VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Every bishop is called to be “a servant of communion,” working tirelessly to overcome divisions so that differences become a treasure and not a source of conflict, Pope Francis said.
The Christian community should be “like a great mosaic in which every small piece joins with others as part of God’s one great plan,” the pope said on 29 June as he celebrated the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul and bestowed the pallium on 34 archbishops from 19 countries.
The pallium is a woolen band that symbolizes an archbishop’s unity with the pope and his authority and responsibility to care for the flock the pope entrusted to him. Archbishops wear the pallium around their shoulders over their liturgical vestments when celebrating the liturgy in their regions. A pope also wears one, although his is marked with red crosses, while an archbishop’s has black crosses.
The archbishops, named in the past year, included: U.S. Archbishops Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco; Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis; Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Ore.; and Michael O. Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa; Canadian Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin-Le Pas, Manitoba; and U.S.-born Archbishop Gintaras Grusas of Vilnius, Lithuania.
Only seven of the 34 were named archbishops by Pope Francis, who was elected in March. The first of Pope Francis’ archbishops was his successor as head of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Archbishop Mario Poli.
Wearing red vestments to mark the feast of the martyred Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis said the role he and the bishops have in the church must be founded on faith in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit.
“Whenever we let our thoughts, our feelings or the logic of human power prevail, and we do not let ourselves be taught and guided by faith, by God, we become stumbling blocks,” he told the archbishops during the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Faith in Christ is the light of our life as Christians and as ministers in the church.”
St. Paul spoke about “fighting the good fight,” which “is not one of those fights fought with human weapons which sadly continue to cause bloodshed throughout the world,” the pope said. The “good fight” of a Christian is giving one’s entire life to serving the Gospel.
“The bishop of Rome himself is called to live and confirm his brothers and sisters in this love for Christ and for all others, without distinction, limits or barriers,” he said.
Pope Francis said that when he gave the archbishops their palliums as a sign of communion, it was not a request for uniformity or for ignoring the differences that made the Mass a reminder of Pentecost, when people of every language and nation heard the disciples speaking their own language.
“This should inspire us to work always to overcome every conflict which wounds the body of the church,” the pope said at the Mass with a delegation from the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople seated near the altar and the Lutheran St. Thomas Boys Choir from Leipzig, Germany, singing.
“United in our differences: there is no other Catholic path for unity,” Pope Francis said. “This is the Catholic spirit, the Christian spirit, this is the way of Jesus.”
In the only improvised section of his homily, Pope Francis returned to a theme he had spoken about several times in late June: the need to find ways to better demonstrate and make concrete the common responsibility all bishops, working with the pope, hold for the universal church.
The Second Vatican Council, he said, recognized that Jesus “established the apostles as a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from their number.”
“The Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the primacy (of the pope) — we must go forward on this path of synodality,” the pope said. “The pallium, while being a sign of communion with the bishop of Rome, with the universal church and with the Synod of Bishops, also commits each of you to being a servant of communion.”
At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis and Orthodox Metropolitan John of Pergamon, leader of the patriarchate’s delegation, descended the stairs under the main altar to pray together at the tomb of St. Peter. During his Angelus address, the pope asked pilgrims to join him in reciting a Hail Mary for Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
The feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, who founded the church in Rome, is a holiday in the city and thousands of Romans joined pilgrims after Mass in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus.
The pope told them the church in Rome became a reference point for Christians around the world “not because of the power of the Empire, but because of the strength of the martyrdom” of the two apostles. “It is always and only love for Christ that generates faith and moves the church forward.”
Pope Francis welcomed all the pilgrims who had traveled with their archbishops for the Mass, but he had special words for the flock of Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, Central African Republic, where rebels seized power in March and violence has continued.
The pope said he wanted to “encourage the Central African people, who are harshly tried, to walk with faith and hope.”