Homily of His Excellency Archbishop Charles John Brown
On the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul
Eucharistic Celebration at the Manila Cathedral
June 29, 2022
Your Eminence Cardinal Jose Cardinal Advincula, Your Eminence Orlando Cardinal Quevedo. Dear brother bishops, distinguished ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps, priests, consecrated women and men, lay faithful brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
What a joy and a privilege it is for me to be with you for this Pope's Day Mass!
This Eucharist, traditionally celebrated each June 29th, in this your extraordinarily beautiful Cathedral dedicated to our Lady's Immaculate Conception here on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the apostle of Rome.
Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam.
“You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church." These are the words of Jesus which we have just heard in our Gospel today. And they are written in Latin in enormous letters inside the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, directly above the place where, tradition tells us, St. Peter himself was buried.
St. Peter, the fisherman. St. Peter, the apostle. St. Peter, who, out of fear, denied Christ three times. But then, after witnessing the resurrection of the Lord after his encounter with Jesus (resurrected) was progressively transformed from a fearful follower into a courageous apostle.
It's quite amazing to reflect on the fact that Peter, the fisherman from Galilee, who was too afraid to accompany Jesus during his crucifixion, is subsequently changed into someone who decided to bring the Christian message to Rome, of all places, to the absolute center of the power of the world at that time; to precisely the capital of the empire under whose authority Jesus, his master, had been crucified.
It seems to be exactly the opposite of what a prudent person would do. But Peter was motivated and inspired by a different logic, a higher prudence, which was his conviction that the power and persuasiveness of his message, that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, who offers to humanity a new form of life - a life that will transcend physical death - that this truth was from God and would prevail against an overall opposition.
St. Peter wasn't immune from fear.
In fact, he needed to be strengthened continually by the Lord in the moments when he faltered or hesitated. But Peter put his faith in the Lord's power, which would be stronger than his weakness, and which would overcome every obstacle. And that, of course, is what happened in history. The obstacles were overcome; the Christian faith, which would be persecuted in Rome for centuries after Peter's arrival in the city, eventually became the religion of the Roman Empire.
And let us not forget St. Paul, who did the same thing, bringing the truth of Christ to Rome where both he and Peter died as martyrs. As St. Paul said to us in the Second Reading, "I am being poured out like a libation." An indication of the death that he would undergo.
St. Peter and St. Paul traveled west from Jerusalem to bring the faith to the city of Rome. But at that same moment others of the apostles, like St. Thomas, were traveling east. And in the case of St. Thomas, even reaching India, according to the ancient tradition.
The missionary extension of the Church, this transmission of the life-giving Christian faith was not, of course, restricted to the first early centuries. It has continued in different ways and at different rates throughout these 2,000 years.
Here in the Philippines, we have just concluded the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Christian faith in these islands. Five hundred years of evangelization which has produced the typically Filipino expression of the Catholic faith and which is now in turn being brought to many parts of the world by Filipinos living abroad.
One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church
If we turn to Africa, we see that the growth of the Catholic Church in the last 100 years has been nothing short of extraordinary. In Asia as well, there are now 10 times as many Catholics here than there were a century ago. In this entire ongoing process, what is becoming increasingly more visible, more clear, is something that we profess every time we recite the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed: that the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
What does Catholic mean? It comes from the Greek word Katholikos, meaning universal are all embracing the Church's catholicity for universality, the fact that the Church can be at home in every culture and any culture in the world but cannot be exclusively identified with any single culture. So from Manila to Madrid, from Cape Town to Quebec, the Catholic Church truly is universal and all-embracing.
As the Second Vatican Council teaches...the riches, the customs in which the genius of every people expresses itself ... the Church purifies, strengthens, and elevates them.
The diplomatic service of the Holy See is an expression of this universality, this catholicity of the Church. The Holy See currently has full diplomatic relations with 183 states and maintains more than 115 Nunciatures or, in other words, embassies throughout the world.
Here in Manila, we were very happy last year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Philippines under President Elpidio Quirino in 1951. After 70 years, the relations between the Holy See and Republic of the Philippines remained particularly close, strong, and mutually enriching.
I was personally very grateful for the participation of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Teodoro Locsin, in a webinar that the Nunciature organized to mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations. And I was grateful also for the expert technical help of the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas in organizing the webinar.
Praying for Peace
Because the Church, the Catholic Church has this aspect of catholicity and universality, having a universal scope and vision, she also has a special concern for the problems and conflicts throughout our world.
In these recent weeks and months, as we know the attention of the world has been focused on the situation in Ukraine. Speaking less than a week ago, indeed, just last Thursday, Pope Francis, with emotion, characterized it as a conflict like that between Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis. And the Pope called once again for negotiations so that peace might be restored. In his words, "A life-destroying violence has been unleashed. A luciferous, diabolical violence to which we believers are called to react with the power of prayer with the concrete help of charity, with every Christian means, so that weapons give way to negotiations."
In the name of Pope Francis, I beseech all of you here to pray in a special way for this intention this evening.
Prayers for Wisdom and Strength
This evening celebration of the Eucharist also comes at an important moment in the history of the Philippines. On the eve of the inauguration of your new President, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. tomorrow at noon here in Manila, will take his solemn oath of office as the 17th President of the Republic of the Philippines. As I mentioned to the president-elect and during my courtesy visit to him on June 10th, he can be sure of the collaboration and support of the Catholic Church and of the Holy See as he takes on the weighty responsibilities of his office.
Permit me to read the message which is Holiness Pope Francis has sent to President Marcos for his inauguration tomorrow.
His Excellency Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr,
President of the Republic of the Philippines,
I send you my congratulations and cordial good wishes to Your Excellency as you begin your mandate as the President of the Republic. In assuring you of my prayers, that you will be sustained in wisdom and strength, I invoke Almighty God's blessings of peace and prosperity upon the nation.
Salus Populi Romani
And so my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this solemnity of the saints, Peter and Paul, let us turn in conclusion, our attention to Our Lady, the holy Theotokos, unto her ancient title as Salus Populi Romani, the protectress of the people of Rome of the city of Rome, thinking in our minds of the beautiful icon of Our Lady, of Mama Mary, as she's called here in the Philippines.
Mama Mary with the child Jesus which is kept in the Borghese Chapel in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, before which our dear Pope Francis so often goes to pray.
Let us pray to Our Lady. Let us pray to her for Pope Francis on this Feast Day, as he enters into the 10th year of his pontificate. Let us pray for the Church in Rome. Let us pray for the Church throughout the world. Let us pray for peace.
May God bless you.
Transcribed by Gel Katalbas
Holy Mass livestreamed by the Manila Cathedral