Addressing the people of Rome in particular, Francis said: “May the Mother Church of Rome experience the consolation of seeing once again the obedience and courage of her children, full of enthusiasm for this new season of evangelization.”
Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the feast day with the bishops, priests, religious, and lay people of Rome. The Nov. 9 feast, celebrated by the entire Church, marks the day the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran was dedicated as the cathedral church of Rome by Pope Sylvester I in 324.
A Latin inscription in the Church reads: “omnium ecclesiarum Urbis et Orbis mater et caput,” meaning, “The mother and head of all churches of the city and of the world.”
Before Mass, the pope stopped briefly outside the church at a plaque which honors victims of poverty.
In his homily, Pope Francis entrusted pastoral workers with helping their communities to reach those in the city who are far from the faith and far from the Church.
“But, in doing this service, bring this awareness, this trust, into it: there is no human heart in which Christ does not want and cannot be reborn,” he said.
“In our lives as sinners, we often find ourselves turning away from the Lord and extinguishing the Spirit. We destroy the temple of God that is each of us. Yet this is never a definitive situation: it takes the Lord three days to rebuild his temple within us!”
He said it is the “heart of the ministry” of a priest to help his community “to always be at the feet of the Lord to listen to the Word; to keep it away from all worldliness, from bad compromises; to guard the foundation and the holy root of the spiritual building; to defend it from rapacious wolves, from those who would like to make it deviate from the way of the Gospel.”
The Gospel and Jesus Christ must be the foundation of the Church, he said, pointing out that priests, in wisdom, know that while something else could probably bring more worldly success or quicker gratification, it would “inevitably involve the collapse, the collapse of the whole spiritual building.”
He encouraged Rome’s priests and bishops to “know the neighborhoods of the city like no other” and to “cherish the faces, smiles, and tears of so many people in your heart.”