If we think of the two millennia of Church history, we can see that — as the Lord Jesus had announced (cf. Mt 10.16-33) — Christians have never been lacking in trials, which in some periods and places have assumed the character of real persecution. These, however, despite the suffering they cause, are not the greatest danger for the Church.
In fact it suffers greatest damage from what pollutes the Christian faith and life of its members and its communities, eroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening its ability to prophesy and witness, tarnishing the beauty of its face. This reality is already attested in the Epistles of St Paul. The First Epistle to the Corinthians, for example, responds to some problems of divisions, inconsistencies, of infidelity to the Gospel, which seriously threaten the Church.
The theme of the freedom of the Church, guaranteed by Christ to Peter, has a specific relevance to the rite of the imposition of the pallium, which we renew today for thirty-eight metropolitan archbishops.
Communion with Peter and his successors, in fact, is the guarantee of freedom for the Church's pastors and the communities entrusted to them. Most essentially, the Petrine ministry is a guarantee of freedom in the sense of full adherence to truth and authentic tradition, so that the People of God may be preserved from mistakes concerning faith and morals.
This is no less relevant in the case of communities that suffer the influence of misleading doctrines or ideological tendencies and practices contrary to the Gospel. Thus the pallium becomes, in this sense, a pledge of freedom, similar to the "yoke" of Jesus, that He invites us to take up, each on his shoulders (Mt 11:29-30).
While demanding, the commandment of Christ is "sweet and light" and instead of weighing down on the bearer, it lifts him up, thus the bond with the Apostolic See — while challenging — sustains the pastor and the portion of the Church entrusted to his care, making them freer and stronger.
These are extracts from Benedict XVI's sermon in St Peter's Basilica for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul on 29 June 2010, during which he placed the pallium on 38 Metropolitan Archbishops from around the world.