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Monday, February 20, 2012


Vatican City, 19 February 2012 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican Basilica, Benedict XVI presided at a Eucharistic concelebration with the twenty-two cardinals created in yesterday's consistory. At the beginning of the ceremony, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, addressed a greeting to the Pope in the name of all the new cardinals.

Extracts from the Holy Father's homily are given below:

"In the second reading that we have just heard, St. Peter exhorts the “elders” of the Church to be zealous pastors, attentive to the flock of Christ. These words are addressed in the first instance to you. ... The new dignity that has been conferred upon you is intended to show appreciation for the faithful labour you have carried out in the Lord’s vineyard, to honour the communities and nations from which you come and which you represent so worthily in the Church, to invest you with new and more important ecclesial responsibilities and finally to ask of you an additional readiness to be of service to Christ and to the entire Christian community. This readiness to serve the Gospel is firmly founded upon the certitude of faith".

"Today’s Gospel passage presents Peter, under divine inspiration, expressing his own firm faith in Jesus as the Son of God and the promised Messiah. In response to this transparent profession of faith, which Peter makes in the name of the other Apostles as well, Christ reveals to him the mission He intends to entrust to him, namely that of being the “rock”, the visible foundation on which the entire spiritual edifice of the Church is built. ... This Gospel episode ... finds a further and more eloquent explanation in one of the most famous artistic treasures of this Vatican Basilica: the altar of the Chair. After passing through the magnificent central nave, and continuing past the transepts, the pilgrim arrives in the apse and sees before him an enormous bronze throne that seems to hover in mid air, but in reality is supported by the four statues of great Fathers of the Church from East and West. And above the throne, surrounded by triumphant angels suspended in the air, the glory of the Holy Spirit shines through the oval window. ... It represents a vision of the essence of the Church and the place within the Church of the Petrine Magisterium.

"The window of the apse opens the Church towards the outside, towards the whole of creation, while the image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove shows God as the source of light. But there is also another aspect to point out: the Church herself is like a window, the place where God draws near to us, where He comes towards our world. The Church does not exist for her own sake, she is not the point of arrival, but she has to point upwards, beyond herself, to the realms above. The Church is truly herself to the extent that she allows the Other, with a capital “O”, to shine through her - the One from Whom she comes and to Whom she leads. The Church is the place where God “reaches” us and where we “set off” towards Him: she has the task of opening up, beyond itself, a world which tends to become enclosed within itself, the task of bringing to the world the light that comes from above, without which it would be uninhabitable.

"The great bronze throne encloses a wooden chair from the ninth century, which was long thought to be St. Peter’s own chair and was placed above this monumental altar because of its great symbolic value. It expresses the permanent presence of the Apostle in the Magisterium of his successors. St. Peter’s chair, we could say, is the throne of truth which takes its origin from Christ’s commission".

"The chair of Peter evokes another memory: the famous expression from St. Ignatius of Antioch’s letter to the Romans, where he says of the Church of Rome that she “presides in charity”. In truth, presiding in faith is inseparably linked to presiding in love. Faith without love would no longer be an authentic Christian faith. ... The word “charity”, in fact, was also used by the early Church to indicate the Eucharist. ... Therefore, to “preside in charity” is to draw men and women into a Eucharistic embrace - the embrace of Christ - which surpasses every barrier and every division, creating communion from all manner of differences. The Petrine ministry is therefore a primacy of love in the Eucharistic sense, that is to say solicitude for the universal communion of the Church in Christ. And the Eucharist is the shape and the measure of this communion, a guarantee that it will remain faithful to the criterion of the tradition of the faith.

"The great Chair is supported by the Fathers of the Church". They "represent the whole of the tradition, and hence the richness of expression of the true faith of the holy and one Church. This aspect of the altar teaches us that love rests upon faith. Love collapses if man no longer trusts in God and disobeys Him. Everything in the Church rests upon faith: the Sacraments, the liturgy, evangelisation, charity. Likewise the law and the Church’s authority rest upon faith. The Church is not self-regulating, she does not determine her own structure but receives it from the word of God, to which she listens in faith as she seeks to understand it and to live it. ... The Sacred Scriptures, authoritatively interpreted by the Magisterium in the light of the Fathers, shed light upon the Church’s journey through time, providing her with a stable foundation amid the vicissitudes of history.

"After considering the various elements of the altar of the Chair, let us take a look at it in its entirety. We see that it is characterised by a twofold movement: ascending and descending. This is the reciprocity between faith and love. ... A selfish faith would be an unreal faith. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ and enters into the dynamic of love that finds its source in the Eucharist, discovers true joy and becomes capable in turn of living according to the logic of this gift. True faith is illumined by love and leads towards love, leads on high, just as the altar of the Chair points upwards towards the luminous window, the glory of the Holy Spirit, which constitutes the true focus for the pilgrim’s gaze as he crosses the threshold of the Vatican Basilica. ... God is not isolation, but glorious and joyful love, spreading outwards and radiant with light".

"The gift of this love has been entrusted to us, to every Christian. It is a gift to be passed on to others, through the witness of our lives. This is your task in particular, dear brother cardinals: to bear witness to the joy of Christ’s love".

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