Saint Peter and Saint Paul icon written by Susan Kelly vonMedicus. Icon in the private collection of Archbishop Raymond Burke, formerly Archbishop of Saint Louis, currently Dean of the Apostolic Signatura, Rome.Image used with the gracious permission of the artist.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Throughout the Universal Church, we are constantly reminded of the heroic attributes each man dedicated towards the spread of the Gospel to the entire world.

Saint Peter, the Prince of the Apostles and the Christologically bestowed head of the Church gives us a great example of human weaknesses transformed into great accomplishments of his successful preaching and ministry, initially to the Judaic followers of Jesus and finally to the entire Roman Empire. His martyrdom at Rome illustrates the unwavering faith Peter maintained in the mystery of Jesus’ Paschal Mystery and inspired Gospel message.

Saint Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles presents an equally “larger than life” image of a man that experienced the power of the Gospel’s conversion through his own transformation from a persecutor of the Christian faith to one of the greatest influences on the entire course of Catholicism and its spread throughout the world.

In a modern world, that easily transports messages and information throughout the world in literally seconds, the massive evangelical success of both Saint Peter and Saint Paul is unsurpassed by their travels, teachings and ministry to both heirs to the covenant of Abraham and the covenant of Jesus on the cross.

Petrine and Pauline traditions are the fundamental cornerstone that influences the continuation of the Apostolic ministry of Peter’s Successor, Pope Benedict XVI. Since the death of both pillars of the Church, Peter and Paul, the Vicar of Christ has consistently applied and spread the teachings of the Apostles to the ends of the entire earth. Today in Rome the Pope celebrates the true universality of the Church’s missionary and apostolic teachings with the imposition of pallia upon forty nine metropolitan archbishops, that are united all over the world to the manifestation of Saint Peter and Saint Paul’s legacy in the foundation and continuation of the Church of Rome.

Throughout the centuries, the Universal Church has celebrated the exceptional Gospel witness of both of these great men. Both Saints Peter and Saint Paul are continued illustrations of the desire for Christian unity the Church seeks throughout the ministry of both Eastern and Western representations of the Catholic faith. This hope for restored unity is indicated by the presence of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople at Saint Peter’s in Rome to share in the Liturgy of the Word with Peter’s Successor and witness the Catholic Liturgy of the Eucharist. Pope Benedict since the inception of his Petrine ministry continuously presents every opportunity for East and West to heal the schismatic wounds that have separated the Roman Church and the Church of Constantinople sine 1054. Ecumenical progress and modern history are being initiated with the joint participation of His Holiness Benedict XVI and His Beatitude the Metropolitan Patriarch. As Catholics, we continuously hope and pray for juridical and sacramental reunion with our distressed brothers and sisters of the Eastern Church.

Benedict also imposes the pallia on new archbishops today. The pallium is a symbol of a metropolitan archbishops union with the Successor of Saint Peter. The most ancient traditions of the Church always recall this universal symbolism of doctrinal and legislative unity with the Bishop of Rome. It is especially notable that Benedict XVI is wearing a different form of the pallium than which we are accustomed. However, the modification of this sign and symbol of authority and unity indicates Benedict’s constant desire to achieve the continuity of hermeneutics throughout the Universal Church. Clearly, the change in papal vesture indicates the Church has very many methods of indicating its sacramental and theological message through multitudes of sacred signs and symbols. The uniquely different methodologies of Saint Peter and Saint Paul are great examples of the plurality of the Universal Church’s methodology in catechesis and evangelization; however, the theological essence is always the same.

Today is also a Solemnity all members of the Church should celebrate with great devotion and attention. It shows the true and essential diversity that exists liturgically and legislatively in both Eastern and Western branches of our faith. Different in liturgical expressions, but united in doctrinal beliefs. Perhaps the inclusion of the Patriarch of Constantinople at today’s celebration of the Catholic liturgy will offer a kairotic moment towards reunification so that the words of Jesus might be fulfilled, “That they may be one!”

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist that writes on Catholic topics and issues. Hugh studied both philosophy and theology at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He writes daily at: http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com & http://catholicsacredarts.com & http://pewsitter.com He writes about Irish Catholic experiences  at http://graysferrygrapevine.blogspot.com Comments are always welcome @ hugh.mcnichol@trinettc.com

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