VATICAN CITY - The church wants pastors who are unafraid of
persecution, are angels of hope and charity, and are
convincing witnesses with a life rooted in prayer and the
Gospel, Pope Francis told new archbishops.
"It's quite simple, because the most effective and authentic
witness is one that does not contradict, by behavior and
lifestyle," what one preaches and teaches, he said during a
Mass celebrating the feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul June 29.
Forty-six archbishops representing 34 countries, who were
named over the course of the last year, were invited to come
to Rome to concelebrate the feast day Mass with Pope Francis.
Among those invited to concelebrate were Archbishops John C.
Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico; Blase J. Cupich of Chicago;
Denis Grondin of Rimouski, Quebec; Anthony Fisher of Sydney;
Eamon Martin of Armagh, Northern Ireland; and Kieran O'Reilly
of Cashel and Emly, Ireland.
This year, however, the pope set aside an element that had
been part of the Mass for the past 32 years, by no longer
conferring the pallium on new archbishops during the liturgy.
The archbishops were to be present for the pope's blessing of
the palliums in order to underline their bond of unity and
communion with him. But the actual imposition of the woolen
band was to take place in the archbishop's archdiocese in the
presence of his faithful and bishops from neighboring
The change was meant to better "highlight the relationship of
the metropolitan archbishops with their local churches,
giving more faithful the possibility of being present for
this significant rite," Msgr. Guido Marini, papal master of
liturgical ceremonies, said in January.
During his blessing of the palliums, Pope Francis said the
woolen bands that will be worn over their shoulders symbolize
the "yoke" of the Gospel as well as their call to be
shepherds dedicated to the pastoral care of their people.
During his homily, the pope said the first reading from the
Acts of the Apostles recalled the harsh persecution faced by
the early Christians.
"However, I do not wish to dwell on these atrocious, inhuman
and incomprehensible persecutions, sadly still present in
many parts of the world today," often happening right in
front of everyone's eyes and meeting with complete silence,
Instead, the pope said he wanted to "pay homage to" these
courageous Christians who evangelized fearlessly in a pagan
culture; they are, he said, models for Christians today, and
a "powerful call to prayer, to faith and to witness."
A church rooted in prayer is strong, solid and moves forward,
while Christians who pray are protected and never alone, he
It is through prayer that believers express their faith and
trust in God, and directly experience his closeness,
especially when he sends angels of hope, the pope said.
"How many angels he places on our path" to offer comfort, aid
and enlightenment, he said; yet fear, skepticism and
distractions, or "euphoria" keep people from recognizing them
or letting them into their life.
The early Christians call people today to be people of faith,
who understand that God does not remove people from the world
or evil, "but he does grant them the strength to prevail."
"How many forces in the course of history have tried, and
they still do, to destroy the church, from without as well as
within, but they themselves are destroyed and the church
remains alive and fruitful," the pope said.
"Only God remains," while everything else - like, empires,
cultures, ideologies and nations - passes.
"The church does not belong to popes, bishops, priests or the
lay faithful; the church in every moment belongs solely to
Christ," he said, and this is how, despite the many "storms"
in time and sins of its members, the church is able to remain
"ever faithful to the deposit of faith shown in service."
It is by acting only in the name of Christ, not on one's own
behalf, that Christians have shown that no power can defeat
those who have the power of faith, he said.
"Only the one who lives in Christ promotes and defends the
church by holiness in life, after the example of Peter and
Paul," he said.
In fact, the call to be firm witnesses is key, the pope said,
because without witness, the church and its members are
sterile and dead - "like a dried up tree that produces no
fruit, an empty well that offers no water."
Evil is overcome by "the courageous, concrete and humble
witness," he said.
Pope Francis then told the archbishops that he hoped the
pallium, which is meant to symbolize both their unity with
pope and their authority and responsibility to care for the
flock entrusted to them, would also remind them of this call
to prayer, faith and witness.
"The church wants you to be men of prayer," faith and
witness, who can show people that "liberation from all forms
of imprisonment is uniquely God's work and the fruit of
prayer" as well as teach people "to not be frightened of the
many Herods" who persecute them.
"For those most in need, may you also be angels and
messengers of charity," the pope told the new archbishops.
The pope asked that they be courageous, "convinced and
convincing" witnesses, whose lifestyles matched the Gospel
message and their preaching, and who "are not ashamed of the
name of Christ and of his cross, not before the roaring
lions, or before the powers of this world."
As is customary, an Orthodox delegation from the Ecumenical
Patriarchate of Constantinople attended the Mass for the
feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patrons of the Vatican and
the city of Rome.
After the liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis
walked side-by-side with Metropolitan John of Pergamon, head
of the delegation, down the stairs under the main altar to
pray together over St. Peter's tomb.