In the Vatican Basilica, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, the Pope presided at a Eucharistic concelebration with 46 metropolitan archbishops upon whom he imposed the pallium.
In keeping with tradition, the Mass was attended by a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, made up this year of His Eminence Emmanuel (Adamakis), Greek Orthodox archbishop of France; His Eminence Gennadios (Limouris), metropolitan of Sassima and secretary of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox; and by the Deacon Andreas (Sofianopoulos) third deacon of the Patriarchal See of Fanar.
In his homily the Holy Father made reference to Peter's declaration about Jesus which, he said, "according to all the Evangelists, occurred at a decisive moment in Jesus' life," when He was traveling towards Jerusalem "to carry out — with His death on the cross and resurrection — His salvific mission."
"With His double question — 'what do people say?' and 'what do you say?' — Jesus invites His disciples to become aware of these differing perspectives. The people think Jesus is a prophet. This is not false, but it is not enough, it is inadequate. What is necessary, in fact, is a more profound vision, a recognition of the uniqueness and novelty of Jesus of Nazareth.
"This is also true today," the Pope added, "many people approach Jesus, so to say, from the outside. Great scholars recognize His spiritual and moral stature and His influence on the history of humanity, comparing Him to Buddha, Confucius, Socrates and other sages and great figures of history. They do not, however, manage to recognize Him in His uniqueness."
The Holy Father went on: "Often, also, Jesus is considered as one of the great founders of religions, from whom each individual may draw something to create a conviction of his own. And so, as then, today too people have different opinions about Jesus. And, as then, to we disciples of today Jesus repeats His question: 'who do you say that I am?' We wish to make Peter's response our own: 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God'."
"Today, as in Jesus' time, it is not enough to possess the correct confession of faith. It is necessary to learn from the Lord, always and anew, the precise way in which He is the Savior and the road upon which we must follow Him. We must recognize that the cross is difficult to accept, even for believers. Instinct encourages us to avoid it and the tempter induces us to think that it is wiser to concern oneself with self-preservation than to lose one's own life for faithfulness to love.
"What did the people to whom Jesus spoke find difficult to accept? What continues to be difficult to accept for many people today? It is difficult to accept the fact that He claimed to be not only one of the prophets, but the Son of God, and that He claimed the authority of God for Himself."
"In the name of Sts. Peter and Paul," Pope Benedict concluded, "today we renew, together with our brothers who have come from Constantinople, our commitment to accept, in its entirety, Christ's will, which is to see us fully united."
At midday, shortly after the Eucharistic celebration, the Pope appeared at the window of his study overlooking St. Peter's Square in order to pray the Angelus.
He greeted the delegation sent by the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and said: "Our meetings, our reciprocal visits, the continuing dialogue are not merely simple gestures of courtesy or attempts to achieve compromise, but the sign of a shared will to do everything possible in order, as soon as possible, to achieve full communion. Part of this context is the 'Pauline Year' which will begin on 28 June 2008 and conclude on 29 June 2009, marking the 2000th anniversary of the birth" of St. Paul.
After the Angelus, Benedict XVI announced that, in response to an invitation from Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, Italy, he will make a pastoral visit to that city on October 21.