VATICAN CITY, 28 JUN 2010 (VIS) - This evening in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Holy Father presided at first Vespers for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul Apostles.
The ceremony was attended by a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, sent by His Holiness Bartholomew I and composed of His Eminence Gennadios (Limouris), metropolitan of Sassima; His Eminence Bartholomaios (Ioannis Kessidis), bishop of Arianzos and assistant to the metropolitan of Germany, and Deacon Theodoros Meimaris of the patriarchal see of Fanar.
In his homily the Pope reflected on the Church's missionary vocation. He began by recalling how Servant of God Giovanni Battista Montini, when elected as Peter's Successor, "chose the name of the Apostle of the Gentiles". In the year 1974 "he called an assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme of evangelisation in the modern world, and about a year later published the Apostolic Exhortation 'Evangelii nuntiandi'".
Turning then to consider the figure of the Venerable John Paul II, Benedict XVI highlighted how, "with his apostolic trips and the insistence of his Magisterium on the urgent need for a 'new evangelisation', he was the living embodiment of the missionary nature of the Church. ... It is obvious to everyone that my predecessor gave extraordinary impulse to the mission of the Church, not only because of the distances he covered, but above all because of the genuine missionary spirit that moved him and that he left us as inheritance at the dawn of the third millennium.
"Taking up this inheritance", the Pope added, "at the beginning of my Petrine ministry I affirmed that the Church is young, she is open to the future. And I repeat as much today at the tomb of St. Paul: the Church is an immense force for renewal in the world, not by her own power but by the power of the Gospel".
"The challenges of the present are certainly beyond human capacities", said the Holy Father. "Not only is there physical hunger, there is also a more profound hunger which only God can satisfy. Man in the third millennium also seeks an authentic and full life; he needs truth, profound freedom and gratuitous love. Even in the deserts of the secularised world man's soul thirsts for God, for the living God".
Benedict XVI pointed out that "there are regions of the world that still await their first evangelization while others have already received it but need more profound attention. In others again, the Gospel has long standing roots and has given rise to an authentic Christian tradition but - over recent centuries and following complex dynamics - the process of secularisation has led to a serious crisis of meaning in Christian faith and in membership of the Church".
And he went on: "It is in this perspective that I have decided to create a new organisation, in the form of a Pontifical Council, with the fundamental task of promoting renewed evangelization in countries where the first announcement of the faith has already been heard and where there are Churches of ancient foundation, but where a progressive secularisation of society is being experienced, a kind of 'eclipse of the meaning of God'". These countries, he said, "are a challenge to us to find the adequate means to re-present the perennial truth of the Gospel of Christ".
The Holy Father concluded by affirming that "the challenge of the new evangelization calls to the universal Church, it asks us to remain committed to the search for full unity among Christians. In this context, one eloquent sign of hope are the reciprocal visits between the Churches of Rome and of Constantinople on the feasts of their respective patrons. For this reason we today welcome, with renewed joy and recognition, the delegation sent by Patriarch Bartholomew I".
Posted by Association of Pauline Cooperators