CHAIR OF PETER, APOSTLE
This feast of the Chair of Peter dates back to the fourth
century in Rome. It commemorates Peter's confession of faith:
"You are the Messiah, the Son of God," (Matthew 16: 16). It also
recalls the promises of]esus to Peter that his faith would be firm
and that he would be a rock foundation that would survive the
death of Jesus and all attempts to destroy what Jesus founded.
This promise of]esus gives the Church boundless confidence
in God as she carries out her mission of building up His king'
dom. Peter grew in understanding of his authority and the
unique grace given to him, as well as his responsibility to be a
pillar of unity, faith and love. The Acts of the Apostles shows the
beginning of an understanding of the Pettine charism in the new
community of God's people.
Pope St. Leo the Great said in a sermon:
"Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to
preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the
apostles and all the fathers of the Church. Though there are
in God's people many bishops and many shepherds, Peter is
thus appointed to rule in his person those whom Christ
also rules as original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonder,
ful is this sharing in his power that God has in his goodness
given to this man."(2nd Reading, Liturgy of the Hours).
St. Leo continued to explain that on the strong foundation of
Peter's faith Jesus "will build up an enduring temple."
We celebrate more today than just the primacy of St. Peter.
The Church through Peter is entrusted with an awesome re-
sponsibility, namely, the salvation of all people. Firm and
unerring faith, and an authoritative symbol of external strength
and stability has marked the office of Peter and his successors.
Already in the second century a certain primacy of honor was
give to the Bishop of Rome and the Church of Rome. An
important witness is St. Irenaeus, who was a bishop in Southern
Gaul (France). He had a respect for the Church of Rome
because of its 'superior origin,' namely, its founding by the
apostles Peter and Paul He wrote: "For with this Church,
because of its more efficient leadership, all Churches must agree,
that is to say, the faithful of all places, because in it the apostolic
tradition has been always preserved by the (faithful) of all
In the third through the fifth centuries a claim to primacy
becomes more clear, without serious challenges to the claim.
Pope Damasus I (364,384) and more strongly his sucessor,
Siricius (384,399) claimed a primacy over the other Churches in
both doctrinal and disciplinary matters. With Pope St. Leo the
Great (461,468) in the fifth century it becomes more precise by
his action/intervention in the Christo logical controversies and
by his teaching with respect to his office. His influential teaching
determined the latter course of the papacy.
In the same sermon just mentioned, St. Leo said:
"The authority vested in this power (the power to bind and
loose) passed also to the other apostles, and the institution
established by this decree has been continued in all the
leaders of the Church. But it is not without good reason
that what is bestowed on all is entrusted to one. For Peter
received it separately in trust because he is the prototype
set before all the rulers of the Church."
In honoring St. Peter today and praying through his interces-
sion that "nothing divide or weaken our unity in faith and love."
(Opening Prayer) we express our confidence and trust in the
promise of Jesus that his Church will perdure and that the
Petrine office will continue to serve all of God's people; that it
will continue to be a blessing of the new covenant.
The papacy, even with its human faults, has been and will be
with God's support, the stable rock that will keep us "true to the
faith" taught by St. Peter and the apostles and their successors,
and will "bring us to God's eternal kingdom." (Prayer Over the