By Courtney Grogan
The Catholic Church is Christ’s beloved bride, Pope Francis said Saturday on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.
“To the Lord we are not a group of believers or a religious organization, we are His bride. He looks at His Church with tenderness, He loves it with absolute fidelity, despite our mistakes and betrayals,” Pope Francis said June 29.
In his Angelus address for the feast of the patron saints of Rome, Pope Francis reflected on Christ’s words to St. Peter, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.”
“Like that day to Peter, today He says to all of us: ‘my Church, you are my Church,’” the pope said. “And we too can repeat it: my Church.”
“Today, through the intercession of the Apostles, we ask for the grace to love our Church,” Pope Francis said.
“We ask for the strength to pray for those who do not think like us,” he added.
Saints Peter and Paul were very different, Pope Francis explained: “a fisherman and a Pharisee with different life experiences, characters, ways of doing things, and very different sensibilities.”
“But what united them was infinitely greater: Jesus was the Lord of both. Together they said ‘my Lord’ to Him who says ‘my Church,’” the pope said.
“Brothers in faith, they invite us to rediscover the joy of being brothers and sisters in the Church,” he said. “How nice it is to know that we belong to each other, because we share the same faith, the same love, the same hope, the same Lord.”
Pope Francis said that the feast of Saints Peter and Paul invites each Catholic to say, “Thank you, Lord, for that person who is different than me: it is a gift for my Church.”
“It is good to appreciate the qualities of others, to recognize the gifts of others without malice and without envy,” he said. “Envy causes bitterness inside, it is vinegar on the heart.”
The pope recommended praying for the intercession of the two saints for “a heart that knows how to welcome others with the tender love that Jesus has for us.”
As early as the year 258, there is evidence of an already lengthy tradition of celebrating the solemnities of both Saint Peter and Saint Paul on the same day. Together, the two saints are the founders of the See of Rome, through their preaching, ministry and martyrdom.
In a sermon in the year 395, St. Augustine of Hippo said of Sts. Peter and Paul: “Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith.”
“I ask you, please, say a prayer for me through the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul,” Pope Francis said.