St. Peter and St. Andrew were brothers. St. Peter was martyred in Rome and St. Andrew was martyred in Greece. They represent the “two lungs” of the Church, West and East. On this day the Pope traditionally sends representatives to Constantinople to celebrate the feast, and on June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Eastern Church reciprocates by sending representatives to Rome. We have prayed this month that the riches of the Eastern Catholic Churches may be better known and esteemed by Roman Catholics. Let us pray today that this in turn will lead to full unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Our reflection is from part of a homily that Pope Benedict gave on this day when he personally visited Constantinople.
The two brothers, Simon, called Peter, and Andrew, were fishermen whom Jesus called to become fishers of men. The Risen Lord, before his Ascension, sent them out together with the other Apostles with the mission of making all nations his disciples, baptizing them and proclaiming his teachings (cf. Mt 28:19ff.; Lk 24:47; Acts 1:8).
This charge left us by the holy brothers Peter and Andrew is far from finished. On the contrary, today it is even more urgent and necessary. For it looks not only to those cultures which have been touched only marginally by the Gospel message, but also to long-established European cultures deeply grounded in the Christian tradition. The process of secularization has weakened the hold of that tradition; indeed, it is being called into question, and even rejected. In the face of this reality, we are called, together with all other Christian communities, to renew Europe’s awareness of its Christian roots, traditions and values, giving them new vitality.
Our efforts to build closer ties between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches are a part of this missionary task. The divisions which exist among Christians are a scandal to the world and an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel. On the eve of his passion and death, the Lord, surrounded by his disciples, prayed fervently that all may be one, so that the world may believe (cf. Jn 17:21). It is only through brotherly communion between Christians and through their mutual love that the message of God’s love for each and every man and woman will become credible. Anyone who casts a realistic glance on the Christian world today will see the urgency of this witness.