The above Latin quote, attributed to St. Ambrose means “Where Peter is, there is the Church, there is God.” It serves as a strong reminder of the importance of the papacy to the Catholic Church. Since February 22 occurred on a Sunday this year, the Church didn’t officially celebrate the feast of The Chair of St. Peter. Because of this, I wanted to discuss it lest it be overlooked.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Jesus “entrusted a specific authority to Peter”:
Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Christ, the “living stone,” thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.
Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: “Feed my sheep.” The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom. (CCC 552-553)
The Daily Roman Missal has this to say about the feast of The Chair of St. Peter:
This feast brings to mind the mission of teacher and pastor conferred by Christ on Peter, and continued in an unbroken line down to the present Pope. We celebrate the unity of the Church, founded upon the Apostle, and renew our assent to the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, extended both to truths which are solemnly defined ex cathedra, and to all the acts of the ordinary Magisterium. (pg. 1485)
As Catholic Christians, we should be very grateful that Christ gave us the gift of the papacy. Obeying the teaching of the Holy Father is a sure way of avoiding theological errors in our life. We must always remember to pray for the pope, as he shoulders a tremendous amount of responsibility.
The following simple prayer can be said daily and will assist him in carrying out his duties as the main shepherd of the Church:
Lord, source of eternal life and truth; give to Your shepherd, the Pope, a spirit of courage and right judgement, a spirit of knowledge and love. By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care may he, as successor to the apostle Peter and vicar of Christ, build Your church into a sacrament of unity, love, and peace for all the world. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.