Bartholomew I’s sermon at the Mass for Sts. Peter and Paul

I had posted images from the Mass of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and the text of the sermons, in Italian.  I wanted to follow up with the English texts.  The texts are from Zenit, not my translation, but me emphases and comments.

Patriarch’s Homily for Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

With Benedict XVI’s Introduction

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2008 ( Here is a translation of the homily from Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I for the Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Square [No.  It was inside the Basilica.] on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, which was Sunday.

At vespers on Saturday, Benedict XVI inaugurated the Pauline Jubilee Year, which ends June 29, 2009.

* * *

The Holy Father’s Introduction to the Patriarch’s Homily

Brothers and Sisters,

The great feast of Saints Peter and Paul — patrons of this Church of Rome and, together with the other apostles, pillars of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church — brings to us every year the welcome presence of a fraternal delegation of the Church of Constantinople which, this year, because of the opening of the "Pauline Year," is led by the Patriarch himself, His Holiness Bartholomew I. I address my cordial greeting to him as I express my joy of once again having the happy opportunity of exchanging the kiss of peace with him in the common hope of seeing the coming of the day of "unitatis redintegratio" — the day of full communion between us.

I also greet the members of the patriarchal delegation, the representatives of the Churches and ecclesial communities, who honor us with their presence, offering with this presence a sign of the will to intensify the movement toward the full unity of the disciples of Christ. We dispose ourselves now to listen to the reflections of His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, words that we desire to receive with an open heart because they come from our dearly beloved brother in the Lord.

* * *

Homily of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

Your Holiness,

Having again experienced, in November 2006, the joy and emotion of the personal and blessed participation of Your Holiness in the patronal feast of Constantinople, the commemoration of the St. Andrew the Apostle, the First Called, I set out "with a joyous step" from Fener in the New Rome, to come to you to participate in your joy in the patronal feast of Old Rome. And we have come to you "with the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ" (Romans 15:29), returning the honor and love, celebrating with our beloved brother in the land of the West, "the certain and inspired heralds, the coryphaei of the disciples of the Lord," the holy apostles Peter, brother of Andrew, and Paul — these two great, central pillars of the whole Church stretched out toward heaven, which, in this historic city, also offered the ultimate shining confession of Christ and gave their souls to the Lord here through martyrdom, one on the cross and the other by the sword, and thus sanctified this city.

We greet, with the deepest and most devoted love, on the part of the Most Holy Church of Constantinople and her children throughout the world, You Holiness, desired brother, wishing from the heart "those who live in Rome beloved of God" (Romans 1:7), good health, peace, prosperity and progress day and night toward salvation "fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, joyful in hope, strong in tribulation, steadfast in prayer" (Romans 12:11-12).

In both Churches, Your Holiness, we duly honor and greatly venerate Peter — he who made his salvific confession of the divinity of Christ, as much as Paul — the vessel of election, who proclaimed this confession and faith to the ends of the universe in the midst of the most unimaginable difficulties and dangers. Since the year of salvation 258 we have celebrated their memory in the West and in the East on June 29. In the East we also prepare for this feast by a fast observed in their honor on the preceding days, [Robust Christianity!] following a tradition of the ancient Church. To strongly emphasize their equal importance, but also their weight in the Church and her regenerative and salvific work through the centuries, the East honors them in an icon in which they either hold a little ship in their hands, which symbolizes the Church, or they embrace and exchange the kiss in Christ.

It is indeed this kiss that we have come to exchange with you, Your Holiness, emphasizing the ardent desire and love in Christ, things which are closely related to each other.

The theological dialogue between our Churches "in faith, truth and love," thanks to divine help, goes forward despite the considerable difficulties that exist and the well-known problems. We truly desire and fervently pray that these difficulties will be overcome and that the problems will disappear as soon as possible so that we may reach the desired final goal for the glory of God.

We know well that this is your desire too, as we also are certain that Your Holiness will neglect nothing, personally working, together with your illustrious collaborators, through a perfect smoothing of the way, toward a positive fulfillment of the labors of dialogue, God willing.

Your Holiness, we too have proclaimed the year 2008 "Year of the Apostle Paul" [I hadn’t known that when I heard him say this.] on the 2,000 anniversary of the great apostle’s birth. In regard to the events of the anniversary celebration, in which we have also venerated the precise place of the St. Paul’s martyrdom, we are planning, among others things, a sacred pilgrimage to some of the monuments of the apostolic activity of the apostle in the East: Ephesus, Perge, and other cities in Asia Minor, but also Rhodes and Crete, the places called "good ports." Be assured, Your Holiness, that on this sacred journey, you too will be present, walking with us in spirit, and that in each place we will offer up an ardent prayer for you and our brothers of the venerable Roman Catholic Church, fervently asking the divine Paul’s intercession with the Lord for you.

And now, venerating the sufferings and the cross of Peter and embracing Paul’s chains and stigmata, honoring the confession and martyrdom and the venerable death of both for the name of the Lord, which truly leads to Life, we glorify the Thrice-Holy God and we supplicate him, so that through the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul, who are his protocoryphaei and apostles, he will, here below, grant us and all his children of the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world "union of faith and communion in the Spirit" in the "bond of peace" and there above eternal life and great mercy. Amen.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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  1. John says:


  2. Interesting, because the Ecumenical Patriarch refers to SS. Peter and Paulas the “coryphaei” of the disciples, while Pope Benedict XVI has attributed the role of coryphaeus to Peter alone.

    This, in fact, refers to one of the subtle differences behind the differing perspectives on the role of St. Peter in East and West. The Roman Catholic Church has always insisted on the supremacy of Peter even over Paul, while the Eastern Orthodox declare that
    St. Peter and Paul were equal.

  3. jason says:

    Technically all apostles are co-equal, Peter is the center of that unity though

  4. Dominic says:

    The Patriarch’s remark “To strongly emphasize their equal importance…” did seem to me like a shot at the Primacy of Peter.

  5. Atlanta says:

    Thanks for posting this. The Patriarch is greatly humbling himself by coming to Rome, in my humble opinion, beyond what many of us can understand. There is much hostile criticism of his ecumenical activity coming from within the Orthodox church. That in and of itself is not a criticism of the Orthodox church but a statement of fact, for we can see criticism coming at His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew from within the Roman church as well.

  6. Fr Z, yes, the Apostles’ Fast belongs to a “Robust Christianity”!

    The Eastern Orthodox Apostles’ Fast is a peculiar one, with the beginning tied to the variable calendar (the Monday after the first Sunday after Pentecost: liturgically the weeks begin on Monday) based on the date of Pascha, and the other end tied in the fixed calendar, June 29, the Apostles’ Feast.

    This leads to a quite variable length in the Apostles’ Fast, and indeed to some years when it doesn’t occur at all.

  7. Fr Z, yes, the Apostles’ Fast belongs to a “Robust Christianity”!

    “The Eastern Orthodox Apostles’ Fast is a peculiar one, with the beginning tied to the variable calendar (the Monday after the first Sunday after Pentecost: liturgically the weeks begin on Monday) based on the date of Pascha, and the other end tied in the fixed calendar, June 29, the Apostles’ Feast.

    This leads to a quite variable length in the Apostles’ Fast, and indeed to some years when it doesn’t occur at all.”

    That is true only in the case of those using the “Revised Julian Calendar” (the Gregorian calendar but with Julian Paschalion) — the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Romania and Bulgaria, the Churches of Greece and Cyprus, most of the Orthodox
    Church in America, and many parishes in the Russian Exarchate in Europe (under Cpnstantinople), the autonomous Church of Finland, and the autonomous Church of Estonia (the last 3 under Constantinople). Some parts of the Orthodox Churches of Czech and Slovak Lands and Poland are also under the “Revised Julian”

    However, the Apostles Fast is always observed in those churches that use the old Julian Calendar: the Patriarchates of Jerusalem (and the autonomous Church of Sinai), Moscow (and its family of seven autonomous churches), Serbia and Georgia, as well as many parishes in the OCA, many parishes in the Russian Exarchate in Western Europe (under Constantinople) most parishes in the Orthodox Churches of Poland and Czech / Slovak Lands, and the Ukrainian Orthodox dioceses of the diaspora under Constantinople.

  8. The Orthodox Church of Finland is, of course, entirely on the Gregorian calendar.

  9. Warren Anderson says:

    Good to hear/see the two lungs breathing together.

  10. Michael says:

    Theological problems do exist, and can’t be skipped. But it is our moral responsibility to respond to Our Lord’s prayer that we all be one.

    The unity of all those who believe in Christ is so essential that “we should enquire always not just about the defensibility of union, of mutual recognition, but even more urgently about the defensibility of remaining separate, for it is not unity that requires justification, but the absence of it” – so “Ratzinger” in his Principles of Catholic Theology, English trans. 1987, p. 200.

    I suggest that each one of us, without playing down the doctrine itself, should enquire more deeply what it is. No individual Catholic (except the Pope ex cathedra) may claim that his own grasp of the Catholic doctrine infallibly reflects the Faith of the Catholic Church: we can only do our best, humbly admitting an error if we realize that our grasp has been erroneous, and never rule the error out if we do not realize it.

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