Every year on February 22nd, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle. This Feast brings attention to the mission of 'teacher and pastor' conferred by Christ upon Peter, which has continued over time through an unbroken line of succession. We are able to see this mission through our current Pope, Pope Francis.
The Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter has been celebrated since the earliest days of the Christian era. It was originally derived in regards to the commemoration of St. Peter holding his first service in Rome, and is now currently located in St. Peter's Basilica. This large, wooden throne was given to Pope John VIII in 875 by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles the Bald, and was enclosed in bronze by the artist GianLorenzo Bernini in 1647.
This feast day also commemorates the primatial authority of St. Peter. Pope Emeritus Benedict described this day best when he described the chair as, “A symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith, and in charity" in 2012.
On the other hand, Pope Francis has released his message for the 33rd World Youth Day, which will be celebrated, at diocesan level, this coming Palm Sunday on March 25th. His message emphasizes the overall theme of fear, where he encourages today's youth to step out of their comfort zones and embrace their potential. He told them: “Do not be afraid!”
In his message, Pope Francis also noted that this upcoming event also helps us prepare for the international World Youth Day in Panama, taking place in January 2019. His message can help in preparation of the upcoming Synod of Bishops; taking place this October, where the overall theme will focus on 'Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment.' Both Pope Francis' World Youth Day message, and the themes of these important upcoming events highlights the power and importance Young People have in today's generation, and in the life of the Church.
Looking deeper into the phrase Pope Francis emphasized today: “Do not be afraid!”, the Pope asks young people to express their own fears. He explained that "Today, there are many youngsters who, photoshop their images, or hide, behind false identities, in an attempt to adapt to artificial and unattainable standards. Don't hide behind screens." He concluded his message by saying:“ Dear young people, as WYD in Panama draws closer, I invite you to prepare yourselves with joy and enthusiasm. WYD is for the courageous."
“It's time”, He said, “to break free from fear, fake online personas and from looking at the world through a digital screen. Do you accept the challenge?”
Moreover, moving onto a separate event taking place in the Congo; Bishops of that country have recently denounced their Government's attempts to discredit church leaders. They have also demanded that the Government lift a ban on peaceful demonstrations.
In a statement from the bishops' conference, it was said that, "The world is witnessing a poisonous campaign of defamation, designed to weaken our church's moral force." Carried by local newspapers on Feb. 20nd, the statement came after a bishops plenary meeting, where they condemned the 'bloody violence' used by government and security forces, in to suppress marches by mostly Catholic protesters on Dec. 31 and Jan. 21. The Bishops have also pledged support from Cardinal Laurent Monseng-wo after media loyal to President Joseph Kabila attempted to discredit him.
The bishops of the Congo are currently demanding that President Kabila step down from his position, since his second and final term expired in December 2016. A church-brokered accord, signed on Dec. 31, 2016, allowed the president to stay in office pending elections by the end of 2017. However, the president has been postponed the vote; keeping himself in power another year. In regards to this, Pope Francis has officially declared tomorrow, Feb. 23, as the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace, particularly for Congo and South Sudan.
Finally tonight I leave you with this walk down memory lane. It was exactly 17 years ago yesterday, that a relatively unknown Archbishop Bergoglio from Argentina was created a Cardinal by then Pope John Paul II at a consistory on February 21st 2001.
Later that year, the newly appointed Cardinal, became the recording secretary, at the Synod of Bishops. According to Catholic Herald reports during that time, the new Cardinal surprisingly created a favourable impression as a man open to communion and dialogue amoungst his brother Cardinals. To mark this 17 year anniversary our friends at Vatican News put together this video of that event and other important moments in Pope Francis' life.
That is all that we have time for this week. Join us again on Monday, when I bring you more news and stories from the Perspectives of a Catholic Lens. Thanks for joining us.