By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic Press Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As Sts. Peter and Paul, the Church must go out to evangelize and not be bound by the chains of routine and spiritual mediocrity that suffocate the Gospel message, Pope Francis said.
Sometimes Christians can get lazy and “prefer to sit down and contemplate the few sure things we have, rather than get up and look to new horizons, to the open sea,” the pope said during his homily at Mass for the Feast of Saints. Peter and Paul June 29.
Nevertheless, the upcoming synod of bishops on synodality is a call for the Church not to be “withdrawn into itself, but able to move forward, to come out of its own prisons and to go out to meet of the world,” the pope said.
Christians are called to be a “free and humble church, which ‘rises up quickly’ and does not stall or linger over the challenges of the present time; a church that does not linger in its hallowed grounds, but is driven by enthusiasm for the preaching of the gospel and a desire to meet and accept everyone,” he said.
Pope Francis, who continues to recover from knee problems, presided over the Liturgy of the Word, the first part of Mass. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Dean of the College of Cardinals, presided over the liturgy of the Eucharist.
The feast day celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica included the traditional blessing of the pallium, the woolen band that heads of archdioceses wear around their shoulders over their mass vestments.
The pallium symbolizes an archbishop’s unity with the pope and his authority and responsibility to care for the flock entrusted to him by the pope. The pope blesses the palliums after they have been brought up from the crypt above the tomb of Saint Peter.
According to the Vatican, 44 archbishops from 32 countries who have been appointed in the past 12 months were to receive the palliums, including: US Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre of Louisville; Mexican Archbishop Jorge Patrón Wong of Jalapa; Irish Archbishop Francis Duffy of Tuam; Scottish Archbishop William Nolan of Glasgow; and French Archbishop Laurent Ulrich of Paris.
As has become common practice, Pope Francis did not confer the pallium on new archbishops during the liturgy, but instead blessed the palliums after they were taken from the crypt above the tomb of St. Rock.
As each archbishop approached him near the altar, the pope handed each a small wooden box tied with a thin gold ribbon. The actual imposition of the woolen band was to take place in the archbishop’s archdiocese in the presence of his followers and the bishops of neighboring dioceses.
Speaker of the United States House, Nancy Pelosi, and her husband, Paul, were among those present at the mass.
In his homily, the Pope referred to the first reading of the day from the Acts of the Apostles, which recounts the arrest of Peter by King Herod.
Just like Peter, who was imprisoned and freed from his chains by an angel, Christians are also called “to rise quickly, to enter into the mystery of the resurrection, and to allow themselves to be guided by the Lord on the paths He wants to indicate to us.
However, he added, “sometimes as a church we are overwhelmed by laziness; we prefer to sit down and contemplate the few sure things that we have, rather than to get up and look towards new horizons, towards the open sea. Often we are like Peter chained, imprisoned by our habits, afraid of change and bound to the chains of our routine.
Instead, the pope continued, the Church is called to be “without chains or walls”, where everyone “can feel welcomed and accompanied, a church where listening, dialogue and participation are cultivated under the sole authority of the Holy Spirit”.
Starting from his prepared remarks, the pope stressed the need for the Church to welcome “the blind, the deaf, the lame, the sick, the just, the sinners; everybody.”
“Everyone, everyone! This word of the Lord must resound in the mind and in the heart,” he said. “In the church, there is room for everyone! And many times we become a church with open doors but to say goodbye to people, to condemn people.
“Yesterday,” he said, addressing the archbishops, “one of you told me that for the Church, it’s not the time for farewells, it’s the time for welcoming. If they didn’t come to the banquet, come out to the streets,” he added.
To become a more “humane, just and supportive” Church, Pope Francis has said Christians must avoid withdrawing “into our ecclesial circles and getting stuck in some of our fruitless debates”, and instead help each other to become the “leaven in the dough of this world.”
Speaking off the cuff, the pope warned of the dangers of “falling into clericalism.”
“Clericalism is a perversion; the minister who behaves in a clerical manner has taken a wrong course. The clerical laity are even worse. We must be alert to this perversion of clericalism,” he said.
Addressing the archbishops appointed over the past year, Pope Francis encouraged them to be “vigilant sentinels” over their flock and to “”fight the good fight”, never alone, but with all the holy people and faithful of God”.
“As good shepherds, you must be before the people, among the people and behind the people,” the pope said, “but always with God’s faithful holy people.”
In keeping with a long tradition, a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, led by Orthodox Archbishop Job of Telmessos, attended the mass, together with the choir of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Georgia.
Due to knee pain, the pope was unable to descend the stairs below the main altar to pray at the tomb of St. Peter. Instead, the Pope and the Orthodox Archbishop stood above the steps and bowed their heads in prayer.