The Pope, Bishop of Rome Catholic and Orthodox relations

Wasn't the Pope simply the Bishop of Rome, and therefore equal to all the other Bishops?

I recently went to lunch with a friend of mine who is an American Orthodox Christian. She explained her understanding of the hierarchy of the bishops. She believes that in the early Church, all bishops were equal in power, and that Rome gained primacy only because it was a bigger and more imposing church, not because Peter was given that role by Jesus. She said that the early Church never gave primacy to Rome. On the other extreme, there are some Roman Catholics who think of the Pope as a kind of "chief executive officer " of a company, as if all the other bishops "work for him." They think of Rome as kind of a "corporate headquarters" and all the other dioceses are just "branch offices."

The truth falls somewhere between those two extremes. The Pope, is the bishop of Rome. While Peter was just one of the Apostles, he was also the Apostle who held the primacy which was the Christ-given leadership among them (Mt 16:18). As the successor of Peter, Catholics believe that the Bishop (Pope) of Rome holds same role among his brother bishops. He is like the chairman of a board of directors. Another analogy is that he is like the captain of a basketball team. While he is just a player like all the others, he is also the player with the additional responsibility of holding the team together (i.e., Church unity) and maintaining its game plays (i.e., Church orthodoxy).

In normal circumstances, a bishop of a given dioceses has ultimate authority within that diocese. It is only when this bishop violates Church dogma or canon law that the Pope of Rome has the responsibility to intrude into that dioceses -- that is, for the good of maintaining the universal unity of the Church. So, it's not like the Pope has to directly manage every diocese on earth. Rather, he is just there as the final court of appeal when something goes wrong and cannot be handled at the regional or local level in the Church. He is also there to lead the Church on a universal level and to manage its universal affairs -- the affairs that all dioceses share in common. Other than that, he just manages the Roman diocese.

The Scriptural and historical evidence that Peter and his successors were given primacy among the bishops is overwhelming. The Eastern Church recognized this, for the most part. (a timeline of Orthodox/Catholic relations is here) However, that does not mean that, at various points in history, Rome did not overstep its role. Historically, this balance between the role of "captain" and "fellow player" has been the source of much of the division between East and West. There have been times when Rome has over managed some dioceses. On the other hand, there have been times when dioceses have overstepped their authority, sullying Dogma and/or negatively affecting the entire Universal Church, necessitating intervention by the Bishop of Rome. Pope John Paul II and our new Pope, Benedict XVI have moved to provide more autonomy to the Bishops. They have worked hard to restore goodwill. We really want to see unity with the Orthodox Church.

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Did Saint Paul found the Roman Church?

This is a story that is heard sometimes in Orthodox cirlcles. It is clearly refuted in St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans where we learn that there is a large Gentile church in Rome, but that Paul himself did not found it. Indeed, Paul makes it very clear that he has never even visited Rome (to say nothing of establishing a church there) and expresses the desire to visit Rome one day --see Romans 1:13-15, Romans 15:22-23. And, indeed, the Roman church (composed predominately of Gentiles) is so well established that Paul does not even plan to spend a great deal of time there, but just to visit it in passing as he makes his way to Spain (see Romans 15:24). Rome was the most important city in the world at this time --the center of the entire world, with a population of well over 1 million people. Yet, St. Paul (who is the Apostle to the Gentiles, and who spent almost 2 years in Corinth and over 2 years in Ephesus) sees no need to focus his attention on Rome, but plans to pass it over and to focus on Spain.  Why?   Well, if we read Romans carefully, Paul tells us. In Romans 15:20, he says:  "I aspire to proclaim the Gospel, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another man's foundation."   Now ....  Here, we must ask the question:  Who is this "other man" that Paul is referring to???    Who is it that laid the "foundation" of the Roman church?    Whenever St. Paul speaks of someone laying a "foundation," he is always speaking about an Apostle (see 1 Corinth 1:10, Ephes 2:19-20, etc.). Thus, what Apostle founded the Roman church?  According to Tradition (in both East and West), this "other man" was St. Peter.  Indeed, given that the Roman church which Paul writes to is composed predominately of Gentiles, what other Apostle (aside from St. Paul himself) converted both Gentiles as well as Jews??   Only St. Peter. Thus, he is the "other man" who Paul is referring to. For, unless Rome was in the hands of an Apostle who was considered greater than Paul, there is no way that Paul would even think of passing over Rome in order to focus his attention on Spain. This is obvious if one even bothers to think about it for a moment.  

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St. John Lateran Church is the main Church for the Diocese of Rome. So why does the Pope live at the Vatican?

St. John Lateran Basilica is the cathedral of the Roman archdiocese and so it is the Pope's real cathedral as Bishop of Rome. The Vatican (St. Peter's) is just his residence and a shrine to the Apostle Peter. Popes of Rome did not live exclusively at the Vatican until the 19th Century when the Republic of Italy was formed and the Popes lost political control of central Italy and of the city of Rome itself.

The Pope is the Bishop of Rome. There is no separate bishop in charge of Rome. The Pope himself is responsible for the management shepherding of the Roman diocese (the archdiocese of Rome). He is the patriarch of the Roman Rite (that is, Roman Catholicism) and is also the successor of St. Peter. In that respect he is the head of the universal Church -- that is, the primal bishop over both Roman Catholics and non-Roman Catholics, such as the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches (e.g. the Byzantines, Maronites, Melchites, Armenians, Copts, Ethiopians, Malabar, etc. all of whom are in communion with Rome). He has auxiliary bishops to help him with his diocese while he deals with the affairs of the Universal Church.

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Where did the word "Pope" come from? Were there other Popes outside of Rome?

The "Pope" is not really an office, but merely a nickname for the Bishop of Rome. St. Peter ended his days as the Bishop of Rome, and the Bishop of Rome succeeds to the ministry of St. Peter as the head of the universal Church . "Pope," is merely a nick-name from the early 300s. It comes from the Greek word "papa," that means "father" or "patriarch." It was not exclusive to the Bishop of Rome himself. Rather, in the very ancient Church, there were three regional patriarchal bishops (1) Rome, (2) Alexandria (in Egypt), and (3) Antioch (in Syria) in that order of primacy. All three of these bishops derived their authority from St. Peter and from ties of discipleship between Peter (in Rome) and his disciples Mark (in Alexandria) and Evodius (in Antioch). It was necessary to have patriarchs in different parts of the world when fast communication and transportation systems did not exist. Here's how Pope St. Damasus I describes the Tradition, writing in A.D. 382. He says:

"Although all the Catholic Churches spread abroad throughout the world comprise but one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of the churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, Who says: "You are Peter ...(Matt 16:18-19)." In addition to this, there is also the companionship of the vessel of election, the most blessed Apostle Paul who, along with Peter in the city of Rome in the time of Caesar Nero, equally consecrated the above-mentioned holy Roman Church to Christ the Lord; and by their own presence and by their venerable triumph, they set it at the forefront over the others of all the cities of the world. The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman church, which has neither stain nor blemish, nor anything like that. The second see is that of Alexandria, consecrated on behalf of the blessed Peter by Mark, his disciple and an Evangelist, who was sent to Egypt by the Apostle Peter, where he preached the word of truth and finished his glorious martyrdom. The third see is that of Antioch, which belonged to the most blessed Peter, where first he dwelled before he came to Rome, and where the name "Christians" was first applied, as to a new people." (Decree of Damasus # 3, 382 A.D.)

So, there were three patriarchal bishops, each in charge of directly managing the churches on the three known continents ---Rome managed Europe and the West, Alexandria managed eastern Africa, and Antioch managed Asia. Yet, Rome itself held the primacy and was the final court of appeal among the three patriarchies. And, since each of these three bishops were patriarchs, all three of them were called "Popes." ...that is, the "Pope of Rome," the "Pope of Alexandria," and the "Pope of Antioch." Rome did not hold primacy because its bishop was a "Pope/patriarch," but because the Bishop of Rome happened to be the actual successor of St. Peter. The Eastern Orthodox Church is led by the Patriarch of Constantinople. Constantinople was not a patriarch in the early Church. The Byzantine Empire tried to make the bishop of Constantinople into a patriarch several times because Constantinople was the Emperor's church and the political capital of the Eastern Empire. But, Rome repeatedly refused to ratify these attempts. It was only in the Middle Ages, after Alexandria and Antioch fell to the Muslims, that Rome recognized Constantinople as the ranking patriarch for the East.

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Didn't the Catholic Church invent the Pope?

An email from an Orthodox Christian says:

Later though, didn't the Church in Rome, because of how far it was from the other Christian Churches begin to want their own authority (the Pope), but didn't the other Churches not agree on this

That is a revisionist theory. The other Apostolic city-churches always recognized the primal authority of the church of Rome because of its succession from St. Peter. We can see this in all the fathers, as well as in the acts of the early Ecumenical councils. Here are some examples of Byzantine saints speak about primacy of Peter

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Weren't all positions in the Church equal?

An email said:

... eastern Church think that the different positions in the Church (Deacons, Priests, Bishops/Metropolitans, Archbishops, Patriarchs) were not any greater than each other? Weren't they all on the same level because everyone is equal (and their authority is God and not man)? Yet the only thing that differed was their responsibilities and role in the Church.

Even in Eastern understanding, a priest is clearly greater in authority and ministerial power than a deacon. A deacon cannot preside at the Eucharist or forgive sins in Christ's Name, for example. Likewise, a bishop is clearly higher in authority than a priest or deacon, since a bishop can both ordain and excommunicate a priest or a deacon --a bishop alone possess the regional authority to "bind and loosen."   A priest or a deacon does not. And, in the order of regional authority, a metropolitan or archbishop holds authority over a regular bishop, since a metropolitan or archbishop holds the rule over a certain territory; and a patriarch holds the rule over an even greater extent of territory. The Council of Nicaea itself, which in Canon 6 declares:

"Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis prevail that the Bishop of Alexandria has jurisdiction in all these, since that is custom of the Bishop of Rome also.  Likewise, in Antioch and the other provinces, let the churches retain their privileges."  (Nicaea, Canon 6). 

In other words, the Council recognized that the Bishop (Patriarch) of Alexandria has jurisdictional authority over all the other bishops in Egypt, Libya, and the Pentapolis because the Bishop of Rome (who had final authority, universally) recognized that the Bishop of Alexandria holds regional authority in these places. And Nicaea continues in Canon 7, saying ...   

"Since custom and ancient Tradition have obtained that the Bishop of Aelia (i.e., Jerusalem) be honored, let him have the succession of honor, saving however the domestic right of the metropolis" [i.e., Caesarea].  (Nicaea, Canon 7)

In other words, the Bishop of Jerusalem was to hold a place of honor, but was not to have any real authority over other bishops, but was to remain under the regional authority of the Bishop of Caesaea, who was the metropolitan in Palestine at the time, and the Bishop of Jerusalem was under this metropolitan's jurisdiction. 

It is correct to argue that there are only three Apostolic ministries in the Church --bishop, priest, and deacon; and correct that all bishops are equal in the essential nature of their office. The Pope, for example, is only the Bishop of Rome. He is not some kind of "super-bishop" or something more than a bishop. Rather, like Peter himself, who was merely one Apostle among the other Apostles, the Pope is one bishop among other bishops. But, like Peter, he is the bishop who holds the ministry for maintaining all his brother bishops in unity and orthodoxy (see again Luke 22:31-32). In this, he is similar to the captain of a basketball team.  He is merely a player like all the other players; but he is the player who has the special responsibility for holding the entire team together and maintaining the "orthodoxy" of its game plays. This is the proper understanding of how we Catholics see the primacy of the Pope of Rome.  

Deacons are not equal in authority to priests, and priests are not equal in authority to bishops. And not all bishops are equal in terms of their ministries and responsibilities. A metropolitan or patriarch has greater responsibilities than the bishop of some little town.  Scripture says that there is a hierarchal order of ministry in the Church and that some ministries are greater than others --see 1 Corinth 12:28-31. 

This makes the authority of a priest, for example, greater than the authority of a deacon. And it likewise makes the authority of the Bishop of Rome greater than the authority of the bishop of some little town in Syria. Each have their God-given ministries; and some ministries are greater and more important that others. 

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Didn't the Popes overexert their power?

Our friend's email above continues:

Yet, the authority the Romans wanted was supposed to be one of power,was supposed to make decisions for them and rule them, and it ended up being almost like the authoritative office of king.  

There have been times in history when the Popes did over exert their power. John Paul II apologized for that. Generally, they stepped in only when a serious error threatened the UNIVERSAL unity and orthodoxy of the Church. To illustrate how Popes regarded their authority, consider the witness of Pope St. Gregory the Great (c. A.D. 590). Corresponding with the Byzantine bishop of Syracuse in Sicily (Sicily was a Byzantine province at the time), he discusses a new candidate for patriarch of Constantinople, and Pope Gregory writes ...

"As to what he says, that he is subject to the Apostolic See (Rome), I know of no bishop who is not subject to it, if there be any fault found in bishops." (Pope Gregory I Ep. Ad. Joan.)

In other words, Pope St. Gregory is saying that a bishop is only subject to the authority of Rome if and when that bishop departs from orthodoxy, and thus must be corrected or condemned by Rome. Pope St. Gregory did not believe (nor did any of his predecessors or successors) that the Pope of Rome should mico-manage the other churches. Rather, the other bishops should merely recognize Rome's authority when disputes arose --disputes which threatened to disturb the universal unity and orthodox Faith of the entire Catholic Church. 

If a Pope acted like a "king," it was sometimes because they were forced to behave this way as they consistently battled with the Emperors of Constantinople for control over the universal Church. The Eastern Emperors often considered themselves to be the "head of the Church" and proclaimed themselves to be the "Christ on earth."    And, in this capacity, they sometimes led the Church into formal heresy. And the only force on earth that was able to stand up to them was the Pope of Rome. As presented above, we have numerous examples of faithful Eastern saints appealing to the Popes of Rome when the Eastern Emperors forced heresies upon the Church; and the Eastern saints turned to Rome to defend orthodoxy against these heretical Emperors and the heretical bishops that went along with them, such as the Arian heresy. It was through this constant conflict between Emperor and Pope that the Pope of Rome acquired certain "emperor-like" behavior; and this developed as a necessary evil, because the Eastern Empire had become a somewhat a political theocracy and it sometimes politicized the Christian Faith. This made it necessary for the Pope of Rome to act in secular ways and to exercise authority in a secular manner. If the Pope did not do this, we would all be Arians, or Monophysites, or Iconoclasts today.  

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Did the Eastern Orthodox Church recognize the Primacy of Rome?

The forefathers of Eastern Orthodox Church recognized the universal authority of the Pope of Rome. For example, St. Maximus the Confessor, a famous monk from Constantinople and a father of the Eastern Orthodox Church, writes ...

"How much more in the case of the clergy and church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? Having surely received this canonically, as well as from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter (Peter & Paul), and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues in synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate .....even as in all these things all are equally subject to her (the Church of Rome) according to sacerodotal law. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers (the Popes) are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church of Rome." (Maximus, in J.B. Mansi, ed. Amplissima Collectio Conciliorum, vol. 10)

Likewise, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the famous Byzantine "Apostles to the Slav" (and founders of the Eastern Orthodox Church in the Balkans), writes ....

"Because of his primacy, the Pontiff of Rome is not required to attend an Ecumenical Council; but without his participation, manifested by sending some subordinates, every Ecumenical Council is as non-existant, for it is he who presides over the Council." (--Methodius ---N. Brian-Chaninov, The Russian Church (1931), 46; cited by Butler, Church and Infallibility, 210) (Upon This Rock (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999), p. 177).

"It is not true, as this Canon states, that the holy Fathers gave the primacy to old Rome because it was the capital of the Empire; it is from on high, from divine grace, that this primacy drew its origin. Because of the intensity of his faith Peter, the first of the Apostles, was addressed in these words by our Lord Jesus Christ himself 'Peter, lovest thou me? Feed my sheep'. That is why in hierarchical order Rome holds the pre-eminent place and is the first See. That is why the leges of old Rome are eternally immovable, and that is the view of all the Churches" (Ibid)

Some modern Eastern Orthodox members are not aware of the tradition of recognizing the primacy of Rome. The Orthodox friend of mine said that Peter is not the Rock upon which Jesus built the Church. (Mat 16:18) I found this to be very similar to some of the dialogues I have had with Evangelicals so I did some tracing back to the roots of this theory. It is clear that the theory that the Peter is not the Rock is a new and has been obtained from Evangelical Christians. The Eastern Orthodox Church always acknowledged Peter as the Rock, although at various times in history they have said he does not have primacy. I have a fuller exploration of Peter as the Rock here, it includes quotes from many Church Fathers. Catholics think that it is necessary to have a "team captain" for the Bishops in order to maintain unity. We think that the absence of unanimity and agreement among many Orthodox bishops from the Greek, Russian, American backgrounds is good evidence to the wisdom of Jesus' pronouncement that Peter be the leader among equals.

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Examples of Peter's leadership among the Apostles

  • You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church (Mat 16:18)
  • Next to Jesus, Peter is mentioned more than any other apostle in Scripture (152 times).
  • He stood up and spoke on behalf of the apostles to lead in their replacement of Judas.(Mt 19:27, Acts 1:15, 2:14)
  • He stood up to lead the apostles at the birth of the Church at the Pentecost (Acts 2:14)
  • The disciples were referred to as Peter and the Apostles. (Acts 2:37, 5:29)
  • Peter was given the authority to forgive sins before the rest of the apostles. (Mat 16:18)
  • He was always named first when the apostles were listed (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13) -- sometimes it was only "Peter and those who were with him" (Luke 9:32);
  • John ran ahead of Peter to the tomb but upon arriving he stopped and did not go in. He waited and let Peter go in. (Jn 20:4)
  • Jesus told Peter to "feed my lambs...tend my sheep... feed my sheep." (Jn 21:15-17) The difference between a sheep and a lamb might be significant. A lamb is a baby, a sheep is an adult. Perhaps Jesus was asking Peter to take care of both the general people (the lambs), and the apostles (sheep). Regardless of that interpretation of sheep and lambs, it is clear Jesus is asking Peter to feed and tend his flock. That is what a shepherd does. It appearsthat he is asking Peter to shepherd his Church on earth, on his behalf.

It is because of the scriptural and historical primacy of Peter over the Apostles, that Catholics believe the Bishop of Rome has primacy over the other Churches. We Catholics pray that we will be able to come into union with the Orthodox Church under the premise that Peter holds the keys to the kingdom, but that each Bishop is largely responsible for his own diocese.

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Is the Pope Sinless?

>This is why the people there yearned so for a leader in their church, to lead them in a way (that was not right.) The teachings that their new leader was sinless and greater than many were heresies against the Church.

Catholics do not believe, and have never believed, that the Pope is "sinless" or that he is "greater" (as a man) than others in the Church. As for visible leadership .... If it is so wrong, then

  1. why did Christ commission Peter to lead the infant Church? (per Luke 22:31-32 and John 21:15-19)? and
  2. why do Eastern Orthodox follow the patriarch or their respective bishops?  

We do not believe that it's okay to throw our Eucharist in the street, which is what the Eastern Patriarch did; and he did this for the VERY reason that our Orthodox friend is trying to apply to the Papacy above --that is, because of human desire for power and glory. Eastern Emperors and Patriarchs often throughout history sought to replace make themselves the self-appointed figureheads of the Church against the words of Mathew 16:18.  

>Against what Christ was, for He is the only sinless one and true Shepherd of His flock- His Church.

So, the Blessed Theotokos is not also sinless?   If she is a sinner, why do the Eastern Churches call her "Panagia" ("All Holy One") and "Panagiota" ("All Sinless One") in their Greek Liturgical Tradition? More about that here.

No one is claiming that the Pope is sinless.  And as for being the Shepherd of the Flock ...  If Christ alone is Shepherd of the Flock, then the Eastern Church could not have it's own Orthodox bishops. The word "bishop" in Greek is "episkopos" --that is, "overseer," which is a term for a shepherd --one who "oversees" the sheep. Thus, The Eastern tradition admits that Christ is not the only Shepherd of the flock, but that there are many, many VICARIOUS shepherds under Him. For all bishops are indeed vicars of Christ. But, the Bishop of Rome (the direct successor of Peter) happens to hold the primacy among all of these vicars of Christ, and is thus Christ's vicar on the universal level, whereas other bishops (and patriarchs, archbishops, and metropolitans) are Christ's vicars on lesser, regional or local levels. And, as I showed, this is all perfectly Biblical and Apostolic.  

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What does infallibility mean?

One of the most misunderstood things about the Pope is this "infallibility" thing. Some Evangelicals think infallibility means that Catholics claim that every word that comes out of the Pope's mouth is supposed to be infallible.

The Pope is human and therefore sins. He's the first to admit it. He goes to regular confession where he confesses his sin, repents and is granted forgiveness. Catholics do not deny the Pope's humanity. At a meeting of Priests, Pope Benedict said:

"…The Pope is not an oracle, he is infallible on the rarest of occasions, as we know…"

What the Church is saying with the doctrine of infallibly is that Christ is protecting his flock by giving the Pope the ability to say the right things when making official statements about faith and morals. The Church claims that these proclamations are "infallible," not that Church leaders are "indefectible." Most certainly everybody in the Catholic Church has defects (including its leaders), just like Evangelicals and all humans.

The doctrine of infallibility has nothing to do with the brainpower, intuition, moral fibre, or even the faith of the Pope. The Doctrine of infallibility has everything to do with God protecting his Church. It's amazing that even during medieval times when there were some questionable and even bad Popes, God kept them silent on issues of faith and morals during their office.

A Pope only exercises infallibility on rare occasions - a handful of times in history. Here are the conditions:

  1. The Pope must speak ex cathedra (from the Chair of Peter) in his official capacity.
  2. The decision must be binding on the whole Church.
  3. It must be on a matter of faith or morals.
  4. He must be intending to teach.

Some Evangelicals wonder how this mystery and miracle of infallibility could be possible. How can a defective human, under some conditions, speak infallibly? We have to ask ourselves "is Jesus capable of protecting his flock in this way?" The answer is that Jesus can do anything. Christ promised to guide and protect his Church and to send the Holy Spirit to lead it into all truth. (Mat 16:18-19, 18:18, 28:20; Jn 14:16, 25, 16:13). The Holy Spirit guided the Church when it decided which books were to be included in the Bible. That was an infallible decision. Praise God!

Certainly many who are reading this have had experiences where God made something very clear to them through the Grace of the Holy Spirit. How much more would He want to do that for someone who has been trusted to lead and influence millions of Christians.

Peter’s infallibility (see Matt 16:18-19) is not his own, but comes from Christ. Peter is merely Christ’s instrument.  Peter is merely the VICARIOUS Rock of the Church (he is Christ’s vicar / physical substitute), whereas Christ Himself is of course the Church’s only real and ultimate Rock.

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Peter is not the Rock according to the Orthodox Study Bible

Our Orthodox friend comments:

Orthodox Study Bible pg. 1299 says that Jesus' statement "You are peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church (Mat 16:18) was not of  Peter himself, but of the faith of his confession. So isn't Jesus is the Rock of the Church, and the Church "is built on the faithful confession of Christ?"

The "Orthodox Study Bible" is not presenting the full story, and it is directly at odds with the testimony of every Church father who addresses this subject, including Eastern fathers. For while it is true that some of the Church fathers do speak of Christ or of Peter's confession as "the Rock" of Matt 16:18, ALL of these SAME Church fathers ALSO speak of Peter himself as the Rock. This was not an either-or proposition for our ancient Christian forefathers, but a "both-and" proposition. What the Church has always believed is that Christ Himself is the only TRUE Rock of the Church.  Here are what the fathers (and some other scholars of the ancient Church) have to say.

The Eastern Church fathers call Peter the Rock

  • Tatian the Syrian (170 A.D.): "Simon Kephas answered and said, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said unto him, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah: flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee also, that you are Rock, and on this Rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it" (The Diatesseron 23 [A.D. 170]).
  • Tertullian (220 A.D.):"Was anything hid from Peter, who was called the Rock, whereon the Church was built; who obtained the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the power of loosing and of binding  in heaven and on earth?"  (Tertullian, De Praescript Haeret). 
  • Tertullian thereafter writes to criticize Pope Callistus I by saying ...."I now inquire into your opinions, to see whence you usurp the right for the Church.  Do you presume, because the Lord said to Peter, 'On this rock I will build my Church ...[Matt 16-19]' that the power of binding and loosing has thereby been handed over to you, that is, to every church akin to Peter? What kind of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest intent of the Lord when He conferred this personally on Peter?  'On you,' He says, 'I will build my Church; and I give to you the keys'...." (Tertullian, On Modesty 21:9-10) 
  • The Apocryphal Letter of St. Clement of Rome to St. James (C. 221 A.D.) "Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus Himself, with His truthful mouth, named Peter" (Letter of Clement to James 2 [A.D. 221])
  • St. Gregory Nazianzus write ….  "See thou that of the disciples of Christ, all of whom were great and deserving of the choice, one is called a Rock and entrusted with the foundations of the Church." (Gregory Naz., T. i or xxxii). ... and "Peter, the Chief of the disciples, but he was a Rock (Gregory Naz., T. ii.) …and … "[Peter], that unbroken Rock who held the keys." (Gregory Naz., Sect. ii Poem Moral. tom. ii.)
  • St. Gregory of Nyssa: "Peter, with his whole soul, associates himself with the Lamb; and, by means of the change of his name, he is changed by the Lord into something more divine.  Instead of Simon, being both called and having become a Rock, the great Peter did not by advancing little by little attain unto this grace, but at once he listened to his brother (Andrew), believed in the Lamb, and was through faith perfected, and, having cleaved to the Rock, became himself Peter."  (Gregory of Nyssa, T. i. Hom. xv. in C. Cantic). …and ….  "Peter ...that most firm Rock, upon which the Lord build His Church." (Gregory of Nyssa, Alt. Or. De. S. Steph.) 
  • St. Basil the Great:…. "The house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the foundations of which are on the holy mountains, for it is built upon the Apostles and prophets.  One also of these mountains was Peter, upon which Rock the Lord promised to build His Church."  (Basil, T. i. Comment. in Esai.  c. ii.). …and …. "The soul of blessed Peter was called a lofty Rock ..."  (Basil, Sermon 1 De Fide I.13).
  • St. John Chrysostom: "...and when I name Peter, I name that unbroken Rock, that firm foundation, the Great Apostle, the First of the disciples ..."  (Chrysostom, T. ii. Hom. iii. de Paednit). …and …. "Peter, the leader of the choir, that Mouth of the rest of the Apostles, that Head of the brotherhood, that one set over the entire universe, that Foundation of the Church."  (Chrysostom, In illud. hoc Scitote). and …. "Peter, ...  that Pillar of the Church, the Buttress of the Faith, the Foundation of the Confession."  (Chrysostom, T. iii. Hom. de Dec. Mill. Talent)
  • More here

A full discussion of the Peter as the Rock is here

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Is the Pope necessary?

We got an email that said:

<>No Pope is needed as leader of the Churches while we have God with us…

Then why did Jesus entrust Peter with this role in John 21:15-19 and Luke 22:31-32?    And why do you have bishops at all?    Your statement above is worthy of a Protestant, not an Orthodox. If you did not have the Papacy in the past, you would be an Arian or a Monophysite today. Christ worked through the Papacy (as He still does today) to maintain His universal Church in unity and orthodoxy. This is what the ministry of the Pope is for.  

unless you are saying Jesus never rose from the dead and you need to replace Him?

 No one is suggesting any “replacement” for Christ.  Does you bishop “replace” Christ?   Or is your bishop not, rather, Christ’s vicar –the one who holds the flock together in Christ’s physical absence?    So, if your bishop does not “replace” Christ on the local level, then neither does the Pope of Rome “replace” Christ on the universal level. The Pope is merely Christ’s vicar, not His “replacement.”    He is the ministerial instrument which Christ established, and through which Christ acts in maintaining His Church in universal unity and orthodoxy. There is nothing unApostolic or unorthodox about this.  In fact, your OWN Greek forefathers attest to it –that is, they recognized the exclusive role and importance of the Bishop of Rome as Peter’s literal successor.     Again your modern Prelates are at odds with their own Greek fathers.

>It is not so, Jesus Christ is alive and He leads His Church. From Him we receive our authority, our mission, our Holy Tradition, and from Him we live.

Correction:  We do not receive it DIRECTLY from Him. Rather, we receive it from Him THROUGH THE APOSTLES, who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, appointed the first BISHOPS, who, in turn, appointed SUCCESSORS, down to this present day. We are under THEIR Christ-given authority.    And, the authority of a bishop flows from the authority of the one who ordained him to be a bishop –that is, the patriarch; and the authority of the patriarch flows from a) his predecessor in the patriarchal see and b) from Rome itself, since Rome, unlike all the other patriarchs, never fell into heresy or broke Apostolic succession. Thus, as a matter of practical and historical reality, the Apostolic authority of ALL Eastern Orthodox bishops depends entirely upon the Pope of Rome, whose authority and acceptance the ancient heretical Eastern bishops needed to receive in order to be restored to the TRUE Church when they returned from their various heresies (e.g. Arianism, Monophysism, etc.).  

For the body, the Church, cannot live without Christ Jesus.

Nor can we identify where the Body is without the Sacramental heads of the Body (the true bishops), who must, by necessity, be in union with Peter’s own successor. 

Then: And as for being the Shepherd of the Flock ... If Christ alone is Shepherd of the Flock, then you could not have your own Orthodox bishops.  Know that as everyone has tasks in the Church, and it is one body working for the salvation and unity of all, so is the office of bishop, Archbishop, and Patriarch. It is not that they are greater than any other, it is just their role in the Church.

Christ is not the only Shepherd of the Flock. So are the bishops. And the Bishop of Rome has a “role” of greater responsibility among his brother bishops …as is also true of a patriarch or a metropolitan archbishop.  

Just as it is not right to say that an actor is better than a director, for both are given talents and gifts and use them in their different roles, they  cannot be said to be either greater or lesser than one another.

The actor is not the director and the director is not the actor. In other words, the actor must do what the director says. While they are both essential to the play, they are not equal in authority. And, in the same way, a lay person is answerable to the authority of a bishop. You cannot avoid this. It is intrinsic to their roles. Christ may love a bishop and a lay person equally. They may have equal dignity and essential importance in the Body. But in terms of AUTHORITY, the lay person IS NOT equal to a bishop or above a bishop. Rather, the lay person is one of the sheep, and the bishop is over the lay person as the shepherd.  

Therefore, having a Pope over the whole Church as a central authority is wrong. 

It is not wrong in terms of Christ-given episcopal authority and responsibility. All Apostles were equal as Apostles, but Peter was given the additional responsibility to maintain them in unity and orthodoxy (see Luke 22:31-32). See also John 21:15-19. This is the Apostolic Tradition. You cannot avoid it IF you are truly Apostolic.  SOMEONE must maintain the unity and orthodoxy of the Church on the UNIVERSAL level, as a patriarch maintains it on the regional level and a regular bishop maintains it on the local level. This ministry belongs to the Bishop of Rome, Peter’s own successor. That’s what our ancient forefathers believed, including YOUR Byzantine forefathers.  

>And know that the bishop, Archbishop, and Patriarch are shepherds of the flock of Christ because they help guide and instruct the flock in the faith, just like the apostles did in the beginning.

Before you said that Christ alone is the shepherd. So, if you now admit that there are other shepherds (vicarious shepherds) aside from Christ, then you should have no trouble accepting the fact that the Pope of Rome is a shepherd of the flock aside from Christ too. What you don’t understand is that different vicarious shepherds have different levels of ministry –local, regional, and universal. On the local level, the shepherd entrusted with the ministry to maintain the flock in unity and orthodoxy is the local bishop. But, on the regional level, this ministry belongs to the metropolitan or the patriarch, who must unify, not only the flock, but the various bishops of that region. However, on the universal level, this ministry belongs to the Bishop of Rome, who must unify and hold together (in unity and orthodoxy) all the other bishops of the world –that is, the other patriarchs, metropolitans, and the various bishops under them. For we are one, catholic (universal) Church. This is the Apostolic understanding of the fathers. The Pope of Rome is to step in when the universal unity of the Church is threatened –when patriarch opposes patriarch, and bishop opposes bishop.     Who else do you think should judge and settle such problems   The Emperor?   The Tzar?     I don’t see anything about Jesus entrusting this duty to a Tzar in the New Testament. But I do see Matt 16:18-19, Luke 22:31-32, and John 21:15-19, where he establishes this office through Peter.    And I do see all of the ancient fathers (writing before the time of Constantine) sending their appeals to the Bishop of Rome. 

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Where Ignatius' words about the Church being Catholic accepted?

> I would like to add that the word “Orthodox” in Greek is “orthódoxos” meaning “right in religion“, or “straight teaching”;  and the word “Catholic” is “katholikós” meaning “general” and/or “kathól(ou)” meaning “universally”.

Also, the word “katholikos” literally means “the whole in every part.”    It is loosely translated “universal.” 

>St. Ignatius of Antioch would only  be describing the Church if he used these terms (because at the time the Church was not called by those names). 

Yes, it was. Here is what Ignatius says:

"You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles.  Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God.  Let no one do anything of concern to the Church
without the bishop.  Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints.  Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is THE CATHOLIC CHURCH."  (Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans) 

Ignatius’ point is that the TRUE Church (the CATHOLIC Church –the Church as it is known in all parts of the world) is found locally with the bishop, as opposed to Gnostic cults and other false sects which claimed to be the true Church. Ergo, here as early as A.D. 107, the Church was already known as “the Catholic Church.”     It would have been known by that name while the Apostle John was still alive, since he died only about 7 years earlier than the time when Ignatius is writing. Also, as I said, the term “the Way” was only used by Jewish Christians when speaking to other Jews.

>Yes, I know that for a time there was a bishop in Rome, but it was not the Pope as you know it.

Show me a time when this was. Give me some historical proof for your position.  I’ve already showed you from the fathers that the Catholic position goes back to at least St. Ireneaus of Lyon in A.D. 180.  I can also show Papal authority in the writings of St. Ignatius (A.D. 107) and St. Clement of Rome (A.D. 90). So, where’s your evidence? 

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The 5 Holy Sees?

<In Greek there is a word for bishop that is “pápas” and the Romans in those days called their bishop Pope.

Actually, the word “papas” referred to any patriarch, whether of Rome or Alexandria, or Antioch. Thus, one may also refer to the “Pope of Alexandria” or the “Pope of Antioch.”  The Pope of Rome does not hold primacy in the universal Church because he is called “Pope.”   He holds primacy because, unlike the other patriarchs, he happens to be the direct successor of St. Peter.    The two other original Apostolic patriarchates (Alexandria and Antioch …Jerusalem and Constantinople are not Apostolic, but creations of the Eastern Empire in the 5th Century), both Alexandria and Antioch were only patriarchs (in Africa and Asia, respectively) because of their ties of discipleship to Petrine Rome. In A.D. 382, Pope Damasus recounts the Tradition for us. He writes:

"Although all the Catholic Churches spread abroad throughout the world comprise but one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of the churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, Who says: ‘You are Peter ...(Matt 16:18-19).’  In addition to this, there is also the companionship of the vessel of election, the most blessed Apostle Paul who, along with Peter in the city of Rome in the time of Caesar Nero, equally consecrated the above-mentioned holy Roman church to Christ the Lord; and by their own presence and by their venerable triumph, they set it at the forefront over the others of all the cities of the world.  The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman church, which has neither stain nor blemish, nor anything like that.  The second see is that of Alexandria, consecrated on behalf of the blessed Peter by Mark, his disciple and an Evangelist, who was sent to Egypt by the Apostle Peter, where he preached the word of truth and finished his glorious martyrdom.  The third see is that of Antioch, which belonged to the most blessed Peter, where first he dwelled before he came to Rome, and where the name ‘Christians’ was first applied, as to a new people."  (Decree of Damasus # 3, 382 A.D.)

So, Rome held primacy because that’s where Peter set up his Chair; Alexandria held the second place because Peter, while at Rome, sent St. Mark to be his representative there (in Africa), and Antioch held primacy in Asia because it was governed by St. Evodius and the other Bishops of Antioch who Peter appointed to directly govern the churches in Asia before he went to Rome. In this, Peter essentially triangulated the three known continents –Europe, Africa, and Asia; and final appeals were to be sent to Rome. This, again, is the Apostolic Tradition.  …a Tradition which you reject, but which all the fathers accepted. Why is that? 

But the role of the Pope back then was not as it is now. Look at the bishops in the Orthodox Church today- this is how the Pope of Rome was, he was neither greater than nor more Christian than any other bishop in those days;

Is that how the bishops of the Orthodox Church are today?  “Greater” in what sense?   In terms of AUTHORITY, as I showed before, a bishop IS greater than a regular Christian; and the Pope of Rome IS greater (in authority) than a regular bishop.     The issue here is authority. Clearly, you do not believe that all Christians are equal in authority. That is an idea worthy of a Protestant, not the position of the Orthodox Church. 

and the Church had it’s true authority only in God.

In addressing the issue of divorce above, you said that it is decided by local Orthodox jurisdictions. If God alone holds authority, then what gives these jurisdictions the ability to decide things?    Likewise, if God alone holds authority, you could never settle a dispute in the Church. Scripture shows us that such disputes are to be settled by the final magisterium of the Church –see Acts 15:1-2, Matt 18:17-18, Heb 13:17, etc. Christ gave the bishops of His Church authority to settle disputes. You, as a lay person, may not overturn or reject the ruling of your bishop; and, according to Tradition, no bishop may overturn or reject the final ruling of the Bishop of Rome.

>For the Roman Catholic Church today, the Pope’s role has shifted to that of greater authority- something the Orthodox Church can never accept in their own Church. It is not meant to be.

You earlier spoke of the jurisdiction of bishops in regard to divorce.    That’s called Church authority.  

Biography of St. Peter's activities in Rome

ST. PETER (Bishop of Rome from A.D. 42 to A.D. 67): First Bishop of Rome. Fleeing Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judea in the reign of Herod Agrippa in A.D. 42, Peter settled in Rome, where, according to Tertullian, he Baptized locals in the Tiber River (near the Jewish ghetto) and built up the Jewish church of Rome (established as a collection of house-churches by Roman Jewish converts on the day of Pentecost --see: Acts 2:9-10; Romans 16:7), while also winning numerous Roman Gentiles to the Faith.  He lived in the house of Priscilla and Aquila, and in that of Senator Prudens (see 2 Tim 4:21), whose daughters Sts. Praxedis and Pudentiana he Baptized, according to St. Hippolytus.   In A.D. 49, he was banished from Rome by Emperor Claudius along with all the other Jewish residents (see Acts 18:2) because of a riot which, as the Roman historian Suetonius tells us, was over someone named "Chrestus" (a mis-hearing of "Christus" --"Christ").  After attending the Council of Jerusalem in A.D. 49 (Acts 15) and, for a time, presiding as Bishop of Antioch, Peter returned to Rome (leaving his disciple St. Evodius to oversee the church of Antioch in his place). Upon his return to Rome, Peter continued to build up the Church there in association with St. Paul; and, together, they conflicted with, and refuted, the magician and proto-Gnostic Simon Magus (see Acts 8:9-24) who had deceived many Romans into accepting him as a living god (this is according to St. Ireneaus and others). During Peter's reign in Rome, his disciple St. Mark produced the Gospel of Mark (possibly as a "compromise Gospel" for universal use, as opposed to the Jewish Gospel of St. Matthew and the Gentile Gospel of St. Luke); and Mark was thereafter sent by Peter to the city of Alexandria in Egypt to preside as bishop there in Peter's name.  Peter, along with his wife and many other Christians, was martyred in Rome under Emperor Nero about one year before the martyrdom of St. Paul.  He was crucified upside-down on Vatican Hill, and buried in the immediate area by Senator Marcellus.  According to the prevailing tradition, he was succeeded by St. Linus as Bishop of Rome.  However, because of a possible misapplication on the part of St. Ireneaus, Linus (along with his successor St. Cletus) may have been a bishop in Rome during Peter's lifetime, who served as bishop in Rome when Peter was personally absent from the city (that is, during Peter's sojourn in Antioch). If this is the case, then Peter's immediate (posthumous) successor was St. Clement.  And it was the original Latin tradition that St. Clement was Peter's immediate successor, and the first to hold the office of the chief Rock and Key-bearer of the Church after the death of Peter. 

The Early years of Peter

We are not sure where Saint Peter went at first.  All we know is that, in the very same year that Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome (the Roman historian Suetonius tells us that Claudius expelled the Roman Jews over a riot over someone named "Chrestus," which is clearly a mis-hearing of "Christus" --"Christ"), which was A.D. 49, Peter was back in Jerusalem, where he attended the so-called "council of Jerusalem" (see Acts 15:7-11). So, it seems that he headed back home to Jerusalem when he (and all other Christian Jews) were expelled from Rome. This makes sense because the only reason that Peter fled to Rome in the first place was because he had to escape Herod Agrippa (see Acts 12). Herod Agrippa was the first member of the Herodian dynasty to rule all of Palestine (ruled between 40-44 A.D.) since the days of his grandfather, Herod the Great. Thus, when Peter miraculously escaped from the Jerusalem prison in Acts 12, he could not go home to Galilee, since Herod Agrippa ruled there too and he would just be arrested again. Nor could he flee to Syria (Antioch), since the Roman governor of Syria was Herod Agrippa's patron, and Herod could have captured Peter there. Nor would it has been smart to flee to Egypt (Alexandria), since Herod had close ties to the Roman governor of Egypt too. Rather, the best thing Peter could have done, as a wanted man with a price on his head, was flee directly to Rome, where we know Peter had people who could help him. One of Peter's chief disciples was the Centurion Cornelius, whom Peter had Baptized at Caesara; and who was a man of some influence. According to Acts 10, Cornelius was part of the cohort Italica, which was a contingent of archers recruited in central Italy, near Rome. And, when Herod Agrippa took direct control of Palestine, the cohort Italica was re-stationed in Italy. So, Cornelius would have been there to help Peter.  Likewise, according to Acts 2:9-10 and Romans 16:7, there were many Roman Jews who were in close contact with the Apostles in Jerusalem (having been converted to Christ since the day of Pentecost); and these Roman Jews (being Roman citizens, like St. Paul) were in a very good position to bring Peter's case to the Emperor himself --that is, to have the Emperor protect Peter and overturn Herod's condemnation of him. This is why Peter went to Rome --i.e., he fled there to have himself exonerated by the Emperor through the intercession of his Roman disciples. And, once he arrived there, there was no need to present his case to the Emperor, since Herod Agrippa had died and Palestine reverted to Roman control. So, Peter remained to establish the Roman church and become its first Apostolic leader. For all the fathers are in agreement that the "other place" referred to in Acts 12:17 is Rome itself.  

According to Galatians 2, Peter went to Antioch after the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), and he presided as bishop of Antioch until Jews were permitted to return to Rome. He later left St. Evodius in charge of Antioch and returned to Rome and, while there, he sent St. Mark (around 43 A.D.) to preside over Alexandria in his name. 

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St. Peter was bishop of Antioch before ever going to Rome and chose a successor when he left. So why is the Pope in Rome and not Antioch?

While it is true that St. Peter was also the first bishop of Antioch, the idea that Antioch is equal in primacy to Rome is not the Apostolic Tradition, even the Tradition of the Eastern Church, for several reasons.

First of all, the full Tradition is not that Peter was Bishop of Antioch before he was Bishop of Rome. Rather, according to all the fathers who mention the subject, Peter was bishop of Rome first --having traveled there way back in A.D. 42, when he was forced to flee Palestine after escaping from prison and the persecution of Herod Agrippa (see Acts 12). Indeed, in Acts 12:17, it says that Peter fled to "another place"; and, according to Eusebius, Jerome, and some other fathers, this "other place" was Rome. Then, in A.D. 49, exactly seven years later, according to both the Roman historian Suetonius and Acts 18:2, the Roman Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome because of a riot over someone who Suetonius calls "Chrestus" --clearly, a mis-hearing of "Christus" ("Christ"). So, apparently there was some kind of major conflict between the pro-Christian and anti-Christian Jews in Rome at this time; and the imperial authorities dealt with this by exiling all the Jews from Rome. St. Peter would have been among the Jews who were expelled; and, oddly enough, it is at this very time (A.D. 49) that St. Peter reappears in the Acts narrative (see Acts 15), where he is inexplicably present at the council of Jerusalem. Apparently, St. Luke (the author of Acts) saw no need to explain where Peter was between Acts 12 (A.D. 42) and Acts 15 (A.D. 49), but assumes that his original readers know where Peter was. Then, only after the council of Jerusalem (with the question of Gentile membership settled) did Peter settle in Antioch, where he became the first true bishop of that city-church (see Galatians 2:11-14). And, sometime after the death of Emperor Claudius, when the Jews were finally permitted to return to Rome (Emperor Nero's wife Pompea was a pro-Jewish "God-fearer") did Peter return to Rome --the city-church which he had established earlier (as its first true bishop); and it was at Rome that Peter concluded his earthly ministry. This is the full and true Tradition. 

Secondly, Rome's primacy comes, not from the fact that Peter was the bishop of Rome (since Peter was the bishop of quite a few places --e.g. Jerusalem, Antioch, etc.), but rather from the fact that Peter, in addition to being an Apostle (like all the other Apostles) and a bishop (like all other bishops) was also invested with a special and exclusive ministry by Christ --that is, the ministry of "Rock" and "Key-bearer" for the universal Church, with the duty and responsibility for maintaining the entire flock in unity and orthodoxy (e.g. Luke 22:31-32; John 21:15-19, etc.). And, while Peter lived, he took this ministry with him wherever he went. For example, while Peter was clearly the leader/bishop of the infant Church in Jerusalem, when he left Jerusalem, the ministry of "Rock" / "Key-bearer" did not remain with the church of Jerusalem (or pass on to St. James the Just, the first post-Apostolic bishop of Jerusalem), but remained with Peter personally. And, likewise, when Peter left Antioch to end his days in Rome, his Christ-given ministry of Rock and Key-bearer did not remain with Antioch (that is, with St. Evodius or St. Ignatius --the second and third bishops of Antioch, respectively), but was taken with Peter to Rome. And, it was at Rome that Peter laid down his life and concluded his earthly ministry. And this is why his ministry of Rock and Key-bearer was passed on to his earthly successor(s) at Rome, and not those at Antioch or anywhere else.   

Ancient Antiochians profess the primacy of Rome

In A.D. 449, we have Theodoret of Cyrus (a native of Antioch ...and disciple of St. John Chrysostom) writing as follows to Pope Leo the Great:

  • Theodoret Ibid, Epistle Leoni: "If Paul, the herald of the truth, the trumpet of the Holy Spirit, hastened to the great Peter, to convey from him the solution to those in Antioch, who were at issue about living under the law, how much more do we, poor and
    humble, run to the Apostolic Throne (Rome) to receive from you (Pope Leo) healing for wounds of the churches.  For it pertains to you to have primacy in all things; for your throne is adorned with many prerogatives."
  • "For that all holy throne (Rome) has the office of heading the churches of the whole world, for many reasons; and, above all others, because it has remained free of the communion of heretical taint, and no one holding heterodox sentiments ever sat in it, but it has preserved the Apostolic grace unsullied."
    (Theodoret, Epist Renato)
  • "Hasten to your Apostolic See (Rome) in order to receive from you a cure for the wounds of the Church.  For every reason it is fitting for you (Pope Leo) to hold the first place, inasmuch as your see is adorned with many privileges.  I have been condemned without trial.  But I await the sentence of your Apostolic See.  I beseech and implore Your Holiness to succor me in my appeal to your fair and righteous tribunal.  Bid me hasten to you and prove to you that my
    teaching follows in the footsteps of the Apostles."  (Theodoret to Pope Leo, Ep. 113). 

Likewise, at the very same time, we have Bishop St. Eusebius of Doryleum, who was also a member of the patriarchate of Antioch; and he too writes to Pope Leo and says ...

  • "The Apostolic throne (Rome) has been wont from the beginning to defend those who are suffering injustice.  I entreat Your Blessedness, give me back the dignity of my episcopate and communion with yourself, by letters from you to my lowliness bestowing on me my rank and communion."  (Eusebius of Doryleum
    to Pope Leo)   

The response to these petitions was that Pope Leo had the Emperor Marcian call the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451). And this Council, which of course included the Bishop of Antioch and all of the dependents of his patriarchate, has this to say about the authority of Rome:

  • "For if 'where two or three are gathered together in His name' He has said that 'there He is in the midst of them," must He not have been much more particularly present with 520 priests, who preferred the spread of knowledge concerning Him ...Of whom you were Chief, as Head to the members, showing
    your good wi
    ll." ---Chalcedon to Pope Leo (Repletum est Gaudio), November 451. 
  • "You are set as an interpreter to all of the voice of blessed Peter, and to all you impart the blessings of that Faith."  ---Chalcedon to Pope Leo, Ep. 98
  • "Besides all this, he extended his fury even against him who had been charged with the custody of the Vine by the Savior.  We refer to Your Holiness." ---Chalcedon to Pope Leo, Ep. 98. 
  • "Knowing that every success of the children rebounds to the parents, we therefore beg you to honor our decision by your assent, and as we have yielded agreement to the Head in noble things, so may the Head also fulfill what is fitting for the children." --Chalcedon to Pope Leo, Ep. 98.

Once again, the Patriarch (Bishop) of Antioch is one of the Chalcedonian fathers who is speaking to Pope Leo of Rome in this way. He could not have done so if Antioch was equal in Petrine authority to Rome. 

And, indeed, when we look at the previous Ecumenical Council, we see the same thing. For, according to the Acts of the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 (and this is in the Greeks Acts as well as in the Latin version), the Roman presbyter Philip, who represented the Bishop of Rome at the Council, declared:

  • "There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the Apostles, pillar of the faith and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the Keys of the Kingdom from
    our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins; who down even to this day and forever both lives and judges in his successors.  The holy and most blessed Pope Celestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place."  (Acts of the Council of Ephesus, session 3). 

Thirdly, the ancient Church simply did not believe that Antioch had equal primacy with Rome. We can see this clearly from the testimony of the ancient Antiochians themselves in the box to the right.  

And this statement was of course accepted without dispute by both the Bishop of Antioch and by St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, who presided over the Council of Ephesus. Indeed, the second see after Rome was not Antioch, but Alexandria. In other words, Alexandria was second in primacy among the original three (Apostle-established) patriarchs, which were: Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch --in THAT order of primacy. We see this again and again in the patristic record, and both the Eastern fathers and the Western fathers testify to this fact. For example, writing in A.D. 382, Pope St. Damasus I (writing to defend Alexandria's Traditional primacy in the East after the imperial-backed bishop of Constantinople tried --unsuccessfully --to usurp Alexandria's authority at the Council of Constantinople I in A.D. 381) outlines the true Tradition quite well. Pope St. Damasus says ... 

"Although all the Catholic churches spread abroad throughout the world comprise but one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of the churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, Who says: 'You are Peter ...(Matt 16:18-19).'  In addition to this, there is also the companionship of the vessel of election, the most blessed Apostle Paul who, along with Peter in the city of Rome in the time of Caesar Nero, equally consecrated the above-mentioned holy Roman church to Christ the Lord; and by their own presence and by their venerable triumph, they set it at the forefront over the others of all the cities of the world. The
first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman church, which has neither stain nor blemish, nor anything like that.  The second see is that of Alexandria, consecrated on behalf of the blessed Peter by Mark, his disciple and an Evangelist, who was sent to Egypt by the Apostle Peter, where he preached the word of truth and finished his glorious martyrdom.  The third see is that of Antioch, which belonged to the most blessed Peter, where he dwelled before he came to Rome, and where the name 'Christians' was first applied, as to a new people."  (Decree of Damasus # 3, 382 A.D.)

So, Rome was recognized by all to be St. Peter's actual see --his "based of operations" and the successor to his Christ-given ministry as "Rock" and "Key-bearer" (i.e., the final, earthly "court of appeal" for the universal Church). Alexandria was recognized to be second in authority because of its ties of discipleship between St. Peter and St. Mark, who was Peter's chief disciple and the first Bishop of Alexandria. And Antioch was recognized to be third in authority because it once belonged to Peter. But Rome itself was clearly the final court of appeal and the universal primate. No honest student of Church history (not even Eastern Orthodox scholars like Ware and Meyendorff) denies this. Any Eastern Orthodox who makes the argument that you cite above is clearly ignorant of his own Orthodox Tradition. 

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They also say Linus was chosen by both Paul and Peter (some say just Paul), so he couldn't be just a successor to Peter?

First, the origin of the idea that St. Linus was chosen by both Peter and Paul comes entirely from what is said by St. Ireneaus of Lyon, when he writes ...

"Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a  volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all men, which  comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops.  ...For it  is a matter of necessity that every church should agree with this church (Rome),  on account of its preeminent authority ...The blessed Apostles (Peter & Paul), then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate ..."  (Against the Heresies, 3, 3:2)

At first glance, this seems to mean exactly what it says --that Linus was ordained by both St. Peter and St. Paul acting together. But, looked at a bit more critically, and with regard to the purpose of Ireneaus' writing and with an appreciation of Ireneaus' source material, it becomes pretty obvious that all that Ireneaus means to say is that Linus succeeded to the bishopric of Rome. For, the real purpose of this passage in Ireneaus' "Against the Heresies" is merely to illustrate that, unlike the Gnostic heretics, the bishops of the orthodox city-churches can all trace their succession back to the Apostles; and these bishops never taught any of the strange doctrines which the Gnostics claimed to have come from the Apostles.  Thus, all that Ireneaus is trying to say is that St. Linus (as the first name among the list of Roman bishops) connects to the Apostles. What's more, Ireneaus gets his list of the succession of Roman bishops from the Jewish-Christian Church father St. Hegessipus who, writing a generation earlier, had compiled lists of all the episcopal successions in the major city-churches. For example, Hegessipus himself writes ...

"And the church of the Corinthians remained in the true Word until Primus was bishop in  Corinth; I made their acquaintance during my journey to Rome, and remained with the Corinthians many days, in which we were refreshed with the true Word.  And when I was in Rome,  I made a succession up to [Pope] Anicetus, whose deacon was [Pope] Eleutherus.  And in each  succession, and in each city, all is according to the ordinances of the Law and the Prophets and the Lord" (Hegesippus  in Euseb., IV, 22).

Now, given that Ireneaus is simply concerned with establishing that a succession of bishops exists from the Apostles (without any of them teaching the Gnostic errors), and given that Ireneaus is drawing from Hegessipus' pre-existing succession list of Roman bishops as his source, it is highly likely that Ireneaus made a mistake in assuming that Linus was the posthumous successor of Peter --that is, the one who succeeded Peter as leader/bishop of the Roman church. And this is because, according to the early Latin Tradition, it was not St. Linus, but rather St. Clement (Clement of Rome) who was listed as the immediate (posthumous) successor of St. Peter. And what this may mean is that, despite Ireneaus' assumption, Linus and Cletus (aka Anacletus) may not have been true "Popes," but rather "bishops" in Rome during Peter's lifetime!   ...that is, they were the ones who governed the Roman flock in Peter's physical absence --that is, during the time (as discussed above) he was expelled from Rome, along with all the other Jews. And this seems to fit with what we know of the historical record, since both St. Linus and St. Cletus are said to have been Gentiles (Linus was a Roman aristocrat), whereas St. Clement seems to have been of Jewish descent. It would therefore make sense that Peter, at the time of his death, would entrust his ministry to a fellow Jewish Christian. But, admittedly, this is all mere speculation; and the mainstream opinion remains that Linus and Cletus were true Popes and posthumous successors of St. Peter. 
 
However, I cite the issue above to show that it is a mistake to take Ireneaus' expression dead literally.  His intention is not to say that Linus drew his authority from both Peter and Paul equally, but merely to illustrate that Rome had an unbroken succession of orthodox and Apostolic leadership after the deaths of the Apostles who were the patrons of the Roman church. And, if we must read something more deeply into it, 2 Timothy 4:21's reference to Linus (along with his mother, St. Claudia) strongly implies that Linus was St. Paul's disciple. So, if Paul was involved in the transmission of the Roman episcopate to Linus, it was merely in the sense that Peter chose one of Paul's disciples to succeed him.

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Stephen Ray mentioned a quote by St. John Chrysostom that mentions Peter having primacy, but when I looked it up it too refers to the bishop of Antioch having a primacy, not Rome. Is this evidence against the papacy?

No, not at all.  :-)    For, the quote from St. John Chrysostom that you're referring to is his Homily on St. Ignatius.  And while St. John (whose nickname "Chrysostom" meant "Golden Mouth") does use some really flowery and flattering language in praise of St. Ignatius --at one point even saying that he was "equal to Peter," what must be appreciated is that a) St. John is merely referring to Ignatius' personal, heroic holiness (not pastoral authority) and b) despite all the flowery and poetic praises, St. John does not say that Antioch or the Bishop of Antioch holds universal primacy (or any kind of primacy to rival Rome). Rather, in this very homily, St. John makes the same point that I make above --that Peter did not remain with Antioch, and so did not lay down his Christ-given ministry there or entrust it to the Antiochian church. For, he writes ...  "But though we received him (Peter) as teacher, we did not retain him to the end, but gave him up to royal Rome."

And, to appreciate and understand how St. John Chrysostom actually viewed things, one only need look at the historical events of his own life. For, St, John (who was Bishop of Constantinople) was, twice, unjustly deposed from his see by the Patriarch of Alexandria ...who, as we discussed above, was the primate in the Eastern Church. And, hoping to regain his episcopate, St. John appealed repeatedly ...not to the Bishop of Antioch, but to the Bishop of Rome!    And it was Rome, in the person of Pope Innocent, that got him re-instated during his first exile. For example, in his first epistle to Pope Innocent, Chrysostom writes ...

"Having considered therefore all these things, and having been clearly
informed of all particulars by my lords, our most devout brethren the
bishops, may you be induced to exert your zeal on our behalf; for in so
doing ye will confer a favour not upon ourselves alone but also upon the
Church universally
, and ye will receive your reward from God who does all
things for the peace of the Churches. Fare thee well always, and pray
for me, most honored and holy master."  (Chrysostom to Innocent, Ep. 1). 

Rome was not able to help him during his second exile, however, because he had made too many political enemies at the imperial court in Constantinople.



By Mark Bonocore and Hugh

More on the Pope here
Lord Jesus, let Your prayer of unity for Christians
become a reality, in Your way.
We have absolute confidence
that you can bring your people together,
we give you absolute permission to move.
Amen