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Benedict XVI's Homily for Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

6/30/2005 - 5:00 AM PST

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"Catholicity and Unity Go Together"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the homily delivered by Benedict XVI at Wednesday's Mass for the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, founders and patrons of the Church in Rome.

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The feast of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul is at once a grateful memorial of great witnesses of Jesus Christ and a solemn confession in favor of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. It is above all a feast of catholicity. The sign of Pentecost -- the new community that speaks in all tongues and unites all peoples in one people, in one family of God -- became a reality.

Our liturgical assembly, in which are gathered bishops from all parts of the world, people of many cultures and nations, is an image of the family of the Church spread over the whole earth. Strangers have become friends; beyond all borders, we recognize ourselves as brothers. With this, the mission of St. Paul has been fulfilled, who knew how "to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles ... so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:16).

The aim of the mission is a humanity that has itself become a living glorification of God, the true worship that God expects: This is the most profound meaning of catholicity -- a catholicity that has already been given to us and toward which we must continue to orient ourselves. Catholicity does not express only a horizontal dimension, the coming together of many people in unity; it also expresses a vertical dimension: only by turning our gaze to God, only by opening ourselves to him can we truly become only one.

Like Paul, Peter also came to Rome, the city that was the place of convergence of all peoples and which precisely because of this could become the first of all expressions of the universality of the Gospel. Undertaking the journey from Jerusalem to Rome, Peter surely felt himself guided by the voices of the prophets, by the faith and by the prayer of Israel.

Also a part of the proclamation of the Old Covenant is, in fact, the mission to the whole world: The People of Israel were destined to be light to the Gentiles. The great psalm of the Passion, Psalm 21, whose first verse "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Jesus pronounced on the cross, ended with the vision: "All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him" (Psalm 21:28). When Peter and Paul came to Rome the Lord, who invoked that psalm on the cross, was risen; this victory of God would now have to be proclaimed to all peoples, thus fulfilling the promise with which the psalm concluded.

Catholicity means universality -- multiplicity that becomes unity; unity that still remains multiplicity. From Paul's word on the universality of the Church we already saw that part of this unity is the capacity of peoples to overcome themselves, to look toward the one God.

The true founder of Catholic theology, St. Irenaeus of Lyon, expressed this link between catholicity and unity in a very beautiful way: "This doctrine and this faith the Church, disseminated throughout the world, guards diligently, forming almost one single family: the same faith with only one soul and one heart, the same preaching, teaching, tradition as if having one voice. Churches of Germany do not have a different faith or tradition, as neither do those of Spain, of Gaul, of Egypt, of Libya, of the East, of the center of the earth, as the sun creature of God is only one and identical in the whole world, so the light of true preaching shines everywhere and enlightens all men who wish to come to the cognition of truth" ("Adversus Haereses" I, 10,2).

The unity of men in their multiplicity became possible because God, this one God of heaven and earth, showed himself to us; because the essential truth of our life, of our "from where?" and "to where?", became visible when he showed himself to us and in Jesus Christ made us see his face, himself. This truth of the essence of our being, of our living and our dying, truth that by God was made visible, unites us and makes us become brothers. Catholicity and unity go together. And unity has a content: the faith that the apostles transmitted to us on behalf of Christ.

I am happy that yesterday -- on the feast of St. Irenaeus and the vigil of the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul -- I was able to give to the Church a new guide for the transmission of the faith, which helps us to know better as well as to live better the faith that unites us: the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What in the large Catechism, through the testimonies of the saints of all centuries and with the reflections matured in theology, is presented in a detailed manner, is here recapitulated in its essential ...

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