On Tuesday, June 28, a ceremony for the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Pope Emeritus’ ordination to the priest-hood was held in the Vatican. “You continue serving the Church, you never stop contributing to its growth with real vigor and wisdom,” Francis said, addressing his predecessor, Benedict XVI on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of Ratzinger’s priestly ordination on June 29,1951 in Freising Cathedral. Joseph Ratzinger was ordained a priest on the same day as his elder brother Georg. In his final greeting to Francis, which he pronounced off the cuff, Benedict XVI said: “I hope you will continue along this path of mercy,” adding, “your kindness is my home and the place where I feel safe.”
The little celebration was a sober affair, just as Ratzinger had wanted and as Pope Francis himself had said it would be, in his conversation with journalists on board the return flight from Yerevan on June 26. This cast aside the theory about the Petrine minis-try being “shared” between the Popes instead of there being just one Pope.
Francis embraced Benedict XVI who was sitting at the foot of the platform and again, after delivering his speech. Meanwhile, the Sistine Chapel Choir sang the “in insigni die solemnitatis vestrae” hymn.
In his speech, Francis said to his predecessor: “In one of the many beautiful pages you dedicate to the priesthood, you under-line that when Jesus definitively calls Simon, in the way he looks at him, the question he is asking deep down is: ‘Do you love me?’ How beautiful and true this is! Because it is here, as you say, the Lord bases the act of leading to pasture, on these very words ‘I love you’, because only if we feel love towards the Lord can He lead people to pasture through us: “Lord you know everything; you know that I love you.”
“This is the note that dominates an entire life spent in service of the priesthood and of true theology which you did not refer to as “seeking the beloved” by chance; this is what you have always born witness to and what you still bear witness to today: that the only thing that really matters in our daily lives – come rain or shine – (with this one thing everything else just comes) is that the Lord is truly present, that we want him, that we are spiritually close to him, that we love him, that we really believe deeply in him and by believing we truly love him.”
“It is this love,” Francis emphasized, “that truly fulfills our hearts, it is this faith that drives us to walk on water with confidence and calm, even in the midst of a storm, just as Peter did; it is this love and this faith that allows us to look to the future not with fear or nostalgia, but with joy, even in the later stages of life.”