Love Christ First, Pope Urges Archbishops

Receives 40 Prelates and Families in Audience

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Love for Christ comes before all else in the mission of an archbishop, says Benedict XVI.



The Pope said this today upon receiving in audience 40 metropolitan archbishops accompanied by members of their families. On Sunday the archbishops received the pallium during a Eucharistic celebration held in St. Peter's Basilica.

The Holy Father greeted each of the metropolitan archbishops in their respective languages.

"The pallium," he explained in English, "is worn by metropolitan archbishops as a symbol of their hierarchical communion with the Successor of Peter in the governance of God’s people. It is made of sheep wool, as a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and the Good Shepherd who keeps vigilant watch over his flock.

"The pallium reminds bishops that, as vicars of Christ in their local Churches, they are called to be shepherds after the example of Jesus. As a symbol of the burden of the episcopal office, it also reminds the faithful of their duty to support the Church’s pastors by their prayers and to cooperate generously with them for the spread of the Gospel and the growth of Christ’s Church in holiness, unity and love."

St. Paul

Addressing them as a group, Benedict XVI reflected on St. Paul's image of the Body of Christ: "The image of an organic body applied to the Church is one of the powerful and characteristic elements of the doctrine of St. Paul. In this jubilee year dedicated to him, I wish to entrust each of you to his celestial protection.

"May the Apostle of the Gentiles help each of you to make the communities entrusted to your care grow in unity and mission, in harmonious and coordinated pastoral activity, animated by constant apostolic zeal."

"The condition of service for all pastors is love for Christ, which must come before everything," said the Pope.

Recalling Jesus' question to Peter -- "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" -- the Holy Father prayed that it "resound in our hearts and stimulate our ever fresh and passionate response: 'Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.'"

"It is from this love for Christ that the mission to 'feed my sheep' arises," he added, "a mission that may be summarized above all in his own testimony."