July 2, 2024

Open the Church’s doors to evangelization, pope tells new archbishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS)—While Jesus entrusted St. Peter with the keys to the kingdom more than two millennia ago, and his modern-day successor conferred apostolic authority to newly appointed archbishops on June 29, it is ultimately God who holds the power to open the Church’s doors and lead the Christian community forward in its mission of evangelization, Pope Francis said.

In his homily during Mass for the feast of SS. Peter and Paul on June 29, the pope reflected on the Apostle Peter’s liberation from prison after an angel opened his cell. The pope said God “is the one who sets us free and opens the way before us” .

He also noted that the Christians Peter sought out after his liberation did not believe he was knocking at their door, mistaking him for an angel.

“This point is significant: the doors of the prison were opened by the Lord’s strength, but Peter then found it hard to enter the house of the Christian community,” he said. “How many times have communities not learned this wisdom of the need to open the doors!”

Before 33 newly appointed archbishops gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica to receive their palliums—woolen bands worn by archbishops to symbolize their pastoral authority and unity with the pope—Pope Francis underscored the model of St. Paul as one who “discovers the grace of weakness.

“When we are weak, he tells us, it is then that we are strong, because we no longer rely on ourselves, but on Christ,” the pope said.

Yet he explained that relying on Christ “does not lead to a consoling, inward-looking religiosity like that found in a few movements in the Church today,” noting instead that St. Paul’s encounter with God ignited within him “a burning zeal for evangelization.”

Both SS. Peter and Paul “witnessed firsthand the work of God, who opened the doors of their interior prisons but also the actual prisons into which they were thrown because of the Gospel,” he said, as well as the “doors of evangelization, so they could have the joy of encountering their brothers and sisters in the fledgling communities and bring the hope of the Gospel to all.”

After the entrance procession, deacons brought out the palliums from the tomb of St. Peter for Pope Francis to bless them. The palliums, made from the wool of lambs blessed by the pope on the feast of St. Agnes—who is often depicted with a lamb to symbolize purity—emphasize the role of the archbishop as a pastor who guides and protects his flock.

Pope Francis remained seated during the Mass—Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re,

dean of the College of Cardinals, was the main celebrant at the altar—but stood during the sign of peace to greet Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel Adamakis of Chalcedon, who attended the Mass as part of a delegation from the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Among the 33 archbishops were Archbishop Christopher J. Coyne of Hartford, Conn., (formerly an auxiliary bishop and apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis) and Archbishop Thomas R. Zinkula of Dubuque, Iowa.

Archbishop Coyne said increased societal division has found its way into the Church, but said that the chair of St. Peter remains as a “symbol of unity” for Catholics, “irregardless of who sits in it.”

As a result, the Church’s pastors are called to be “unifiers,” the archbishop told CNS. “People are feeling isolated, that’s why we want to bring them to communion. People are feeling angry and feel they have meaningless lives, that’s why we want to have them know the full meaning of life, which is in Jesus Christ.

“Everything we do as Christians, especially as Catholics, should never be anything that leads to division, anger,” but rather action that “brings us together as brothers and sisters,” Archbishop Coyne said. †

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