St Paul

Pope Francis   29.06.13  Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica    Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul   Year C     Matthew 16: 13-19,       2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18 

Your Eminences,
Pope Francis  29.06.13  Saints Peter and Paul

Your Eminence, Metropolitan Ioannis,
My Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters

We are celebrating the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, principal patrons of the Church of Rome: a celebration made all the more joyful by the presence of bishops from throughout the world. A great wealth, which makes us in some sense relive the event of Pentecost. Today, as then, the faith of the Church speaks in every tongue and desire to unite all peoples in one family.

I offer a heartfelt and grateful greeting to the Delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, led by Metropolitan Ioannis. I thank Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I for this renewed gesture of fraternity. I greet the distinguished ambassadors and civil authorities. And in a special way I thank the Choir of the Thomaskirche of Leipzig – Bach’s own church – which is contributing to today’s liturgical celebration and represents an additional ecumenical presence.

I would like to offer three thoughts on the Petrine ministry, guided by the word “confirm”. What has the Bishop of Rome been called to confirm?

1. First, to confirm in faith. The Gospel speaks of the confession of Peter: “You are Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16), a confession which does not come from him but from our Father in heaven. Because of this confession, Jesus replies: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (v. 18). The role, the ecclesial service of Peter, is founded upon his confession of faith in Jesus, the Son of the living God, made possible by a grace granted from on high. In the second part of today’s Gospel we see the peril of thinking in worldly terms. When Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection, of the path of God which does not correspond to the human path of power, flesh and blood re-emerge in Peter: “He took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him ... This must never happen to you” (16:22). Jesus’ response is harsh: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (v. 23). Whenever we let our thoughts, our feelings or the logic of human power prevail, and we do not let ourselves be taught and guided by faith, by God, we become stumbling blocks. Faith in Christ is the light of our life as Christians and as ministers in the Church!

2. To confirm in love. In the second reading we heard the moving words of Saint Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7). But what is this fight? It is not one of those fights fought with human weapons which sadly continue to cause bloodshed throughout the world; rather, it is the fight of martyrdom. Saint Paul has but one weapon: the message of Christ and the gift of his entire life for Christ and for others. It is precisely this readiness to lay himself open, personally, to be consumed for the sake of the Gospel, to make himself all things to all people, unstintingly, that gives him credibility and builds up the Church. The Bishop of Rome is called himself to live and to confirm his brothers and sisters in this love for Christ and for all others, without distinction, limits or barriers. And not only the Bishop of Rome: each of you, new archbishops and bishops, have the same task: to let yourselves be consumed by the Gospel, to become all things to everyone. It is your task to hold nothing back, to go outside of yourselves in the service of the faithful and holy people of God.

3. To confirm in unity. Here I would like to reflect for a moment on the rite which we have carried out. The pallium is a symbol of communion with the Successor of Peter, “the lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion” (
Lumen Gentium, 18). And your presence today, dear brothers, is the sign that the Church’s communion does not mean uniformity. The Second Vatican Council, in speaking of the hierarchical structure of the Church, states that the Lord “established the apostles as college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from their number” (ibid., 19). To confirm in unity: the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the primate. Let us go forward on the path of synodality, and grow in harmony with the service of the primacy. And the Council continues, “this college, in so far as it is composed of many members, is the expression of the variety and universality of the people of God” (ibid., 22). In the Church, variety, which is itself a great treasure, is always grounded in the harmony of unity, like a great mosaic in which every small piece joins with others as part of God’s one great plan. This should inspire us to work always to overcome every conflict which wounds the body of the Church. United in our differences: there is no other Catholic way to be united. This is the Catholic spirit, the Christian spirit: to be united in our differences. This is the way of Jesus! The pallium, while being a sign of communion with the Bishop of Rome and with the universal church, with the Synod of Bishops, also commits each of you to being a servant of communion.

To confess the Lord by letting oneself be taught by God; to be consumed by love for Christ and his Gospel; to be servants of unity. These, dear brother bishops, are the tasks which the holy apostles Peter and Paul entrust to each of us, so that they can be lived by every Christian. May the holy Mother of God guide us and accompany us always with her intercession. Queen of Apostles, pray for us! Amen.

Pope Francis     29.06.14 Angelus, St Peter's Square     Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul Apostles   Acts 12: 1-11,      2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

From the earliest times the Church of Rome has honoured the Apostles Peter and Paul in a single feast on the same day, 29 June. Faith in Jesus Christ made them brothers and their martyrdom has made them one. St Peter and St Paul, so different from each other on a human level, were personally chosen by the Lord Jesus and they answered the call by offering their entire life. In both of them the grace of Christ accomplished great things, it transformed them. It transformed them, and how! Simon denied Jesus in a dramatic moment of the Passion; Saul harshly persecuted the Christians. But they both welcomed God’s love and allowed themselves to be transformed by his mercy; they thus became friends and apostles of Christ. This is why they continue to speak to the Church and still today they show us the way to salvation. And should we perchance fall into the most serious sins and the darkest of nights, God is always capable of transforming us too, the way he transformed Peter and Paul; transforming the heart and forgiving us for everything, thus transforming the darkness of our sin into a dawn of light. God is like this: he transforms us, he always forgives us, as he did with Peter and as he did with Paul.

The Book of the Acts of the Apostles shows many aspects of their testimony. Peter, for example, teaches us to watch over the poor with the eyes of faith and to give them the most precious thing we have: the power of Jesus’ name. He did this with that paralyzed man: he gave him all he had, that is, Jesus (cf. Acts 3:4-6).

Three times the episode is told of Paul’s call on the road to Damascus, which signals the turning point in his life, clearly marking a before and an after. Before, Paul was a bitter enemy of the Church. Afterwards, he placed his entire existence at the service of the Gospel. Also for us the encounter with the Word of Christ is capable of completely transforming our life. It is impossible to hear this Word and remain unmoved, remain stuck in our old habits. It pushes us to overcome the selfishness in our hearts to resolutely follow that Teacher who gave his life for his friends. But it is He who with his word changes us; it is He who transforms us; it is He who forgives us everything, if we open our heart and ask for forgiveness.

Dear brothers and sisters, this feast engenders great joy in us, because it places us before the work of God’s mercy in the hearts of two men. It is the work of God’s mercy in these two men who were great sinners. And God wishes to fill us too with his grace, as he did with Peter and Paul. May the Virgin Mary help us to receive [his grace] like they did, with an open heart, not to receive it in vain!

May she support us in times of trial, to bear witness to Jesus Christ and to his Gospel. We ask this especially today for the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed this year, who celebrated the Eucharist with me this morning in St Peter’s. Let us greet them all warmly together with their faithful and relatives and let us pray for them!

Pope Francis  29.06.15  Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica  Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul Apostles   Year B   Acts 12: 1-11,   2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18,   Matthew 16: 13-19

The reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, speaks to us of the first Christian community besieged by persecution. A community harshly persecuted by Herod who “laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church… proceeded to arrest Peter also… and when he had seized him he put him in prison” (12:1-4).

However, I do not wish to dwell on these atrocious, inhuman and incomprehensible persecutions, sadly still present in many parts of the world today, often under the silent gaze of all. I would like instead to pay homage today to the courage of the Apostles and that of the first Christian community. This courage carried forward the work of evangelisation, free of fear of death and martyrdom, within the social context of a pagan empire; their Christian life is for us, the Christians of today, a powerful call to prayer, to faith and to witness.

A call to prayer: the first community was a Church at prayer: “Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church” (Acts 12:5). And if we think of Rome, the catacombs were not places to escape to from persecution but rather, they were places of prayer, for sanctifying the Lord’s day and for raising up, from the heart of the earth, adoration to God who never forgets his sons and daughters.

The community of Peter and Paul teaches us that the Church at prayer is a Church on her feet, strong, moving forward! Indeed, a Christian who prays is a Christian who is protected, guarded and sustained, and above all, who is never alone.

The first reading continues: “Sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side… And the chains fell off his hands” (12:6-7).

Let us think about how many times the Lord has heard our prayer and sent us an angel? An angel who unexpectedly comes to pull us out of a difficult situation? Who comes to snatch us from the hands of death and from the evil one; who points out the wrong path; who rekindles in us the flame of hope; who gives us tender comfort; who consoles our broken hearts; who awakens us from our slumber to the world; or who simply tells us, “You are not alone”.

How many angels he places on our path, and yet when we are overwhelmed by fear, unbelief or even euphoria, we leave them outside the door, just as happened to Peter when he knocked on the door of the house and the “maid named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the door” (12:13-14).

No Christian community can go forward without being supported by persistent prayer! Prayer is the encounter with God, with God who never lets us down; with God who is faithful to his word; with God who does not abandon his children. Jesus asked himself: “And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night?” (Lk 18:7). In prayer, believers express their faith and their trust, and God reveals his closeness, also by giving us the angels, his messengers.

A call to faith: in the second reading Saint Paul writes to Timothy: “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word fully… So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly Kingdom” (2 Tim 4:17-18). God does not take his children out of the world or away from evil but he does grant them strength to prevail. Only the one who believes can truly say: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want” (Ps 23:1).

How many forces in the course of history have tried, and still do, to destroy the Church, from without as well as within, but they themselves are destroyed and the Church remains alive and fruitful! She remains inexplicably solid, so that, as Saint Paul says, she may acclaim: “To him be glory for ever and ever” (2 Tim 4:18).

Everything passes, only God remains. Indeed, kingdoms, peoples, cultures, nations, ideologies, powers have passed, but the Church, founded on Christ, notwithstanding the many storms and our many sins, remains ever faithful to the deposit of faith shown in service; for the Church does not belong to Popes, bishops, priests, nor the lay faithful; the Church in every moment belongs solely to Christ. Only the one who lives in Christ promotes and defends the Church by holiness of life, after the example of Peter and Paul.

In the name of Christ, believers have raised the dead; they have healed the sick; they have loved their persecutors; they have shown how there is no power capable of defeating the one who has the power of faith!

A call to witness: Peter and Paul, like all the Apostles of Christ who in their earthly life sowed the seeds of the Church by their blood, drank the Lord’s cup, and became friends of God.

Paul writes in a moving way to Timothy: “My son, I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim 4: 6-8).

A Church or a Christian who does not give witness is sterile; like a dead person who thinks they are alive; like a dried up tree that produces no fruit; an empty well that offers no water! The Church has overcome evil thanks to the courageous, concrete and humble witness of her children. She has conquered evil thanks to proclaiming with conviction: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (cf. Mt 16:13-18).

Dear Archbishops who today receive the Pallium, it is a sign which represents the sheep that the shepherd carries on his shoulders as Christ the Good Shepherd does, and it is therefore a symbol of your pastoral mission. The Pallium is “a liturgical sign of communion that unites the See of Peter and his Successor to the Metropolitans, and through them to the other Bishops of the world” (Benedict XVI, Angelus of 29 June 2005).

Today, by these Palliums, I wish to entrust you with this call to prayer, to faith and to witness.

The Church wants you to be men of prayer, masters of prayer; that you may teach the people entrusted to your care that liberation from all forms of imprisonment is uniquely God’s work and the fruit of prayer; that God sends his angel at the opportune time in order to save us from the many forms of slavery and countless chains of worldliness. For those most in need, may you also be angels and messengers of charity!

The Church desires you to be men of faith, masters of faith, who can teach the faithful to not be frightened of the many Herods who inflict on them persecution with every kind of cross. No Herod is able to banish the light of hope, of faith, or of charity in the one who believes in Christ!

The Church wants you to be men of witness. Saint Francis used to tell his brothers: “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words!” (cf. Franciscan sources, 43). There is no witness without a coherent lifestyle! Today there is no great need for masters, but for courageous witnesses, who are convinced and convincing; witnesses who are not ashamed of the Name of Christ and of His Cross; not before the roaring lions, nor before the powers of this world. And this follows the example of Peter and Paul and so many other witnesses along the course of the Church’s history, witnesses who, yet belonging to different Christian confessions, have contributed to demonstrating and bringing growth to the one Body of Christ. I am pleased to emphasize this, and am always pleased to do so, in the presence of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, sent by my beloved brother Bartholomew I.

This is not so straightforward: because the most effective and authentic witness is one that does not contradict, by behaviour and lifestyle, what is preached with the word and taught to others!

Teach prayer by praying, announce the faith by believing; offer witness by living!

Pope Francis  29.06.16 Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica  Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul  Apostles   Year C    Acts 12: 1-11,   Matthew 16: 13-19,   2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18  

Pope Francis 29.06.16 Saints Peter and Paul

The word of God in today’s liturgy presents a clear central contrast between closing and opening. Together with this image we can consider the symbol of the keys that Jesus promises to Simon Peter so that he can open the entrance to the kingdom of heaven, and not close it before people, like some of the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus reproached (cf. Mt 23:13).

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-11) shows us three examples of “closing”: Peter is cast into prison; the community gathers behind closed doors in prayer; and – in the continuation of our reading – Peter knocks at the closed door of the house of Mary, the mother of John called Mark, after being set free.

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. And 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. It is always the eminent way out of our becoming “closed”.

Paul too, writing to Timothy, speaks of his experience of liberation, of finding a way out of his own impending execution. He tells us that 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).

Let us return to Peter. The Gospel account (Mt 16:13-19) of his confession of faith and the mission entrusted to him by Jesus shows us that the life of Simon, the fishermen of Galilee – like the life of each of us – opens, opens up fully, when it receives from God the Father the grace of faith. Simon sets out on the journey – a long and difficult journey – that will lead 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 of his fear, and overcame the temptation of closing his heart to Jesus’s call to follow him along the way of the cross.

I mentioned that, in the continuation of the passage from the Acts of the Apostles, there is a detail worthy of consideration (cf. 12:12-17). 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, and which could give rise to the “Rhoda complex”, makes us perceive the climate of fear that led the Christian community to stay behind closed doors, but also closed to God’s surprises. Peter knocks at the door. Behold! There is joy, there is fear… “Do we open, do we not?...”. He is in danger, since the guards can come and take him. But fear paralyzes us, it always paralyzes us; it makes us close in on ourselves, closed to God’s surprises. 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 enable 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.

Pope Francis   29.06.17 Holy Mass, Saint Peter's Basilica     Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul Apostles    Acts 12: 1-11,    2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18,    Matthew 16: 13-19

Pope Francis Saints Peter and Paul 29.06.17

The liturgy today offers us three words essential for the life of an apostle: confession, persecution and prayer.

Confession. Peter makes his confession of faith in the Gospel, when the Lord’s question turns from the general to the specific. At first, Jesus asks: “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” (Mt 16:13). The results of this “survey” show that Jesus is widely considered a prophet. Then the Master puts the decisive question to his disciples: “But you, who do you say that I am?” (v. 15). At this point, Peter alone replies: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). To confess the faith means this: to acknowledge in Jesus the long-awaited Messiah, the living God, the Lord of our lives.

Today Jesus puts this crucial question to us, to each of us, and particularly to those of us who are pastors. It is the decisive question. It does not allow for a non-committal answer, because it brings into play our entire life. The question of life demands a response of life. For it counts little to know the articles of faith if we do not confess Jesus as the Lord of our lives. Today he looks straight at us and asks, “Who am I for you?” As if to say: “Am I still the Lord of your life, the longing of your heart, the reason for your hope, the source of your unfailing trust?” Along with Saint Peter, we too renew today our life choice to be Jesus’ disciples and apostles. May we too pass from Jesus’ first question to his second, so as to be “his own” not merely in words, but in our actions and our very lives.

Let us ask ourselves if we are parlour Christians, who love to chat about how things are going in the Church and the world, or apostles on the go, who confess Jesus with their lives because they hold him in their hearts. Those who confess Jesus know that they are not simply to offer opinions but to offer their very lives. They know that they are not to believe half-heartedly but to “be on fire” with love. They know that they cannot just “tread water” or take the easy way out, but have to risk putting out into the deep, daily renewing their self-offering. Those who confess their faith in Jesus do as Peter and Paul did: they follow him to the end – not just part of the way, but to the very end. They also follow the Lord along his way, not our own ways. His way is that of new life, of joy and resurrection; it is also the way that passes through the cross and persecution.

Here, then, is the second word: persecution. Peter and Paul shed their blood for Christ, but the early community as a whole also experienced persecution, as the Book of Acts has reminded us (cf. 12:1). Today too, in various parts of the world, sometimes in silence – often a complicit silence – great numbers of Christians are marginalized, vilified, discriminated against, subjected to violence and even death, not infrequently without due intervention on the part of those who could defend their sacrosanct rights.

Here I would especially emphasize something that the Apostle Paul says before, in his words, “being poured out as a libation” (2 Tim 4:6). For him, to live was Christ (cf. Phil 1:21), Christ crucified (cf. 1 Cor 2:2), who gave his life for him (cf. Gal 2:20). As a faithful disciple, Paul thus followed the Master and offered his own life too. Apart from the cross, there is no Christ, but apart from the cross, there can be no Christian either. For “Christian virtue is not only a matter of doing good, but of tolerating evil as well” (Augustine, Serm. 46,13), even as Jesus did. Tolerating evil does not have to do simply with patience and resignation; it means imitating Jesus, carrying our burden, shouldering it for his sake and that of others. It means accepting the cross, pressing on in the confident knowledge that we are not alone: the crucified and risen Lord is at our side. So, with Paul, we can say that “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken” (2 Cor 4:8-9).

Tolerating evil means overcoming it with Jesus, and in Jesus’ own way, which is not the way of the world. This is why Paul – as we heard – considered himself a victor about to receive his crown (cf. 2 Tim 4:8). He writes: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (v. 7). The essence of his “good fight” was living for: he lived not for himself, but for Jesus and for others. He spent his life “running the race”, not holding back but giving his all. He tells us that there is only one thing that he “kept”: not his health, but his faith, his confession of Christ. Out of love, he experienced trials, humiliations and suffering, which are never to be sought but always accepted. In the mystery of suffering offered up in love, in this mystery, embodied in our own day by so many of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, impoverished and infirm, the saving power of Jesus’ cross shines forth.

The third word is prayer. The life of an apostle, which flows from confession and becomes self-offering, is one of constant prayer. Prayer is the water needed to nurture hope and increase fidelity. Prayer makes us feel loved and it enables us to love in turn. It makes us press forward in moments of darkness because it brings God’s light. In the Church, it is prayer that sustains us and helps us to overcome difficulties. We see this too in the first reading: “Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church” (Acts 12:5). A Church that prays is watched over and cared for by the Lord. When we pray, we entrust our lives to him and to his loving care. Prayer is the power and strength that unite and sustain us, the remedy for the isolation and self-sufficiency that lead to spiritual death. The Spirit of life does not breathe unless we pray; without prayer, the interior prisons that hold us captive cannot be unlocked.

May the blessed Apostles obtain for us a heart like theirs, wearied yet at peace, thanks to prayer. Wearied, because constantly asking, knocking and interceding, weighed down by so many people and situations needing to be handed over to the Lord; yet also at peace, because the Holy Spirit brings consolation and strength when we pray. How urgent it is for the Church to have teachers of prayer, but even more so for us to be men and women of prayer, whose entire life is prayer!

The Lord answers our prayers. He is faithful to the love we have professed for him, and he stands beside us at times of trial. He accompanied the journey of the Apostles, and he will do the same for you, dear brother Cardinals, gathered here in the charity of the Apostles who confessed their faith by the shedding of their blood. He will remain close to you too, dear brother Archbishops who, in receiving the pallium, will be strengthened to spend your lives for the flock, imitating the Good Shepherd who bears you on his shoulders. May the same Lord, who longs to see his flock gathered together, also bless and protect the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, together with my dear brother Bartholomew, who has sent them here as a sign of our apostolic communion.

Pope Francis  29.06.18  Angelus, St Peter's Square       Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul Apostles      Matthew 16: 13-19

Pope Francis St Peter and Paul 29.06.18

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today the Church, pilgrim in Rome and throughout the world, goes to the root of her faith and celebrates the Apostles Peter and Paul. Their mortal remains, safeguarded in the two Basilicas dedicated to them, are very dear to the people of Rome and to the countless pilgrims who come from all over to venerate them.

I would like to pause on the Gospel passage (cf. Mt 16:13-19) that the liturgy offers us on this Feast Day. It recounts a narrative that is fundamental to our journey of faith. It concerns the dialogue in which Jesus asks his disciples the question about his identity. He first asks them: “who do men say that the Son of man is?” (v. 13). And then he asks them directly: “who do you say that I am?” (v. 15). With these two questions, Jesus seems to say that it is one thing to follow the prevailing opinion, and another to encounter him and open oneself to his mystery: there one discovers the truth. Prevailing opinion contains a true but partial response; Peter, and with him the Church of the past, present and always, by the grace of God, responds with the truth: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16).

Throughout the centuries, the world has defined Jesus in different ways: a great prophet of justice and love; a wise teacher of life; a revolutionary; a dreamer of God’s dreams ... and so on. Many beautiful things. In the confusion of these and other hypotheses, still today, a simple and clear one stands out, the confession of Simon, called Peter, a humble man full of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v.16). Jesus is the Son of God: hence he is perennially alive as his Father is eternally alive. This is the novelty that grace ignites in the heart of those who are open to the mystery of Jesus: the non-mathematical — but even stronger, inner — certainty of having encountered the Wellspring of Life, Life itself made flesh, visible and tangible in our midst. This is the experience of Christians, and it is not their merit, not that of we Christians; it is not our merit, but comes from God; it is a grace of God, the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. All this is contained in the seed of Peter’s response: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.

Then, Jesus’ response is full of light: “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (v. 18). It is the first time that Jesus says the word “Church”: and he does so expressing all his love for her, which he defines as “my Church”. It is the new community of the Covenant, no longer based on lineage and on the Law, but on faith in him, Jesus, the Face of God. A faith which Blessed Paul VI, when he was still Archbishop of Milan, expressed with this admirable prayer.

“O Christ, our one mediator, You are essential to us: that we may live in Communion with God the Father; that we may become with You, who are the one Son and our Lord, his adopted children; that we may be regenerated in the Holy Spirit” (Pastoral Letter, 1955).

Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, may the Lord grant that the Church, in Rome and in the entire world, may be ever faithful to the Gospel, to the service of which Saints Peter and Paul consecrated their lives.

Pope Francis 10.05.19  Santa Marta

The moment of St Paul's conversion marked a change in the course of Salvation History. It exposed the Church’s universality and its openness to pagans, Gentiles, and those who were not Israelites, which the Lord permitted because it was important.

First of all, he was consistent, because he was a man open to God. If he persecuted Christians, it was because he was convinced that God desired it. But how can that be? Never mind how: he was convinced of it. This is the zeal he carried for the purity of the house of God, for the glory of God. A heart open to the voice of the Lord. And he risked all, and charged ahead. Another characteristic of his actions is that he was a
docile man – full of docility – and was not hard-headed.

Even though he was stubborn, St. Paul was not hard-hearted. He was open to God’s indications.

He had incarcerated and killed Christians with a
fire inside him, but as soon as he heard the voice of the Lord, he became like a child, letting himself be led.

All his convictions stayed silent, waiting for the voice of the Lord: ‘What must I do, Lord?’ And he went to that encounter at Damascus, to meet that other docile man, and let himself be catechized like a child and be baptized like a child. Then he regains his strength, and what does he do? He is silent. He leaves for Arabia to pray, for how long we don’t know. Maybe years, we don’t know. Docility. Openness to the voice of God and docility. His is an example for our life.

There are numerous courageous men and women today who risk their lives to find new paths for the Church.

Let us seek new paths; it will do us all good. As long as they are the paths of the Lord. But charge forward in the depth of prayer, of docility and a heart open to God. This is how true change takes place in the Church, with people who know how to fight in the great and in the small.

The Christian, must have the charism of the great and of the small.

Let us pray for the grace to be docile to the voice of the Lord and for a heart open to the Lord; for the grace not to be afraid to do great things and the sensitivity to pay attention to the small things.

Pope Francis         29.06.19 Holy Mass, St Peter's Basilica, Rome         Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul Apostles     2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18,   Matthew 16: 13-19

Pope Francis 29.06.19 Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

The Apostles Peter and Paul stand before us as witnesses. They never tired of preaching and journeying as missionaries from the land of Jesus to Rome itself. Here they gave their ultimate witness, offering their lives as martyrs. If we go to the heart of that testimony, we can see them as witnesses to life, witnesses to forgiveness and witnesses to Jesus.

Witnesses to life. Their lives, though, were not neat and linear. Both were deeply religious: Peter was one of the very first disciples (cf. Jn 1:41), and Paul was “zealous for the traditions of [his] ancestors” (Gal 1:14). Yet they also made great mistakes: Peter denied the Lord, while Paul persecuted the Church of God. Both were cut to the core by questions asked by Jesus: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” (Jn 21:15); “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). Peter was grieved by Jesus’ questions, while Paul was blinded by his words. Jesus called them by name and changed their lives. After all that happened, he put his trust in them, in one who denied him and one who persecuted his followers, in two repentant sinners. We may wonder why the Lord chosen not to give us two witnesses of utter integrity, with clean records and impeccable lives? Why Peter, when there was John? Why Paul, and not Barnabas?

There is a great teaching here: the starting point of the Christian life is not our worthiness; in fact, the Lord was able to accomplish little with those who thought they were good and decent. Whenever we consider ourselves smarter or better than others, that is the beginning of the end. The Lord does not work miracles with those who consider themselves righteous, but with those who know themselves needy. He is not attracted by our goodness; that is not why he loves us. He loves us just as we are; he is looking for people who are not self-sufficient, but ready to open their hearts to him. People who, like Peter and Paul, are transparent before God. Peter immediately told Jesus: “I am a sinful man” (Lk 5:8). Paul wrote that he was “least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle” (1 Cor 15:9). Throughout life, they preserved this humility, to the very end. Peter died crucified upside down, since he did not consider himself worthy to imitate his Lord. Paul was always fond of his name, which means “little”, and left behind his birth name, Saul, the name of the first king of his people. Both understood that holiness does not consist in exalting but rather in humbling oneself. Holiness is not a contest, but a question of entrusting our own poverty each day to the Lord, who does great things for those who are lowly. What was the secret that made them persevere amid weakness? It was the Lord’s forgiveness.

Let us think about them too as witnesses to forgiveness. In their failings, they encountered the powerful mercy of the Lord, who gave them rebirth. In his forgiveness, they encountered irrepressible peace and joy. Thinking back to their failures, they might have experienced feelings of guilt. How many times might Peter have thought back to his denial! How many scruples might Paul have felt at having hurt so many innocent people! Humanly, they had failed. Yet they encountered a love greater than their failures, a forgiveness strong enough to heal even their feelings of guilt. Only when we experience God’s forgiveness do we truly experience rebirth. From there we start over, from forgiveness; there we rediscover who we really are: in the confession of our sins.

Witnesses to life and witnesses to forgiveness, Peter and Paul are ultimately witnesses to Jesus. In today’s Gospel, the Lord asks: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The answers evoke figures of the past: “John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. Remarkable people, but all of them dead. Peter instead replies: “You are the Christ” (Mt 16:13-14.16). The Christ, that is, the Messiah. A word that points not to the past, but to the future: the Messiah is the one who is awaited, he is newness, the one who brings God’s anointing to the world. Jesus is not the past, but the present and the future. He is not a distant personage to be remembered, but the one to whom Peter can speak intimately: You are the Christ. For those who are his witnesses, Jesus is more than a historical personage; he is a living person: he is newness, not things we have already seen, the newness of the future and not a memory from the past. The witness, then, is not someone who knows the story of Jesus, but someone who has experienced a love story with Jesus. The witness, in the end, proclaims only this: that Jesus is alive and that he is the secret of life. Indeed, Peter, after saying: “You are the Christ”, then goes on to say: “the Son of the living God” (v. 16). Witness arises from an encounter with the living Jesus. At the centre of Paul’s life too, we find that same word that rises up from Peter’s heart: Christ. Paul repeats this name constantly, almost four hundred times in his letters! For him, Christ is not only a model, an example, a point of reference: he is life itself. Paul writes: “For me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). Jesus is Paul’s present and his future, so much so that he considers the past as refuse in comparison to the surpassing knowledge of Christ (cf. Phil 3:7-8).

Brothers and sisters, in the presence of these witnesses, let us ask: “Do I renew daily my own encounter with Jesus?” We may be curious about Jesus, or interested in Church matters or religious news. We may open computer sites and the papers, and talk about holy things. But this is to remain at the level of what are people saying? Jesus does not care about polls, past history or statistics. He is not looking for religion editors, much less “front page” or “statistical” Christians. He is looking for witnesses who say to him each day: “Lord, you are my life”.

Having met Jesus and experienced his forgiveness, the Apostles bore witness to him by living a new life: they no longer held back, but gave themselves over completely. They were no longer content with half-measures, but embraced the only measure possible for those who follow Jesus: that of boundless love. They were “poured out as a libation” (cf. 2 Tim 4:6). Let us ask for the grace not to be lukewarm Christians living by half measures, allowing our love to grow cold. Let us rediscover who we truly are through a daily relationship with Jesus and through the power of his forgiveness. Just as he asked Peter, Jesus is now asking us: “Who do you say that I am?”, “Do you love me?” Let us allow these words to penetrate our hearts and inspire us not to remain content with a minimum, but to aim for the heights, so that we too can become living witnesses to Jesus.

Today we bless the pallia for the Metropolitan Archbishops named in the past year. The pallium recalls the sheep that the shepherd is called to bear on his shoulders. It is a sign that the shepherds do not live for themselves but for the sheep. It is a sign that, in order to possess life, we have to lose it, give it away. Today our joy is shared, in accordance with a fine tradition, by a Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, whose members I greet with affection. Your presence, dear brothers, reminds us that we can spare no effort also in the journey towards full unity among believers, in communion at every level. For together, reconciled to God and having forgiven one another, we are called to bear witness to Jesus by our lives.

Pope Francis    29.06.19  Angelus  St Peter's Square, Rome    Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul,  Apostles  - Year C     John 21: 15-19

Pope Francis   29.06.19  Angelus  Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Saints Peter and Paul, whom we celebrate today, are sometimes depicted in icons in the act of holding up the Church. This reminds us of the words of today's Gospel, where Jesus tells Peter: "you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church" (Mt 16.18). This is the first time that Jesus pronounces the word "Church", but more than thinking about the noun I would like to invite you to think of the adjective, which is a possessive, "my": my church. Jesus does not speak of the Church as an external reality, but expresses the great love he has for her: my church. He is in love with the Church, with us. St. Paul wrote: "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her" (Eph 5.25), that is, the Apostle explains, Jesus loves the Church as his bride. For the Lord we are not a group of believers or a religious organization, we are his bride. He looks tenderly on the Church, He loves her with absolute fidelity, in spite of our failures and betrayals. Just as He did that day Peter, so today He says to each of us: "my church, you are my church."

And we can repeat it ourselves: my church. We do not say it with a sense of exclusive belonging, but with an inclusive love. Not to differentiate ourselves from others, but to learn the beauty of being with others, because Jesus wants us to be united and open. The Church is not "mine" because it responds to what I want, my cravings, but so that I might pour out my love on her. It is mine so that I might care for her, so that, as the icon of the Apostles, I might also hold it up. And how? With fraternal love. With our fraternal love we can say: my Church.

In another icon Saints Peter and Paul are depicted while exchanging an embrace. There was a lot of diversity between them. A fisherman and a Pharisee with their own life experiences, their characters, ways of doing things and sensitivities were completely different. Conflicting opinions and frank debates were not lacking between them (cf. Gal 2.11 ff.). But that which united them was infinitely greater: Jesus was the Lord of both, together they said "my Lord" to the one who says "my church". Brothers in the faith, invite us to rediscover the joy of being brothers and sisters in the Church. On this feast, which unites two very different Apostles, it would be beautiful for each of us to say, "thank you, Lord, for that person who is different from me: he, she is a gift for my church." We are different but this enriches us, and it is brotherhood. It would be good to appreciate the qualities of others, to recognize the gifts of others without malice and without envy.
Envy! Envy causes bitterness inside, it is vinegar poured out on the heart. Those who are envious have a real sour outlook. Many times, when one finds a jealous person, they might wan to ask, but what did you have for breakfast today, was it with milk or with vinegar? Because is bitter. Envy makes life sour. How beautiful instead it is to know that we belong to each other, because we share the same faith, the same love, the same hope, the same Lord. We belong to each other and this is the splendid mystery of being able to say: our Church! Brotherhood.

At the end of the Gospel Jesus said to Peter, "feed my sheep" (Jn 21.17). He speaks of us and says "my sheep" with the same tenderness with which he said my church. With how much love, with how much tenderness Jesus loves us! We feel like we are His. This is the affection that builds the Church. Today through the intercession of the Apostles, let us ask the grace to love our Church. Let us ask for eyes that know how to see in it brothers and sisters, a heart that knows how to welcome others with the tender love that Jesus has for us. And let us ask for the strength to pray for those who do not think like us – this persons thinks differently, I pray for that person – prayer and love, which is different from talking down about , perhaps behind their backs. Never talk down about people, prayer and love. May the Madonna, who brought harmony among the Apostles and prayed for them (cf. At 1.14), guard us as brothers and sisters in the Church.

Pope Francis    09.10.19    General Audience, St Peters Square     - Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles       Acts 9: 1-19

Pope Francis  09.10.19  General Audience
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Starting with the episode of Stephen's stoning, a figure appears, that, next to Peter's, is the most present and incisive in the Acts of the Apostles: that of "a young man, called Saul"(Acts 7:58). He is described at the beginning as one who approves of Stephen's death and wants to destroy the Church (cf. Acts 8:,3); but then he becomes the instrument chosen by God to proclaim the gospel to the people (see Acts 9:15; 22.21; 26.17).

With the authorisation of the high priest, Saul hunts down Christians and captures them. Some of you, who have come from peoples that have been persecuted by dictatorships, you understand well what it means to hunt people down and capture them. So did Saul. And this he does thinking that he is serving the Lord's Law. Luke says that Saul breathed threats and massacres against the disciples of the Lord(Acts 9:1): in him there was a breath that tasted of death, not of life.

The young Saul is portrayed as an intransigent man, that is, one who shows intolerance towards those who think differently from him, he absolutizes his own political and religious identity and reduces the other to a potential enemy to fight. He is an ideologue. In Saul, religion had become an ideology: religious ideology, social ideology, political ideology. Only after being transformed by Christ, does he begin to teach that the real battle "is not against the flesh and blood, but against [...] the rulers of this dark world, against the spirits of evil"(Eph 6:12). He would teach that you must not fight people, but the evil that inspires their actions.

The angry condition – because Saul was angry – and Saul's conflict invites each one to ask: how do I live my life of faith? Do I go to meet others or am I against others? Do I belong to the universal Church (good and bad, all) or do I have a selective ideology? Do I love God or do I love dogmatic formulations? What's my religious life like? Does the faith in God I profess make me friendly or hostile to those who are different from me?

Luke recounts that while Saul is all intent on eradicating the Christian community, the Lord is on his trail to touch his heart and convert him to himself. It is the Lord's method: he touches the heart. The Risen takes the initiative and manifests himself to Saul on the way to Damascus, an event that is narrated three times in the Book of Acts (cf. Acts 9:3-19; 22:3-21; 26:4-23). Through the combination of "light" and "voice", typical of theophasy, the Risen One appears to Saul and asks him to account for his fratricidal fury: "Saul, Saul, why do you pursue me?" (Acts 9:4). Here the Risen One manifests his being one single thing to those who believe in him: to strike a member of the Church is to strike Christ himself! Also those who are ideologues because they want the "purity" – in quotation marks – of the Church, strike Christ.

The voice of Jesus says to Saul, "Get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do"(Acts 9:6). Once standing, however, Saul sees nothing, he has become blind, and from a strong man, authoritative and independent he becomes weak, needy and dependent on others, because he cannot see. The light of Christ dazzled him and blinded him: "Also on his exterior appears what his inner reality is, his blindness towards the truth, the light that is Christ" (Blessed XVI, General Audience, 3 September 2008).

From this "face-to-face" between Saul and the Risen One a transformation begins that shows the "personal easter" of Saul, his transition from death to life: what used to be "gains" becomes "rubbish" to be rejected in order to acquire the true gain that is Christ and life in Him (cf. Phil 3:7-8).

Paul receives Baptism through a member of the Christian community in Damascus, Ananias. Baptism thus marks for Saul, as for each of us, the beginning of a new life, and is accompanied by a new look at God, for himself and for others, who from enemies become brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let us ask the Father to make us, as in Saul, experience the impact of His love that can only make a heart of stone a heart of flesh (cf. Ez 11:19), capable of accepting in itself "the same feelings of Christ Jesus"(Phil 2:5).

Pope Francis     16.10.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square    Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles     Acts 10: 1-49,    11:1-3

Pope Francis  16.10.19  General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The Gospel's journey in the world, which St. Luke recounts in the Acts of the Apostles, is accompanied by the high creativity of God's who is manifested in a surprising way. God wants His children to overcome every particularism in order to open themselves to the universality of salvation. This is the purpose: to overcome particularisms and to open oneself up to the universality of salvation, because God wants to save everyone. All who are reborn from water and spirit – the baptized – are called to go out of themselves and open themselves to others, to live in proximity, the lifestyle of together, which transforms every interpersonal relationship into an experience of fraternity (cf. Esort. ap. Evangelii gaudium,87).

Testimony to this process of "fraternization" that the Spirit wants to trigger in history is Peter, protagonist in the Acts of the Apostles together with Paul. Peter lives an event that marks a decisive turning point for his existence. While he is praying, he receives a vision that acts as a divine "provocation", to arouse in him a change of mentality. He sees a great tablecloth coming down from on high, containing various animals: quadrupeds, reptiles and birds, and hears a voice inviting him to eat of those meats. As a good Jew, he reacts by claiming that he has never eaten anything impure, as required by the Law of the Lord (cf. Lev 11). Then the voice comes back forcefully: "What God has purified, you should not call profane"(Acts 10:15).

With this fact the Lord wants Peter to no longer evaluate events and people according to the categories of pure and impure, but to learn to go further, to look at the person and the intentions of his heart. What makes man unclean, in fact, does not come from outside but only from within, from the heart (cf. Mark 7:21). Jesus made it clear.

After that vision, God sends Peter to the home of an uncircumcised foreigner, Cornelius, "centurion of the cohort called Italica, who is religious and God-fearing, and he makes a lot of alms and always prays to God (cf. Acts 10:1-2), but he was not Jewish.

In that house of pagans, Peter preaches Christ the crucified and risen and he forgives the sins of anyone who believes in him. And as Peter speaks, the Holy Spirit descends over Cornelius and his family. And Peter baptizes them in the name of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 10:48).

This extraordinary fact – this is the first time such a thing has happened – becomes renowned in Jerusalem, where the brothers, scandalized by Peter's behaviour, reproach him harshly (cf. Acts 11:1-3). Peter did something that went beyond custom, beyond the law, and for this they rebuke him. But after meeting Cornelius, Peter is more free from himself and more in communion with God and with others, because he has seen God's will in the action of the Holy Spirit. He can therefore understand that the election of Israel is not the reward for merit, but the sign of the gratuitous call to be mediating the divine blessing among pagan peoples.

Dear brothers and sisters, from the prince of the Apostles let us learn that an evangelizer cannot be an impediment to God's creative work, who "wants all men to be saved"(1Tim 2:4), but one who favours a heartfelt encounter with the Lord. And how do we behave with our brothers and sisters, especially those who are not Christians? Are we an impediment to their encounter with God? Do we hinder their encounter with the Father or facilitate it?

Let us ask for the grace to be astonished by God's surprises, to not hinder his creativity, but to recognize and favour ever new ways through which the Risen One can spread his Spirit into the world and attract hearts by making himself known as the "Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). Thank you.

Pope Francis    30.10.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square      Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles        Acts 16: 8-34

Pope Francis  30.10.19  General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Reading the Acts of the Apostles, we can see how the
Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the Church's mission: it is He who guides the path of the evangelizers by showing them the way forward.

We see this clearly when the Apostle Paul, who has arrived in Troas, receives a vision. A Macedonian begs him: "Come to Macedonia and help us!" (Acts 16:9). The people of Northern Macedonia are proud of this, they are so proud to have called Paul for Paul to
announce Jesus Christ. I remember so well the beautiful people who welcomed me with such warmth: that conserves the faith that Paul preached to them! The Apostle did not hesitate and left for Macedonia, sure that it is God who sends him, and arrives at Philippi, "Roman colony" (Acts 16:12) on the Via Ignatia, to preach the Gospel. Paul stops there for several days. There are three events that characterize his stay in Philippi, in these three days: three important events. 1) The evangelization and baptism of Lydia and her family; 2) his arrest, along with Silas, after exorcizing a slave exploited by her owners; 3) the conversion and baptism of his prison warden and his family. Let's look at these three episodes in Paul's life.

The power of the Gospel is addressed, above all, to the women of Philippi, in particular to Lidia, a merchant of purple cloth, in the city of Thyatira, she is a believer in God in whom the Lord opens his heart "to adhere to Paul's words"(Acts 16:14). Lydia, in fact, welcomes Christ, receives Baptism with her family and welcomes those who are of Christ, giving a home to Paul and Silas in her home. Here we have the testimony of the arrival of Christianity in Europe: the beginning of a process of inculturation that has lasted until today. It entered through Macedonia.

After the warmth experienced at Lydia's house, Paul and Silas then find themselves dealing with the harshness of prison: they go from the consolation of this conversion of Lydia and her family, to the desolation of the prison, where they are thrown for having freed in the name of Jesus "a slave who had a spirit of divination" and "provided much profit for her masters" as a fortune-teller (Acts 16:16). Her masters made a lot of money, and this poor slave did what fortune-tellers do: she saw the future, she read hands – as the song says, "take this hand, gypsy", and that's why people paid. Even today, dear brothers and sisters, there are people who pay for it. I remember in my diocese, a large park, there were more than 60 tables where the fortune-tellers would sit men and women and they would read the palms of hands and people believed these things! And they paid. And this also happened in the time of St Paul. Her owners, in retaliation, reported Paul and lead the Apostles before the magistrates on charges of public disorder.

What happens? Paul is in prison and during his captivity a surprising thing happens. There is desolation, but instead of complaining, Paul and Silas sing praise to God and this praise releases a power that frees them: during the prayer an earthquake shakes the foundations of the prison, opens the doors and the chains fall off of everyone (cf. 16:25-26). As the prayer of Pentecost, the prayer made in prison also has prodigious effects.

The prison warden, believing that the prisoners had escaped, was about to commit suicide, because the prison wardens paid with their own lives if a prisoner escaped; but Paul shouts to him: "We are all here!" (Acts 16:27-28). Then he asks, "What do I have to do to be saved?" (see 30). The answer is: "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your family will be saved" (v. 31). At this point a change happens: in the middle of the night, the prison warden listens to the word of the Lord together with his family, welcomes the apostles, he washes their wounds – because they had been beaten – and together with his family they receive Baptism. Then, "and with his family he rejoiced at having come to faith in God" (v. 34), he prepared a banquet and invited Paul and Silas to stay with them: the moment of consolation! In the middle of the night of this anonymous prison warden, the light of Christ shines and defeats the darkness: the chains of the heart fall and blossom in him and his family and they experience a joy they have never experienced. That is the Holy Spirit who is carrying out the mission: from the beginning, from Pentecost onwards the Holy Spirit instils the mission. And he carries us forward, we must be faithful to the vocation that the Holy Spirit moves us to do. To bring the gospel.

Let us today also ask the Holy Spirit for an open heart, sensitive to God and hospitable to our brothers and sisters, like that of Lydia, and a bold faith, like that of Paul and Silas, and also an openness of heart, like that of the prison warden who is touched by the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis   06.11.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square      Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles        Acts 17: 15-34

Pope Francis 06.11.19 Paul in Athens

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

We continue our "journey" with the book of the Acts of the Apostles. After the trials in Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea, Paul arrives in Athens, right in the heart of Greece (cf. Acts 17:15). This city, which lived in the shadow of the ancient glories despite the political decadence, still guarded the panacea of culture. Here the Apostle "trembles within himself to see the city full of idols"(Acts 17:16). This "impact" with paganism, however, instead of making him flee, pushes him to create a bridge to talk with that culture.

Paul chooses to become familiar with the city and thus begins to frequent the most significant places and people. He goes to the synagogue, a symbol of the life of faith; goes to the square, symbol of city life; and goes to the Areopagus, a symbol of political and cultural life. Meet Jews, epicurean and stoic philosophers, and many others. He meets all the people, he doesn't close himself, he goes to talk to all the people. In this way Paul observes the culture of Athens, starting from a contemplative outlook that discovers that God dwells in his homes, in his streets and in his squares"(Evangelii gaudium,71). Paul does not look at the city of Athens and the pagan world with hostility but with the eyes of faith. And this makes us wonder about our way of looking at our cities: do we observe them with indifference? With contempt? Or with the faith that recognizes God's children in the midst of anonymous crowds?

Paul chooses an outlook that urges him to build a bridge between the Gospel and the pagan world. In the heart of one of the most famous institutions of the ancient world, the Areopagus, he realizes an extraordinary example of enculture of the message of faith: he proclaims Jesus Christ to the worshippers of idols, and does not attack them, but makes himself "a Pope, a builder of bridges"(Homily in Santa Marta, May 8, 2013).

Paul takes his cue from the altar of the city dedicated to "an unknown god" (Acts 17:23) - there was an altar with "to the Unknown God"; no image, nothing, just that inscription. Starting from that "devotion" to the Unknown God, to empathize with his listeners proclaims that God "lives among the citizens"(Evangelii gaudium,71) and "does not hide from those who seek him with a sincere heart, " ( ibid.). It is precisely this presence that Paul seeks to reveal: "What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you"(Acts 17:23).

To reveal the identity of the god that the Athenians worship, the Apostle starts from creation, that is, from the biblical faith in the God of revelation, to arrive at redemption and judgment, that is, to the strictly Christian message. He shows the disproportion between the greatness of the Creator and the temples built by man, and explains that the Creator is always looking so that everyone can find him. In this way Paul, according to a beautiful expression of Pope Benedict XVI, "announces The One whom men ignore, yet know: the Unknown-Known" (Blessed XVI, Meeting with the world of culture at the Collège des Bernardins, 12 Sept. 2008) . Then, he invites everyone to go beyond "the times of ignorance" and to decide for conversion in view of the impending judgment. Paul thus arrives at the kerygma and alludes to Christ, without mentioning him, defining him as the "man that God has appointed, giving a sure proof to all by raising him from the dead"(Acts 17:31).

And here, there's the problem. The word of Paul, who until now had held the interlocutors in suspense – because it was an interesting discovery – finds a rock: the death and resurrection of Christ appears "foolish" (1Cor 1:23) and arouses ridicule and derision. Paul then departs: his attempt seems to have failed, but instead some adhere to his word and open themselves to the faith. Among them a man, Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, and a woman, Damaris. Even in Athens, the Gospel takes root and can run with two voices: that of man and that of women!

Today let us also ask the Holy Spirit to teach us to build bridges with culture, with those who do not believe or with those who have a different belief from our own. Always build bridges, always the outstretched hand, no aggression. Let us ask him for the ability to delicately enculturate the message of faith, placing on those in Christ's ignorance a contemplative look, moved by a love that warms even the most hardened hearts.

Pope Francis   13.11.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square     Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles       Acts 18: 1-26

Pope Francis  13.11.19 General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

This audience is happening in two groups: the sick are in the Paul VI Hall - I have been with them, I have greeted them and blessed them. There they will be more comfortable because of the rain – and we are here. But they're looking at us on the big screen. Let's say hello to both groups with a round of applause.

The Acts of the Apostles tell us that Paul, as a tireless evangelizer, as he is, after his stay in Athens, continues the journey of the Gospel in the world. A new stop on his missionary journey is Corinth, capital of the Roman province of Achaea, a commercial and cosmopolitan city, thanks to the presence of two important ports.

As we read in chapter 18 of the Acts, Paul finds hospitality with a married couple, Aquila and Priscilla , forced to move from Rome to Corinth after Emperor Claudius ordered the expulsion of the Jews (cf. Acts 18:2). I'd like to do a parenthesis. The Jewish people have suffered so much in history. They were kicked out, persecuted ... And, in the last century, we have seen so many, so many brutalities that they have done to the Jewish people and we were all convinced that this was over. But today, the habit of persecuting Jews begins to be reborn here and there. Brothers and sisters, this is neither human nor Christian. The Jews are our brothers! And they should not be persecuted. Understand? These spouses demonstrate that they have a heart full of faith in God and generosity to others, able to make room for those who, like them, experience the strangers. This sensitivity leads them to decentralise themselves to practice the Christian art of hospitality (cf. Rom 12:13; Eb 13:2) and open the doors of their home to welcome the Apostle Paul. Thus they welcome not only the evangelizer, but also the proclamation he brings with him: the Gospel of Christ who is "God's power for the salvation of all who ever believe"(Rm 1.16). And from that moment their home is imbued with the scent of the living Word (Eb 4:12) that enlivens hearts.

Aquila and Priscilla also share with Paul the professional activity, that is, the construction of tents. Paul greatly valued manual labour and considered it a privileged space for Christian witness (cf. 1 Cor 4:12), as well as a just way to maintain himself without being a weight to others (cf. 1Ts 2.9; 2Ts 3.8) or the community.

The house of Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth opens its doors not only to the Apostle but also to other brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul, in fact, can speak of the "community that gathers in their home"(1 Cor 16:19), which becomes a "house of the Church", a "domus ecclesiae", a place of listening to the Word of God and celebration of the Eucharist. Even today in some countries where there is no religious freedom and there is no freedom of Christians, Christians gather in a house, somewhat hidden, to pray and celebrate the Eucharist. Even today there are these houses, these families that become a temple for the Eucharist.

After a year and a half of stay in Corinth, Paul leaves that city together with Aquila and Priscilla, who stop in Ephesus. Even there their house becomes a place of catechesis (cf. Acts 18:26). Finally, the spouses will return to Rome and will be the recipients of a splendid eulogy that the Apostle inserts in the letter to the Romans. He had a grateful heart, and so Paul wrote about these two spouses in the letter to the Romans. Saying: "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my collaborators in Christ Jesus. To save my life, they risked their lives, and I am not only grateful to them, but all the Churches of the pagan world." How many families in times of persecution risk their lives to keep the persecuted hidden! This is the first example: a welcome family, even in bad times.

Among the many collaborators of Paul, Aquila and Priscilla emerge as "models of a married life responsibly committed to the service of the whole Christian community" and remind us that, thanks to the faith and commitment to the evangelization of so many lay people like them, Christianity has come to us. In fact, "to take root in the land of the people, to develop strongly, the commitment of these families was necessary. But think that Christianity from the beginning was preached by the lay people. You, too, are responsible by your Baptism for carrying on the faith. It was the commitment of so many families, of these spouses, of these Christian communities, of the lay faithful who offered the "humus" to the growth of the faith" (Blessed XVI, Catechesi,7 February 2007). This phrase by Pope Benedict XVI is beautiful: the lay people give the humus to the growth of faith.

We ask the Father, who has chosen to make the spouses his "real living sculpture" (Esort. ap. Amoris laetitia, 11) - I believe that here are the new spouses: listen to your vocation, you must be the true living sculpture - to spread its Spirit on all Christian couples so that, following the example of Aquila and Priscilla, may they know how to open the doors of their hearts to Christ and their brothers and transform their homes into domestic churches. Beautiful word: a house is a domestic church, where to live communion and offer life lived with faith, hope and charity. We must pray to these two Saints Aquila and Prisca, to teach our families to be like them: a domestic church where there is humus, for faith to grow.

Pope Francis  04.12.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square    Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles      Acts 19: 1-40,     Acts 20: 1-35

Pope Francis  4.12.19 General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

The Gospel's journey through the world continues unabated in the Book of Acts of the Apostles, and crosses the city of Ephesus manifesting its full saving power. Thanks to Paul, about twelve men receive baptism in the name of Jesus and experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that regenerates them (cf. Acts 19:1-7). There are also several wonders that take place through the Apostle: the sick are healed and the obsessed are freed (cf. Acts 19:11-12). This happens because the disciple remembers his Master (cf. Lc 6.40) and makes him present by communicating to his brothers and sisters the same new life that he has received from him. In fact every evangelizer is aware that with His person and His action He is a mission on this land and to be branded by fire by the mission of enlightening, blessing, enlivening, lifting, healing and freeing.

The power of God that bursts into Ephesus unmasks those who want to use the name of Jesus to perform exorcisms but without having the spiritual authority to do so (cf. Acts 19:13-17), and reveals the weakness of the magical arts, which are abandoned by a large number of people who choose Christ (cf. Acts 19:18-19). A real reversal for a city, like Ephesus, which was a famous centre for the practice of magic! Luke thus emphasizes the incompatibility between faith in Christ and magic. If you choose Christ, you cannot resort to the magician: faith is trusting abandonment in the hands of a reliable God who makes himself known not through occult practices but by revelation and with free love. Perhaps some of you will say to me: "Ah, yes, this magic is an ancient thing: today, with Christian civilization this does not happen". But be careful! I ask you: how many of you go to tarot, how many of you go to get your hands read by palm readers or go to to card readers? Even today in the great cities practicing Christians do these things. And to the question: "But why, if you believe in Jesus Christ, go to the magician, to the future teller, to all these people?", they answer: "I believe in Jesus Christ but for palm reading I also go to them". Please: magic is not Christian! These things that you do to guess the future or guess so many things or change life situations, are not Christian. Christ's grace brings you everything: pray and trust the Lord.

The spread of the Gospel in Ephesus damages the trade of silversmiths – another problem – who made the statues of the goddess Artemis, making a religious practice a real bargain. I ask you to think about this. Seeing the activity that yielded a lot of money diminish, the silversmiths organized a riot against Paul, and Christians are accused of having put into crisis the category of craftsmen, the sanctuary of Artemis and the worship of this goddess (cf. Acts 19:23-28).

Paul then departs from Ephesus bound for Jerusalem and arrives at Miletus (cf. Acts 20:1-16). Here he sends a call to the elders of the Church of Ephesus – the priests: they would be priests – to make a "pastoral" handover (cf. Acts 20:17-35). We are at the final bars of Paul's apostolic ministry and Luke presents us with his farewell address, a kind of spiritual testament that the Apostle addresses to those who, after his departure, will have to lead the community of Epheus. And this is one of the most beautiful pages of the Book of Acts of the Apostles: I advise you to take today the New Testament, the Bible, chapter 20 and read this passage from Paul to the priests of Ephesus, and he does so in Miletus. It is a way of understanding how the Apostle says farewell and also how priests today must take leave and also how all Christians must take leave. It's a beautiful page.

In this autobiographical part with its retrospective look at his mission in Asia Minor Paul looks at the past and the total investment of himself, of his humble service, of the proofs that are his. He never spared himself to lead others to faith. In addition he sees the new time that awaits him, a future marked by trusting the Holy Spirit who leads him.

In the exhortation part, Paul encourages community leaders, who he knows he sees for the last time. And what does it tell them? "Watch over yourself and the whole flock." This is the work of the pastor: to watch, to watch over himself and the flock. The pastor must watch, the parish priest must watch, make a vigil, the priests must watch, the Bishops, the Pope must watch. Make a vigil to cherish the flock, and also to watch over yourself, examine your conscience and see how you fulfil this duty to watch. "Watch over yourself and the whole flock, in the midst of which the Holy Spirit has established you as guardians to be pastors of the Church of God, who has bought himself with the blood of his Own Son"(Acts 20:28): so says St. Paul. A future marked by trusting the Holy Spirit who leads him, and his master and Lord to Jerusalem. The episcopoles are asked to be close to the flock, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, and the readiness to defend Him from "wolves" who threaten the healthy doctrine and ecclesial communion (v. 29). The Bishops must be very close to the people in order to guard them, to defend them; not detached from the people. After entrusting this task to the leaders of Ephesus, Paul puts them in God's hands and entrusts them to the "word of His grace" (v. 32), the ferment of all growth and path of holiness in the Church, inviting them to work with their own hands, like him, so as not to be of weight to others, to help the weak, and to experience that "one is more blessed in giving than in receiving."

Dear brothers and sisters, we ask the Lord to renew in us the love for the Church and for the deposit of the faith which it preserves, and to make us all responsible in the custody of the flock, supporting in prayer the shepherds so that they may manifest the firmness and the tenderness of the Divine Shepherd.

Pope Francis  11.12.19  General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall   Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles       Acts 21: 1 to Acts 26: 32 

Pope Francis General Audience 11.12.19

Dear brothers and sisters good morning!

As we read the Acts of the Apostles, the Gospel's journey through the world continues, and St. Paul's testimony is increasingly marked by the seal of suffering. But this is something that grows with time in Paul's life. Paul is not only an evangelist full of ardour, the intrepid missionary among the pagans who gives birth to new Christian communities, but is also the suffering witness of the Risen One (cf. Acts 9:15-16).

The arrival of the Apostle in Jerusalem, described in chapter 21 of the Acts, unleashes a fierce hatred towards him, and he is confronted: "But, he was a persecutor! Don't trust him!" As it was for Jesus, Jerusalem is also a hostile city for him. He went to the temple and was recognized, and led out to be lynched but was rescued by Roman soldiers. Accused of teaching against the Law in the Temple, he is arrested and begins his pilgrimage as a prisoner, first before the Sanhedrin, then before the Roman prosecutor at Caesarea, and finally before King Agrippa. Luke highlights the similarity between Paul and Jesus, both hated by adversaries, publicly accused and recognized as innocent by the imperial authorities; and so Paul is associated with his Master's passion, and his passion becomes a living Gospel. I have come from St. Peter's Basilica and there I had a first audience, this morning, with Ukrainian pilgrims, of a Ukrainian diocese. How persecuted these people have been; how much they have suffered for the Gospel! But they didn't negotiate their faith. Today in the world, in Europe, many Christians are persecuted and give their lives for their faith, or are persecuted with white gloves, that is, left aside, marginalized ... Martyrdom is the air of the life of a Christian, of a Christian community. There will always be martyrs among us: this is the sign that we are going on the path of Jesus. It is a blessing of the Lord, that among the people of God, some will bear this witness of martyrdom.

Paul is called to defend himself against accusations, and in the end, in the presence of King Agrippa II, his apology changes into effective testimony of faith (cf. Acts 26,1-23).

Then Paul recounts his conversion: the risen Christ made him a Christian and entrusted him with the mission among the people, "to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been consecrated by faith in Christ (v. 18). Paul obeyed this assignment and did nothing but show how the prophets and Moses foretold what he now announces: that "Christ must suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would announce the light to both our people and to the Gentiles" (v. 23). Paul's passionate testimony touches the heart of King Agrippa, who is only missing the decisive step. And so the king says: "Convince me a little more to make me a Christian!" (see 28). Paul is declared innocent, but he cannot be released because he appealed to Caesar. Thus continues the unstoppable journey of the Word of God to Rome. Paul, chained, will end up here in Rome.

From this moment on, Paul's portrait is that of the prisoner whose chains are a sign of his fidelity to the Gospel and of his witness to the Risen One.

The chains are certainly a humiliating ordeal for the Apostle, who appears in the eyes of the world as an "evildoer" (2Tm 2.9). But his love for Christ is so strong that even these chains are seen through the eyes of faith; faith that for Paul is not "a theory, or an opinion about God and the world", but "the impact of God's love on his heart, [...] it is love for Jesus Christ" (Blessed XVI, Homily on the occasion of the Pauline Year,28 June 2008).

Dear brothers and sisters, Paul teaches us perseverance in trials and the ability to read everything through the eyes of faith. Today we ask the Lord, through the Intercession of the Apostle, to rekindle our faith and help us to be faithful to the end of our vocation as Christians, disciples of the Lord, missionaries.

Pope Francis   08.01.20  General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall        Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles    Acts 27: 1 to 28: 16

Pope Francis General Audience - Paul - Shipwreck - Malta 08.01.20

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The book of the Acts of the Apostles, in the final part, tells us that the Gospel continues its journey not only by land but by sea, on a ship that leads Paul, who is a prisoner, from Caesarea to Rome (cf. Acts 27:1 –28:16), in the heart of the Empire, so that the word of the Risen One may be realized: "You will be my witnesses [...] to the ends of the earth"(Acts 1:8). Read the Book of Acts of the Apostles and you will see how the Gospel, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, reaches all peoples, is universal. Take it. Read it.
Navigation encounters unfavourable conditions from the outset. The journey gets dangerous. And they are forced to disembark at Myra and board another ship and skirt the southern side of the island of Crete. Paul advises not to continue sailing, but the centurion does not give him credit and relies on the pilot and the owner. The journey continues and a wind is so furious that the crew loses control and lets the ship drift.

When death seems near and despair pervades everyone, Paul intervenes he is the man of faith and knows that even the danger of death will not separate him from the Lord, by the love of Christ and the commission that he has received. He reassures his companions by saying what we have heard: "Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood by me said: "Don't be afraid, Paul; you are destined to appear before Caesar, and behold, for your sake, God has granted safety to all who are sailing with you "(Acts 27:23-24). Even in the trial, Paul never ceases to be the guardian of the lives of others and an animator of their hope.
Luke thus shows us that the design that guides Paul to Rome saves not only the Apostle, but also his fellow travellers, and the shipwreck, from a situation of misfortune, changes into a providential opportunity for the proclamation of the Gospel. It is an immersion in the waters that recalls the baptismal experience, the death and resurrection and that makes ones experience of Gods care and powerful salvation. 

The shipwreck is followed by a landing on the island of Malta, whose inhabitants show a thoughtful welcome. Maltese are good, they are mild, they are welcoming since that time. It's raining and cold and they light a bonfire to give the castaways some warmth and relief. Here, too, Paul, as a true disciple of Christ, sets out to fuel the fire with some branches. During these operations he is bitten by a viper but does not suffer any damage: people, looking at this, say: "But this must be a great evildoer because he saves himself from a shipwreck and ends up bitten by a viper!" They waited for him to fall dead, but he did not suffer any damage and they were even mistaking him for a deity – instead of an evildoer . In fact, that benefit comes from the Risen Lord who assists him, according to the promise he made before he ascended to heaven and addressed to believers: "They will take snakes in their hands and, if they drink some poison, it will not harm them; they will lay the hands on the sick and they will be healed"(Mark 16:18). History has been told that since then there have been no vipers in Malta: this is God's blessing for the welcome of this good people.

In fact, the stay in Malta becomes a good opportunity for Paul to give "meat" to the word that he announces and thus exercise a ministry of compassion in the healing of the sick. And this is a law of the Gospel: when a believer experiences salvation, he does not hold it back for himself, but puts it into his blood stream. "The good always tends to communicate. Every experience of truth and beauty seeks for itself its expansion, and every person who experiences a profound liberation acquires greater sensitivity before the needs of others" (Exorsive. Ap. Evangelii gaudium, 9). A Christian who has been tried can certainly become closer to those who suffer because he knows what suffering is, and make his heart open and sensitive to solidarity with others.

Paul teaches us to live out our trials by clinging to Christ, to mature the conviction that God can act under any circumstances, even in the midst of apparent failures and the "certainty that those who offer and give themselves to God for love will surely be fruitful"(ibid.. . 279). Love is always fruitful, love to God is always fruitful, and if you allow yourself to take it from the Lord and you receive the Lord's gifts, it will allow you to give them to others. It always goes beyond love to God.

Today let us ask the Lord to help us live every trial sustained by the energy of faith; and to be sensitive to the many castaways of history who arrive exhausted on our shores, because we too know how to welcome them with that fraternal love that comes from the encounter with Jesus. This is what saves us from the frost of indifference and inhumanity.

Pope Francis      15.01.20   General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall     Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles        Acts 28: 14-31

Pope Francis General Audience 15.01.20

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today we conclude the catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, with the last missionary stage of St. Paul: that is, Rome (cf. Acts 28:14).
Paul's journey, which was one with that of the Gospel, is proof that the routes of men, if lived in faith, can become a transit space of God's salvation, through the Word of faith which is an active ferment in history , capable of transforming situations and opening new paths.

With the arrival of Paul in the heart of the Empire ends the account of the Acts of the Apostles, which does not end with the martyrdom of Paul, but with the abundant sowing of the Word. The end of Luke's story, centred on the journey of the Gospel in the world, contains and summarizes all the dynamism of the Word of God, an unstoppable word that wants to run to communicate salvation to all.

In Rome, Paul first meets his brothers in Christ, who welcome him and give him courage (cf. Acts 28:15) and whose warm hospitality suggests how much he was expected and desired for his arrival. He is then allowed to live on his own in military custody, that is, with a soldier guarding him, he was under house arrest. Despite his status as a prisoner, Paul can meet with the notable Jews to explain why he was forced to appeal to Caesar and to speak to them about the kingdom of God. He tries to convince them about Jesus, starting from the scriptures and showing the continuity between the newness of Christ and the "hope of Israel"(Acts 28:20). Paul recognizes himself deeply Jewish and sees in the Gospel that he preaches, that is, in the proclamation of Christ dead and risen, the fulfilment of the promises made to the chosen people.

After this first informal meeting that finds the Jews willing, a more official one follows during which, for a whole day, Paul announces the kingdom of God and tries to open his interlocutors to the faith in Jesus, starting "from the law of Moses and the Prophets"(Acts 28:23). Since not everyone is convinced, he denounces the hardening of the heart of God's people, the cause of his condemnation (cf. Is 6:9-10), and passionately celebrates the salvation of nations that are instead sensitive to God and capable of listening to the Word of the Gospel of life (cf. Acts 28:28).

At this point in the narrative, Luke concludes his work by showing us not the death of Paul but the dynamism of his sermon, of a Word that "is not chained" (2Tim 2:9) – Paul does not have the freedom to move but is free to speak because the Word is not chained - it is a Word ready to let itself be sown in full by the Apostle. Paul does so "with all frankness and without impediment"(Acts 28:31), in a house where he welcomes those who want to receive the proclamation of the kingdom of God and know Christ. This house open to all hearts in search is the image of the Church, which, although persecuted, misunderstood and chained, never tires of welcoming with a maternal heart every man and woman to announce to them the love of the Father who has made himself visible in Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, at the end of this journey, lived together following the course of the Gospel in the world, the Spirit revives in each of us the call to be courageous and joyful evangelizers. Let us, like Paul, be able to imbue our houses with the Gospel and make them upper rooms of fraternity, where we welcome the living Christ, who "comes to meet us in every man and at all times" (cf. I I Preface of Advent).

Pope Francis   25.01.20  Celebration of Second Vespers , Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls     Solemnity of the Conversion of St Paul      Acts 27: 18 to 28: 10
53rd Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Pope Francis Christian Unity 25.01.20

Three different groups were on board the ship that brought Saint Paul to Rome as a prisoner. The most powerful group was made up of soldiers under a centurion. Then there were the sailors, upon whom naturally everyone on board depended during the long voyage. Finally, there were the weakest and most vulnerable: the prisoners.

When the ship ran aground off the coast of Malta, after having been at the mercy of a storm for several days, the soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to ensure that no one would escape, but they were stopped by the centurion who wanted to save Paul. Although he was among the most vulnerable, Paul offered something important to his traveling companions. While everyone was losing all hope of survival, the Apostle brought an unexpected message of hope. An angel had reassured him, saying to him: “Do not be afraid, Paul; God has granted safety to all those who sail with you” (Acts 27:24). Paul’s trust proved to be well founded, and in the end all the travellers were saved. Once they landed at Malta, they experienced the hospitality, kindness and humanity of the island’s inhabitants. This important detail provided the theme of the Week of Prayer that concludes today.

Dear brothers and sisters: this account from the Acts of the Apostles also speaks to our ecumenical journey towards that unity which God ardently desires. In the first place, it tells us that those who are weak and vulnerable, those who have little to offer materially but find their wealth in God, can present valuable messages for the good of all. Let us think of Christian communities: even the smallest and least significant in the eyes of the world, if they experience the Holy Spirit, if they are animated by love for God and neighbour, have a message to offer to the whole Christian family. Let us think of marginalized and persecuted Christian communities. As in the account of Paul’s shipwreck, it is often the weakest who bring the most important message of salvation. This was what pleased God: to save us not with the power of this world, but with the weakness of the cross (cf. 1 Cor 1:20-25). As disciples of Jesus, we must be careful not to be attracted by worldly logic, but rather to listen to the small and the weak, because God loves to send his messages through those who most resemble his Son made man.

The account in Acts reminds us of a second aspect: God’s priority is the salvation of all. As the angel said to Paul: “God has granted safety to all those who sail with you”. Paul insists on this point. We too need to repeat it: it is our duty to put into effect the paramount desire of God who, as Paul himself writes, “desires everyone to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4). This is an invitation not to devote ourselves exclusively to our own communities, but to open ourselves to the good of all, to the universal gaze of God who took flesh in order to embrace the whole human race and who died and rose for the salvation of all. If we, with his grace, can assimilate his way of seeing things, we can overcome our divisions. In Paul’s shipwreck, each person contributed to the salvation of all: the centurion made important decisions, the sailors put to use their knowledge and abilities, the Apostle encouraged those without hope. Among Christians as well, each community has a gift to offer to the others. The more we look beyond partisan interests and overcome the legacies of the past in the desire to move forward towards a common landing place, the more readily we will recognize, welcome and share these gifts.

We thus arrive at a third aspect that was at the centre of this Week of Prayer: hospitality. In the last chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke says, with regard to the inhabitants of Malta, “The natives showed us unusual kindness” (v. 2). The fire kindled on the shore to warm the shipwrecked travellers is a fine symbol of the human warmth that unexpectedly surrounded them. Even the governor of the island showed himself welcoming and hospitable to Paul, who repaid him by healing his father and later many other sick people (cf. vv. 7-9). Finally, when the Apostle and those with him departed for Italy, the Maltese generously resupplied them with provisions (v. 10).

From this Week of Prayer we want to learn to be more hospitable, in the first place among ourselves as Christians and among our brothers and sisters of different confessions.
Pope Francis Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 25.01.20
Hospitality belongs to the tradition of Christian communities and families. Our elders taught us this by their example: there was always something extra on the table of a Christian home for a passing friend or a person in need who knocked on the door. In monasteries a guest is treated with great respect, as if he or she were Christ. Let us not lose, indeed let us revive, these customs that have the flavour of the Gospel!

Dear brothers and sisters, with these thoughts I offer my cordial and fraternal greetings to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to His Grace Ian Ernest, the personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to all the representatives of the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities gathered here to conclude together the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I greet the students of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, who are visiting Rome to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic Church. I welcome too the young people of the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches who are studying on a scholarship from the Committee for Cultural Cooperation with the Orthodox Churches, under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, to whose members I extend my greetings and gratitude. Together, without ever tiring, let us continue to pray and to beg from God the gift of full unity among ourselves.

Pope Francis   29.06.20  Holy Mass, St Peter's Basilica   Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul Apostles   Acts 12: 1-11,   2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18,   Matthew 16: 13-19

Pope Francis Saints Peter and Paul 29.06.20

On the feast of the two Apostles of this City, I would like to share with you two key words: unity and prophecy.

Unity. We celebrate together two very different individuals: Peter, a fisherman who spent his days amid boats and nets, and Paul, a learned Pharisee who taught in synagogues. When they went forth on mission, Peter spoke to Jews, and Paul to pagans. And when their paths crossed, they could argue heatedly, as Paul is unashamed to admit in one of his letters (cf. Gal 2:11). In short, they were two very different people, yet they saw one another as brothers, as happens in close-knit families where there may be frequent arguments but unfailing love. Yet the closeness that joined Peter and Paul did not come from natural inclinations, but from the Lord. He did not command us to like one another, but to love one another. He is the one who unites us, without making us all alike. He unites us in our differences.

Today’s first reading brings us to the source of this unity. It relates how the newly born Church was experiencing a moment of crisis: Herod was furious, a violent persecution had broken out, and the Apostle James had been killed. And now Peter had been arrested. The community seemed headless, everyone fearing for his life. Yet at that tragic moment no one ran away, no one thought about saving his own skin, no one abandoned the others, but all joined in prayer. From prayer they drew strength, from prayer came a unity more powerful than any threat. The text says that, “while Peter was kept in prison, the Church prayed fervently to God for him” (Acts 12:5). Unity is the fruit of prayer, for prayer allows the Holy Spirit to intervene, opening our hearts to hope, shortening distances and holding us together at times of difficulty.

Let us notice something else: at that dramatic moment, no one complained about Herod’s evil and his persecution. No one abused Herod – and we are so accustomed to abuse those who are in charge. It is pointless, even tedious, for Christians to waste their time complaining about the world, about society, about everything that is not right. Complaints change nothing. Let us remember that complaining is the second door that closes us off from the Holy Spirit, as I said on Pentecost Sunday. The first is narcissism, the second discouragement, the third pessimism. Narcissism makes you look at yourself constantly in a mirror; discouragement leads to complaining and pessimism to thinking everything is dark and bleak. These three attitudes close the door to the Holy Spirit. Those Christians did not cast blame; rather, they prayed. In that community, no one said: “If Peter had been more careful, we would not be in this situation”. No one. Humanly speaking, there were reasons to criticize Peter, but no one criticized him. They did not complain about Peter; they prayed for him. They did not talk about Peter behind his back; they talked to God. We today can ask: “Are we protecting our unity, our unity in the Church, with prayer? Are we praying for one another?” What would happen if we prayed more and complained less, if we had a more tranquil tongue? The same thing that happened to Peter in prison: now as then, so many closed doors would be opened, so many chains that bind would be broken. We would be amazed, like the maid who saw Peter at the gate and did not open it, but ran inside, astonished by the joy of seeing Peter (cf. Acts 12:10-17). Let us ask for the grace to be able to pray for one another. Saint Paul urged Christians to pray for everyone, especially those who govern (cf. 1 Tim 2:1-3). “But this governor is…”, and there are many adjectives. I will not mention them, because this is neither the time nor the place to mention adjectives that we hear directed against those who govern. Let God judge them; let us pray for those who govern! Let us pray: for they need prayer. This is a task that the Lord has entrusted to us. Are we carrying it out? Or do we simply talk, abuse and do nothing? God expects that when we pray we will also be mindful of those who do not think as we do, those who have slammed the door in our face, those whom we find it hard to forgive. Only prayer unlocks chains, as it did for Peter; only prayer paves the way to unity.

Today we bless the pallia to be bestowed on the Dean of the College of Cardinals and the Metropolitan Archbishops named in the last year. The pallium is a sign of the unity between the sheep and the Shepherd who, like Jesus, carries the sheep on his shoulders, so as never to be separated from it. Today too, in accordance with a fine tradition, we are united in a particular way with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Peter and Andrew were brothers, and, whenever possible, we exchange fraternal visits on our respective feast days. We do so not only out of courtesy, but as a means of journeying together towards the goal that the Lord points out to us: that of full unity. We could not do so today because of the difficulty of travel due to the coronavirus, but when I went to venerate the remains of Peter, in my heart I felt my beloved brother Bartholomew. They are here, with us.

The second word is prophecy. Unity and prophecy. The Apostles were challenged by Jesus. Peter heard Jesus’ question: “Who do you say I am?” (cf. Mt 16:15). At that moment he realized that the Lord was not interested in what others thought, but in Peter’s personal decision to follow him. Paul’s life changed after a similar challenge from Jesus: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). The Lord shook Paul to the core: more than just knocking him to the ground on the road to Damascus, he shattered Paul’s illusion of being respectably religious. As a result, the proud Saul turned into Paul, a name that means “small”. These challenges and reversals are followed by prophecies: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18); and, for Paul: “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Prophecy is born whenever we allow ourselves to be challenged by God, not when we are concerned to keep everything quiet and under control. Prophecy is not born from my thoughts, from my closed heart. It is born if we allow ourselves to be challenged by God. When the Gospel overturns certainties, prophecy arises. Only someone who is open to God’s surprises can become a prophet. And there they are: Peter and Paul, prophets who look to the future. Peter is the first to proclaim that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). Paul, who considers his impending death: “From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord will award to me” (2 Tim 4:8).

Today we need prophecy, but real prophecy: not fast talkers who promise the impossible, but testimonies that the Gospel is possible. What is needed are not miraculous shows. It makes me sad when I hear someone say, “We want a prophetic Church”. All right. But what are you doing, so that the Church can be prophetic? We need lives that show the miracle of God’s love. Not forcefulness, but forthrightness. Not palaver, but prayer. Not speeches, but service. Do you want a prophetic Church? Then start serving and be quiet. Not theory, but testimony. We are not to become rich, but rather to love the poor. We are not to save up for ourselves, but to spend ourselves for others. To seek not the approval of this world, of being comfortable with everyone - here we say: “being comfortable with God and the devil”, being comfortable with everyone -; no, this is not prophecy. We need the joy of the world to come. Not better pastoral plans that seem to have their own self-contained efficiency, as if they were sacraments; efficient pastoral plans, no. We need pastors who offer their lives: lovers of God. That is how Peter and Paul preached Jesus, as men in love with God. At his crucifixion, Peter did not think about himself but about his Lord, and, considering himself unworthy of dying like Jesus, asked to be crucified upside down. Before his beheading, Paul thought only of offering his life; he wrote that he wanted to be “poured out like a libation” (2 Tim 4:6). That was prophecy. Not words. That was prophecy, the prophecy that changed history.

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus prophesied to Peter: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church”. There is a similar prophecy for us too. It is found in the last book of the Bible, where Jesus promises his faithful witnesses “a white stone, on which a new name is written” (Rev 2:17). Just as the Lord turned Simon into Peter, so he is calling each one of us, in order to make us living stones with which to build a renewed Church and a renewed humanity. There are always those who destroy unity and stifle prophecy, yet the Lord believes in us and he asks you: “Do you want to be a builder of unity? Do you want to be a prophet of my heaven on earth?” Brothers and sisters, let us be challenged by Jesus, and find the courage to say to him: “Yes, I do!”

Pope Francis   29.06.20  Angelus, St Peter's Square      Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul Apostles       Acts 12: 1-11,      Matthew 16: 13-19

Pope Francis Saints Peter and Paul 29.06.20 Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today we celebrate the patron saints of Rome, the Apostles Peter and Paul. And it is a gift to find ourselves praying here, near the place where Peter died a martyr and is buried. However, today's liturgy recalls an entirely different episode: it tells us that several years earlier Peter was freed from death. He had been arrested, he was in prison, and the Church, fearing for his life, prayed incessantly for him. Then an angel came down to free him from prison (cf. Acts 12:1-11). But years later, too, when Peter was a prisoner in Rome, the Church would certainly have prayed. On that occasion, however, his life was not spared. How come he was first spared the trial, and then not?

Because there is a journey in Peter's life that can illuminate the path of our own. The Lord granted him many graces and freed him from evil: He does this with us too. Indeed, often we go to Him only in moments of need, to ask for help. But God sees further and invites us to go further, to seek not only His gifts, but to look for Him, the Lord of all gifts; to entrust to Him not only our problems, but to entrust to Him our life. In this way He can finally give us the greatest grace, that of giving life. Yes, giving life. The most important thing in life is to make life a gift. And this is true for everyone: for parents towards their children and for children towards their elderly parents. And here many elderly people come to mind, who have been left alone by their family, as if - I dare say - as if they were discarded material. And this is a tragedy of our times: the solitude of the elderly. The life of children and grandchildren is not given as a gift to the elderly. Giving ourselves for those who are married and for those who are consecrated; it is true everywhere, at home and at work, and towards everyone close to us. God desires making us grow in giving: only in this way can we become great. We grow if we give ourselves to others. Look at Saint Peter: he did not become a hero because he was freed from prison, but because he gave his life here. His gift transformed a place of execution into the beautiful place of hope in which we find ourselves.

Here is what to ask of God: not only the grace of the moment, but the grace of life. Today’s Gospel shows us the very dialogue that changes Peter’s life. He hears Jesus ask him: “Who do you say I am?”. And he answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”. And Jesus continues, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah” (Mt 16: 16-17). Jesus says “blessed”, that is, literally, happy. You are happy for having said this. Take note: Jesus says You are blessed to Peter, who had said to Him, “You are the living God”. What is the secret of a blessed life, then, what is the secret of a happy life? Recognising Jesus, but Jesus as the living God, not like a statue. Because it is not important to know that Jesus was great in history, it is not so important to appreciate what He said or did; what matters is the place I give Him in my life, the place I give to Jesus in my heart. It is at this point that Simon hears Jesus say: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (v. 18). He was not called “Peter”, “rock”, because he was a solid and trustworthy man. No, he will make many mistakes afterwards, he was not so reliable, he will make many mistakes; he will even reach the point of denying the Master. But he chose to build his life on Jesus, the rock; not - as the text says - “on flesh and blood”, that is, on himself, on his capacities, but on Jesus (cf. v. 17), who is rock. And Jesus is the rock on which Simon became stone. We can say the same of the Apostle Paul, who gave himself totally to the Gospel, considering all the rest to be worthless, so as to earn Christ.

Today, before the Apostles, we can ask ourselves: “And I, how do I arrange my life? Do I think only of the needs of the moment or do I believe that my real need is Jesus, who makes me a gift? And how do I build life, on my capacities or on the living God?". May Our Lady, who entrusted everything to God, help us to put Him at the base of every day, and may she intercede for us so that, with the grace of God, we may make a gift of our life.