Petrine Ministry an Exercise in Love, Says Cardinal Ratzinger

In Homily at Mass for Repose of the Souls of Paul VI and John Paul I

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger says "the two poles of the mission" entrusted to Popes revolve around love and truth.



The dean of the College of Cardinals made that point when presiding over a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the eternal repose of Paul VI and John Paul I, the immediate predecessors of John Paul II.

The occasion gave Cardinal Ratzinger the chance to reflect on the meaning of the Petrine ministry, whose essence, he said, "is not an exercise of power, but to 'bear the burden of others.' [It] is the responsibility of love."

To preside over the Church "in charity is above all to precede 'in the love of Christ,'" the cardinal said. He recalled that the definitive conferring of the primacy to Peter after Christ's resurrection is linked to the thrice repeated question by the Lord: "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"

"To feed the flock and love the Lord are the same thing. It is love of Christ, which guides the sheep on the right path and builds the Church," Cardinal Ratzinger said during his homily Tuesday.

"Love is precisely the opposite of indifference before the other," said the cardinal. "It cannot allow the love of Christ to be extinguished in the other, or friendship and knowledge of the Lord to be attenuated."

"The love of Christ is love for the poor, for those who suffer," he continued. "We know well how our Popes were committed with force against injustice, and for the rights of the oppressed, those who lack power."

"The love of Christ is not something individualistic" or "only spiritual," but also "concerns the world" which it must transform, added the cardinal, who is prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

However, "love would be blind without truth," he said. "And because of this, the one who must precede in love receives from the Lord the promise: 'Simon, Simon ... I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.' The Lord sees that Satan seeks to 'sift us like wheat.'"

It is a test that "concerns all the disciples," but "Christ prays in a special way 'for you,' for Peter's faith, and on this prayer is based the mission to 'strengthen your brethren,'" the cardinal added.

"Peter's faith does not come from his own efforts," Cardinal Ratzinger said. Rather, the "infallibility of Peter's faith is based on the prayer of Jesus, the Son of God: 'I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.'"

"This prayer of Jesus is the sure foundation of Peter's function for all centuries," the cardinal said.

He added that it "can justly be said that the Supreme Pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul I confirmed their brethren 'with apostolic valor.'"

The cardinal concluded: "At a time when we see how Satan sifts Christ's disciples like wheat, the imperturbable faith of the Popes has been, visibly, the rock on which the Church is established."