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Reliquary depicting Ss Peter & Paul, mid-13th century

The very Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is itself a reminder that these two great pillars of the Church’s life are closely related. In front of the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, the two saints together flank Maderno’s imposing façade. At the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls, the martyrdom of both saints is shown in the courtyard that opens before the entrance to the church. And in the sacred liturgy, that most resplendent “architecture” of our faith which gives shape and structure to our worship of God, these great men are historically always honoured side by side.

Pope Benedict XVI, who celebrates his 65th anniversary of priestly ordination today, noted this relationship when he further made the comparison with the mythical figures of Romulus and Remus, upon whom the great City of Rome is said to have been founded. Still more, he says, we might reflect on the unlikely parallel with Cain and Abel, and the way in which Peter and Paul “illustrate a new way of being brothers, lived according to the Gospel.”

It is only in Christ that this new and unique brotherhood, this supra-familial relationship which transcends blood and marriage, is to be found. It is in their shared witness to Christ that Saints Peter and Paul find their shared heritage and inheritance. It is in the one sacrifice of Christ, in which they have themselves participated by their martyrdom, that they discover their union with him. And it is in that union that they come also to share in the most splendid and complete relationship available to man: the perfect communion of the saints in heaven.

Today we are invited once more to that union and relationship, that brotherhood, in the Most Holy Eucharist. Here we find the grain ground and the grape crushed, in order that we might enjoy a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. These illustrious saints, through whom the Church “received the beginning of religion,” are themselves united to the sacrifice we come to offer. By honouring them and imploring their intercession on their feast, may we share with them the bond of kinship that, by their lives and deaths they won for us. And may we who come to the Lord, who is truly present in these sacred gifts, see in them, as in the saints, the pledge of future glory that we hope one day to see fulfilled.