Archbishops who attended Mass with Pope Francis as he blessed their woolen palliums said they were struck by a sense of unity.
Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, said that seeing archbishops from so many different countries showed “how the Lord is working in all these people and all these cultures”.
“It’s just so beautiful to see it come together,” he added.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney told Catholic News Service that since the pallium “is a sign of the communion between the Pope — the Bishop of Rome, and the major archdioceses around the world,” the Mass and blessing showed “that we are a Church of Churches, that we have all these areas, regions around the world, but we are all one Church united through the ministry of Peter, the Pope.”
Archbishops Wester and Fisher were among 46 new archbishops representing 34 different countries who came to Rome to concelebrate Mass with the Pope in St Peter’s Basilica on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on Monday. All were named to their archdioceses over the course of the last year.
Every year an official delegation, representing Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, attends the ceremony. This year, side-by-side, Pope Francis and the Orthodox delegate, Metropolitan John of Pergamon, descended the stairs under the main altar to pray before the tomb of St Peter, while the Sistine Chapel choir and Anglican singers from the Choir of New College Oxford sang “Tu es Petrus” (“You Are Peter”).
This gesture and prayer for unity “was very touching for me,” said Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago.
In his homily, the Pope called on the new archbishops to be courageous, yet humble and charitable witnesses of the faith — teaching, leading and showing the faithful a life rooted in the Gospel and prayer.
Archbishop Cupich said, “Our faith holds us together — our faith isn’t something just we hold, but (it) holds us, and our testimony is our ability to be able to share the message of Christ and listen to the witness of other people, too.”
Archbishop Fisher said the Pope’s call meant that “these are not times for us to be fearful or to hide, but to really stand publicly, give witness to Jesus Christ and to our faith.”
“With many challenges in the world at the moment, it would be easy to say, ‘Oh, let’s just pick the popular course, the quiet course, the course that will make me have an easy life,'” he said.
But the Pope is challenging the archbishops “to give the lead along with him and stand up for what’s good and true and beautiful,” he said.
Archbishop Wester said the Pope is teaching everyone “the power of prayer.” He added that the Pope says, “It takes courage to believe in prayer because we oftentimes want to fall back on our own resources and think, ‘Well, I better do this on my own.'”
However, “the Pope is right, it takes real courage to pray and to believe that God will hear the prayer,” he said.
“There’s nothing that God can’t do for us and nothing that God doesn’t want to do for us. He loves us so much. And the Pope instills that kind of courage because he’s courageous in my opinion, the way he loves and forgives so beautifully.”