Saturday, January 21, 2012

Memorial of St. Agnes, virgin and martyr

The name of today’s saint, an early Church virgin and martyr, comes from A Greek word that means pure and chaste, but it looks very much like the Latin word “Agnus” or “Lamb.” She so closely followed the Lamb of God that she offered herself as a sacrifice. Since the 9th Century two lambs are brought to the pope on this day to be blessed. On Holy Thursday they will be sheared and their wool used to make the pallium or vestment that is given to new archbishops on June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. The pallium is a visible sign of the unity between the archbishop and the pope. As we pray for greater visible unity among Christians let us reflect on the first speech that Pope Benedict gave to the Cardinals who elected him.

Just as the Lord willed that Peter and the other Apostles make up the one Apostolic College, in the same way the Successor of Peter and the Bishops, successors of the Apostles…, must be closely united with one another. This collegial communion, despite the diversity of roles and functions of the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops, is at the service of the Church and of unity in the faith, on which the efficacy of evangelizing action in the contemporary world largely depends. Therefore, it is on this path, taken by my Venerable Predecessors, that I also intend to set out, with the sole concern of proclaiming the living presence of Christ to the whole world. …

With full awareness, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty. He is aware that good intentions do not suffice for this. Concrete gestures that enter hearts and stir consciences are essential, inspiring in everyone that inner conversion that is the prerequisite for all ecumenical progress.

Theological dialogue is necessary; the investigation of the historical reasons for the decisions made in the past is also indispensable. But what is most urgently needed is that "purification of memory", so often recalled by John Paul II, which alone can dispose souls to accept the full truth of Christ. Each one of us must come before him, the supreme Judge of every living person, and render an account to him of all we have done or have failed to do to further the great good of the full and visible unity of all his disciples.


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