World Youth Day was celebrated this year in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. This event, which has been held since 1986 on the initiative of Pope St. John Paul II, brings together thousands of young people from all over the world. Many other young people accompanied and prayed with the Pope, in the places where they live. The celebration of this youth festival is a beautiful expression of the universal Church.
Where does this centrality of the Pope in the unity of the universal Church come from? From the day of Pentecost, we see how the Apostle Peter takes the place of leader of the Christian community, a credible authority for all. From the beginning, the primacy of the Pope gained strength over the churches that were being born, as successors of Peter and Paul and the bishop of Rome, as attested by the Letter to the Corinthians of Pope Saint Clement, at the end of the first century. This third successor of St. Peter plays an important role in intervening in the ecclesial life of the Christian community in Corinth as a guarantor of peace and unity.
A contemporary of his called St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, states in a letter to the Christian community in Rome that it exercises a kind of primacy in the love and unity of the Catholic Church, being “worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and, because you hold the presidency in love, named after Christ and named after the Father.”
In the 2nd century, St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, explains how the Church must always be united to the Bishop of Rome, as successor of the Apostles Peter and Paul. He says thus: “But as it would be too long, in a work like this, to enumerate the succession of all the Churches, we will take only one, the ‘greater Church,’ the oldest, the best known of all, the one that was founded and made firm by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul: Rome.”
Here you can see the importance of prayer for the Pope’s intentions in the mission of compassion for the world. As happens at every World Youth Day and through Click To Pray, we gather to pray with the Pope and from there springs the desire for a more authentic Christian life, in the love of Jesus that leads us to love one another.
Fr. Antonio Sant’Ana, SJ
(Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network – Portugal)