The Pope took possession of the basilica of St. John Lateran with the Eucharistic celebration on Saturday, sitting for the first time in the cathedra reserved their for the Bishop of Rome, and accepting the formal acts of obedience done by representatives of the diocesan clergy, religious, and laity.
(The cathedra is the ceremonial chair, symbolic of authority, in which a bishop sits during formal ceremonies in his cathedral.)
In his homily, Pope Benedict said that Christ had given his apostles, and the bishops who succeeded them, the duty to ensure that the faith is passed along without dilution or distortion. Although the Pope “must be aware that he is a weak and fragile man,” he cannot avoid this responsibility, the Holy Father continued. He must execute his teaching function, fulfilling the mandate from Christ, because “when Sacred Scripture is separated from the living voice of the Church, it falls victims to the disputes among experts.”
The Pope acknowledged that papal authority is a stumbling block for some people, who see the teaching magisterium as a threat to freedom of belief and of conscience. But he explained that the Pope’s authority is not really his own, since “the ministry of the Pope is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word.” As teacher, he continue, the Pontiff “binds himself and the Church in obedience to God’s Word, in the face of all attempts to adapt that Word, or water it down, and in the face of all forms of opportunism.” Benedict XVI went on to say that his predecessor, John Paul II, was carrying out this task when he repeatedly demanded respect fro human life, in the face of mounting public opposition. “The freedom to kill is not true freedom, a but a tyranny that reduces human beings to slavery,” he said.