What follows is the translation made available by ZENIT of the important speech given by the Holy at the Seminary of the Diocese of Rome on Febuary 14th (pointed out by Rorate Caeli). The Holy Father argues against historical critics who have tried to discredit the idea of Peter as the first bishop of Rome: “Saint Peter writes from Rome. It is important that we already have the Bishop of Rome, we have the beginning of the succession, we have already the beginning of the concrete primacy located in Rome, not only consigned by the Lord, but located here, in this city, in this capital of the world.”
The reflection draws from 1 Peter 1:3-5: “Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
It is a great joy for me to be with you every year, to see so many young men who walk toward the priesthood, who are attentive to the voice of the Lord, who wish to follow this voice and seek the way to serve the Lord in this our time.
We heard three verses of the First Letter of Saint Peter (cf. 1:3-5). Before going into this text, it seems important to me to be attentive to the fact that it is Peter who is speaking. The first two words of the Letter are “Petrus apostolus” (cf. v. 1): he speaks, and he speaks to the Churches in Asia and calls the faithful “chosen and exiles of the Dispersion” (ibidem). Let us reflect a bit on this. Peter speaks, and he speaks – as we hear at the end of the Letter – of Rome, which he calls “Babylon” (cf. 5:13). Peter speaks: it is almost a first encyclical, with which the first Apostle, vicar of Christ, speaks to the Church of all times.
Peter, apostle. Hence, he speaks who has found Christ Jesus the Messiah of God, who has spoken as the first in the name of the future Church: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (cf. Matthew 16:16). He is speaking who has introduced us to this faith. He speaks to whom the Lord said: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (cf. Matthew 16:19), to whom he entrusted his flock after the Resurrection, saying to him three times: “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep” (cf. John 21:15-17). Speaking also is the man who fell, who denied Jesus and who had the grace to see Jesus’ glance, to be touched in his heart and to have found forgiveness and a renewal of his mission. However, it is important that this man, full of passion, of desire for God, of desire for the kingdom of God, for the Messiah, that this man who found Jesus, the Lord and the Messiah, is also the man who sinned, who fell, and yet he remained under the eyes of the Lord and thus remains responsible for the Church of God, he remains entrusted by Christ to be the bearer of his love.
Peter the apostle is speaking, but the exegetes tell us: it is not possible that this Letter is of Peter, because the Greek is so good that it cannot be the Greek of a fisherman of the Lake of Galilee. And not only the language, the structure of the language is optimal, but also the thought is now quite mature, there are already concrete formulas in which the faith and the reflection of the Church is condensed. Hence, they say: it is already a state of development that cannot be Peter’s. How to respond? There are two important positions: first, Peter himself – namely the Letter – which gives us a key because at the end of the writing he says: “I have written to you through Silvanus – by Silvanus.” This through [by] can mean several things: it can mean that he [Silvanus] transports, transmits; it can mean that he helped in the writing; it can mean that he was really the practical writer. In any case, we can conclude that the Letter itself tells us that Peter was not alone in writing this Letter, but expresses the faith of a Church that is already on the path of faith, an ever more mature faith. He does not write by himself, an isolated individual, he writes with the help of the Church, of the persons who help to deepen the faith, to enter into the profundity of its thought, of its reasonableness, of its profundity. And this is very important: Peter does not speak as an individual, he speaks ex persona Ecclesiae, he speaks as man of the Church, certainly as a person, with his personal responsibility, but also as a person who speaks in the name of the Church: not just his private ideas, not as a genius of the 19th century who wished to express only personal, original ideas, which no one was able to express before. No. He does not speak as an individualistic genius, but speaks in fact in the communion of the Church. In Revelation, in the initial vision of Christ, it is said that the voice of Christ is the sound of many waters (cf. Revelation 1:15). This means that the voice of Christ gathers all the waters of the world, he bears in himself all the living waters that give life to the world; he is Person, but in fact this is the greatness of the Lord, who bears in himself the whole river of the Old Testament, in fact of the wisdom of the peoples. And what is said here about the Lord is true, in another way, also for the apostle, who does not wish to say his own word, but really bears in himself the waters of the faith, the waters of the whole Church, and thus, in fact, of fertility, of fecundity and precisely because of this, he is a personal witness that opens to the Lord, and so becomes open and wide. Therefore, this is important. Continue reading