Monday is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Together they are the patron saints of the City of Rome as they were martyred there in the 1st century A.D.
If you have ever been to Rome, especially on a pilgrimage of faith, you no doubt visited the two great papal basilicas that have been built over their graves. The one we are most familiar with is officially called the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican. Even though it is not the cathedral of the Pope as Bishop of Rome, it is the most recognized Church in all of Christendom. The other
is the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.
The designation of “outside the walls” is because the church was built beyond the Aurelian Walls which were constructed under the Emperor Aurelian in the 270’s A.D.
The churches we see today are not the originals. Besides the fact that each is a place for Divine Worship, their importance comes from where they were built –over the tombs of Peter and Paul.
When I was in Rome on sabbatical in 2016, I overheard an American bishop in St.
Peter’s Square say as he gestured towards the basilica and famous colonnade, “All of this is here because Catholic Christians hold these grounds to be sacred because of the burial of one man.” And the same is true for the Basilica of Saint Paul.
As a minor basilica, Monday’s feast ties us with both Roman basilicas. Even if you are unable to join us for Mass, I hope that you will offer prayer for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, as well as for the unity of the Church.
Love, Father Tom