Pope Exhorts Next Pope With Echoes of First Homily

On Oct. 22, the exact anniversary of his inaugural Mass and homily as Bishop of Rome, John Paul spoke again of how the experience of Peter lives in his heart.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

He opened his first papal homily with those words, and did so again 25 years later at the “Mass of the Rings,” in which the Pope gives each new cardinal a ring symbolizing their love for the Church and the Roman Pontiff.

The exchange between Jesus and Peter continues with the words that are the foundation for the papal office in the Church: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.”

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” the Holy Father repeated, going back to the beginning. “In these 25 years of my pontificate, how many times I have repeated those words! I have pronounced them in the principal languages of the world in many parts of the Earth. The Successor of Peter can never forget the dialogue that takes place between the Master and the Apostle: You are the Christ… You are Peter…”

Indeed, John Paul has pronounced them to the ends of the Earth. But now, he is unable to pronounce them at all, leaving to another archbishop the task of reading the homilies. But the determination to, like Peter, preach until to the very end, remains.

“Courage in proclaiming the Gospel must never diminish,” the Pope told the cardinals during his anniversary celebrations. “Indeed, until the last breath it must be our principal duty.”

Until the last breath. The message was not lost on the cardinals. From among them will come the successor, and he will be expected to do as John Paul has done, proclaiming the Gospel to the end, even when the breath is not sufficient to pronounce the words:

You are the Christ.

Father Raymond J. de Souza