One of the greatest of our Popes was St Leo I, and this passage, from a sermon of his for the occasion of the feast of SS Peter and Paul, is a powerful reminder of what we owe to the two men who, in the power of the Holy Spirit, did so much to spread the Good News in the post-resurrection period.
The whole world, dearly-beloved, does indeed take part in all holy anniversaries, and loyalty to the one Faith demands that whatever is recorded as done for all men’s salvation should be everywhere celebrated with common rejoicings. But, besides that reverence which today’s festival has gained from all the world, it is to be honoured with special and peculiar exultation in our city, that there may be a predominance of gladness on the day of their martyrdom in the place where the chief of the Apostles met their glorious end.
For these are the men, through whom the light of Christ’s gospel shone on you, O Rome, and through whom you, who wast the teacher of error, wast made the disciple of Truth. These are your holy Fathers and true shepherds, who gave you claims to be numbered among the heavenly kingdoms, and built you under much better and happier auspices than they, by whose zeal the first foundations of your walls were laid: and of whom the one that gave you your name defiled you with his brother’s blood.
These are they who promoted you to such glory, that being made a holy nation, a chosen people, and royal state 1 Peter 2:9, and the head of the world through the blessed Peter’s holy See you attained a wider sway by the worship of God than by earthly government. For although you were increased by many victories, and extended your rule on land and sea, yet what your toils in war subdued is less than what the peace of Christ has conquered.
Leo the Great, Sermon 82