingly” and become a “model” for all. In this way, “when the chief Shepherd is manifested,” we will be able to receive the “unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4).
Translation by Diane Montagna of Aleteia’s English edition.