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Concluding Year of Faith, Pope hails Christ the King

November 25, 2013

Pope Francis marked the conclusion of the Year of Faith by celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Square on November 24, the feast of Christ the King.

The solemn Eucharistic celebration included four extraordinary elements:

  • The presence of a bronze box containing the bones of St. Peter, on public display for the first time, with the Pope holding the box as he delivered his homily;
  • The distribution of the first copes of Evangelii Gaudium, an apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis, which will be officially presented on Tuesday, November 26;
  • The participation of all the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern churches in communion with the Holy See, who were in Rome for a meeting of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches; and
  • A special collection taken up for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis reflected that St. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, helps the faithful “to see that Jesus is the center of creation.” The Pope continued: “When this centre is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.”

The day’s Gospel, with from St. Luke’s account of Christ’s promise to the “good thief,” provided another important message, the Pope remarked: “Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard.”

“The Lord always grants more than what He has been asked,” the Pope concluded. “You ask Him to remember you, and He brings you into his kingdom.”

At the start of his homily the Pope welcomed the leaders of the Eastern Catholic churches, saying that their presence at the celebration was “a sign of the appreciation of the Bishop of Rome for these communities which have confessed the name of Christ with exemplary faithfulness, often at a high price.” He went on to send his greetings to embattled Christians in Syria, the Holy Land, and “the entire East.”

At the conclusion of the Mass the Pope distributed copies of Evangelii Gaudium to 36 people representing different groups within the Church. The apostolic exhortation is based on the results of the October 2012 meeting of the Synod of Bishops, which was devoted to the new evangelization. Pope Francis had earlier disclosed that, instead of using the document to summarize the Synod’s message, he would include his own thoughts to form a “wider framework” for the apostolic exhortation.

The Sunday display of the casket containing what the Vatican believes to be the bones of St. Peter reopened a debate about the authenticity of the relics. Although there is no definitive proof that the bone fragments are those of the first Pontiff, the circumstantial evidence is powerful. The bones were discovered during excavations directly below the present site of the altar of the Vatican basilica, and in 1968, after a series of tests, Pope Paul VI declared that the evidence was sufficient to warrant confidence that these were the bones of St. Peter.

The Year of Faith had been declared by Pope Benedict XVI, and opened on October 11, 2012: the 50th anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council.


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