John Paul II and Cathedra Petri

Pope St. John Paul II



Thursday, 22 February 2001
Feast of Saint Peter’s Chair

1. “‘Who do you say that I am?’. Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God'” (Mt 16: 15-16).

This conversation between Christ and his disciples, which we have just heard again, is always relevant to the life of the Church and of Christians. At every moment in her history, especially those which are the most decisive, Jesus questions his followers and, after asking them what “people” think of him, he narrows the field and asks them:  “But who do you say that I am?”.

We heard this question echoing in the background throughout the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. And every day the Church has ceaselessly replied in a unanimous profession of faith:  “You are the Christ, the Saviour of the world, yesterday, today and for ever”. A universal answer, in which the voices of the Pastors and faithful of the whole People of God are one with the voice of Peter’s Successor.

2. One solemn confession of faith:  You are the Christ! This confession of faith is the great gift which the Church offers the world at the beginning of the third millennium, as she ventures upon the “vast ocean” that lies before her (cf. Novo millennium ineunte, n. 58). Today’s celebration highlights the role of Peter and his Successors in steering the barque of the Church across this “ocean”. It is therefore very significant that at this liturgical celebration the College of Cardinals is beside the Pope together with the new Cardinals created yesterday at the first Consistory since the Great Jubilee.

Let us thank God together for founding his Church on the rock of Peter. As the opening prayer suggests, let us pray intensely that amid the upheavals of the world, she may not be shaken but advance with courage and trust.

3. But permit me first of all to express my joy and gratitude to the Lord for you, dear friends and venerable Brothers, who are now members of the College. Once again I offer you my most cordial greeting, which I extend to your relatives and to the faithful gathered here, as well as to the communities you come from, which are spiritually united with our celebration today.

I consider it providential to celebrate the feast of the Chair of Peter with you and with the entire College, because this is a remarkably eloquent sign of unity with which we begin the post-Jubilee period together. It is a sign which at the same time invites us to reflect more deeply on the Petrine ministry, to which your role as Cardinals is particularly related.

4. “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16: 13-19).

In the “today” of the liturgy, the Lord Jesus also addresses these words to the Successor of Peter, and they become a duty for him to strengthen his brethren (cf. Lk 22: 32). With great consolation and deep affection I call you, venerable Brother Cardinals, to support the See of Peter in the particular ministry of unity entrusted to it.

“As Bishop of Rome, I am fully aware”, as I reaffirmed in the Encyclical on the commitment to ecumenism Ut unum sint, “that Christ ardently desires the full and visible communion of all those Communities in which, by virtue of God’s faithfulness, his Spirit dwells” (n. 95). To this primary goal Cardinals, both as a College and individually, can and must make their valuable contribution.

For they are the first collaborators in the Roman Pontiff’s ministry of unity. The red that they wear recalls the blood of the martyrs, especially that of Peter and Paul, on whose supreme witness the vocation and universal mission of the Church of Rome and of her Pastor is founded.

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