This is the exhortation that Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, addressed to priests guests of the International Missionary College of St Peter Apostle, during the Mass he presided over on Wednesday afternoon, February 22, feast of the Chair of St. Peter and patron Saint's Day of the College.
As the Cardinal recalled, the College celebrates its 70th anniversary of founding, which took place on January 18, 1947, "for insight and foresight of Archbishop (later Cardinal) Celso Costantini, already Apostolic Delegate in China".
"In this liturgical celebration, therefore, so significant - said Cardinal Filoni - you, priests of Christ from many places, cultures and local Churches, well represent the multitude of people who are open to the Gospel. It is not secondary, therefore, today to remember, in continuity with the history of this College, the more than 2,700 alumni who came here, as well as the Divine Word Fathers who right from the beginning were entrusted the management of the College, the women religious who took care of this House and lay personnel who guaranteed its functionality. Our gratitude goes out to the countless benefactors, without whom this College could not continue the work of preparing young priests from the Churches of Africa, Asia, Oceania and America".
Commenting on the day's Gospel (Matthew 16: 13-19), the Prefect of the Congregation noted that "where it is proclaimed, the same event relives in the Church, which makes it hers and confesses to Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God". In addition, as stated by the same Lord, "Peter's faith in Jesus is a gift of the Father, is a gift of God, is a gift from above".
"We can also say that Peter's faith is intrinsically Christological - he continued -, that is to say an act of love for Christ, and it is this Christological faith that differentiates the faith of Peter and the Church from other faiths".
Jesus entrusted Peter "what he loves, and that belongs to him deeply and that is born by the offer of his life", "the Church, therefore, does not belong to Cephas, Peter, Paul, or Apollo ... The Church belongs to Christ, not to us! Therefore every scandal, every action that touches the Church, violates the delivery of love made by Christ to Peter, and violates that confession that Peter made once and for all and forever: You know I love you and I love your Church! This applies, therefore, even today and this should be a warning for us, as priests, to keep away from the temptation to use the Church of Christ for our own benefit, for less than noble interests, to seek privileged positions or human projects unrelated to Christ, and, God forbid for offenses!".
Cardinal Filoni continued: "The love of Peter for Jesus and the Church is born from his experience of Christ: Christ changed his life, that is, from a fisherman of fish he made him a fisherman of men; Jesus makes him a shepherd of lambs and sheep. The encounter with Christ was shocking, becoming the point of reference for the Church and for its evangelizing mission in the world. We cannot but think that Jesus is doing a similar and just as beautiful story with us".
The Prefect of the Missionary Congregation emphasized the importance of never forgetting our encounter with Christ, "because it will help put in order priestly life and direct it in the right and proper way; at the same time, it puts me in the prospective of my priestly mission of consecrated so that I am a tool, in the Church of Christ, of grace and goodness among the nations".