The confession of Peter, the head of the Church

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The Feast of the Chair of Peter


Chair of St Peter.jpgNow when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 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." (Matthew 16:13-19)


All-powerful Father, You have built Your Church on the rock of Saint Peter's confession of faith. May nothing divide or weaken our unity in faith and love.


Saint Damasus said: "one Chair of Peter, one true font of baptism" (una Petri sedes, unum verumque lavacrum) bearing witness to the trust our Lord placed in Saint Peter to be the head of the Church. The feast of today is a keen reminder of the witness of Peter's faith in the Jesus as Lord and Savior of all people with therefore an evangelizing aspect of being initiated into the Body of Christ as Saint Paul would later say. A more superficial sense of what is honored today  is what some say is the day Peter was appointed by the Lord as the Father of Church, the seed to what we now conceive as a pope. True as it is but the Chair of Peter is about witness and baptism first and foremost.


Hence, today the Church does not honor church furniture but the responsibility of the Church's mission as teacher and pastor conferred on Peter by Jesus Christ continuing in an unbroken line of apostolic service down through the ages to Pope Benedict XVI. The Church's liturgical theology (theologia prima) recalls the importance of the unity of the Church, founded upon the Apostle Peter. It also helps us to see the objectivity of the Church's teaching and pastoral authority known in the magisterium under the Roman Pontiff. For the Catholic this is understood clearly in the dogmas and doctrines of the Catholic faith solemnly defined "ex cathedra" (from the chair) and extended to all the acts of the ordinary magisterium.


As a point of reference the Catechism says:


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 judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles289 and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom (553).


The Pope's message on YouTube

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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This page contains a single entry by Paul Zalonski published on February 22, 2009 6:42 PM.

Father Luigi Giussani: 4th anniversary of reposing in the Lord was the previous entry in this blog.

Priests according to the heart of Christ is the next entry in this blog.

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