Today is the Patronal Feast of the Holy Roman Church, the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul.
On June 29, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. These saints are venerated individually on other days such as February 22nd, the feast of the chair of St. Peter, and January 25th, the celebration of St. Paul's conversion. However, the feast on June 29th celebrates both saints as co-founders of the Catholic church. The feast is ancient, having been celebrated at least as early as the 4th century.
The date of June 29th marks either the date of their martyrdom, which occurred around 65 A.D. or the translation of their relics. St. Peter was crucified – upside down, as he protested that he was unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ – and Paul, being a Roman citizen, was slain by the sword. Their relics were transferred at some point, at least by the year 258, to the Via Appia catacombs near San Sebastiano. At a later date, the relics of both saints were moved back to their original resting places – Peter's at the Vatican Basilica and Paul's at the Via Ostiensis catacombs and ultimately to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls…
On this day, in the Roman Catholic liturgical year, newly-created metropolitan archbishops are presented with the primary symbol of their office, the pallium, by the Pope. The pallium, once specific to the Pope, is a vestment bestowed upon metropolitans and primates as a symbol of their jurisdiction over Christ's “flock”, granted by the Holy See. It is a scarf-like band of wool cloth that sits on the shoulders on top of the chasuble. It is decorated with six black crosses, one on each tail and four on the loop, and is garnished with three jeweled gold pins; from the front or back, the pallium resembles the letter ‘Y.'
In both the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, the feast marks the end of the Apostles' Fast, which began the second Monday after Pentecost. The evening before the feast, members of the Eastern church are recommended to attend the all-night vigil, or at least evening vespers, and then Divine Liturgy on the morning of the feast.
In more recent decades, the feast has also taken on ecumenical importance. The Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox church will often travel to the Vatican to be received by the Pope and be invited to the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. In turn, the Pope will sometimes travel to Constantinople on the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the church of Constantinople to be received by the Ecumenical Patriarch. This is to “emphasize the desire of the Eastern Church and the Western Church to continue along the way towards the full communion willed by the Lord, and to re-establish the unity which they enjoyed in the first millennium.”
Blessed and glorious Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us.
This article has been adapted from the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia articles on St. Paul and St. Peter, the wikipedia article on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and this document from the Vatican Press Office archives.