BY STAFF REPORTER
PLACING THE pallium, a woollen band, around the shoulders of 46 new archbishops from around the world, Pope Benedict XVI has prayed that they would be true shepherds of their flocks and always united with the pope.
"May this pallium be for you a symbol of unity and a sign of communion with the Apostolic See," said the Pontiff as the archbishops knelt before him during the June 29 Mass in St Peter's Basilica.
The 46 prelates. who were all named as archbishops within the last year, concelebrated Mass with Benedict XVI. They included Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, who has recently received death threats for opposing gay marriage, American Archbishop Joseph E Kurtz of Louisville and several Canadian archbishops.
Five other archbishops, who were unable to travel to Rome, will receive their pallurns from the papal nuncio in their home country.
The Mass marked the Feast of SS Peter and Paul, patron saints of Rome.
In his homily, Benedict XVI greeted a three-member delegation representing Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Each year the Pope and the Patriarch send official delegations to the feast day celebrations of each other's patron saints. At the end of the Mass, the Pope and the Orthodox prelates descended the stairs under the basilica's main altar to pray together at the tomb of St Peter.
Pope Benedict said that in. professing faith in Jesus Christ "we can feel and be one despite the divisions that over the centuries have lacerated the unity of the Church with consequences that still continue".
Pope Benedict said Catholics and Orthodox "are very close to each other and already can count on a communion that is almost full, as we are reminded by the Second Vatican Council, the light that guides the steps of the ecumenical journey".
The Pope's feast-day homily focused on St Peter's profession of faith in Jesus as Christ, son of the living God.
Speaking to the new archbishops the Pope said that in St Matthew's Gospel, immediately after Peter proclaimed his faith in Christ, Jesus said he would build his Church on Peter, making it clear that Peter's profession of faith "is inseparable from the pastoral task entrusted to him".
"Jesus invites [the disciples] to make a choice that can distinguish them from the crowd so they become the community of believers in him, his family, the beginnings of the Church." he said. "There are two ways of seeing and knowing Jesus: one that of the crowd is superficial; the other that of the disciples is more penetrating and authentic."
The crowd thinks Jesus is a prophet, the Pope said. "This is not false, but it is not enough. It is inadequate."
Even today, the Pope said, people recognise Jesus's "spiritual and moral stature and his influence on human history, comparing him to Buddha, Confucius, Socrates and other wise and great historic personalities. But they do not reach the point of recognising his uniqueness."
Reciting the Angelus after Mass, Pope Benedict told the crowd in St Peter's Square: "Let us continue to support these archbishops and sustain them with our prayers as they strive to be zealous Christian leaders."
He also said the feast of SS Peter and Paul was an occasion "to pray intensely and act with conviction for the cause of the unity of all Christ's disciples".
Carrying a shopping bag with a box containing his pallium, Archbishop Kurtz told Catholic News Service: "The whole Mass and ceremony kept saying to us, 'You are Christ, the only son of God." It was a reminder that "we are called to serve Christ in union with the Holy Father", he said.