Saturday, November 10, 2007

The primacy of the Roman pontiff is the apostolic authority of the Pope (Bishop of Rome), from the Holy See, over the several churches that comprise the Catholic Church in the Latin and Eastern Rites. It is also termed "papal primacy", [1] "primacy of Peter", [2] or "Roman primacy"; [3] one might encounter "Peter in primacy over the universal Church," [4] "Successor of Peter", [5] and other related expressions. The Eastern Orthodox churches consider that the Bishop of Rome has a mere primacy of honor.

Hierarchical church in first centuries
Pope St. Cornelius [11] d. A.D. 253, gave a detailed accounting of the structure of the Church at the time he was pope, and enquired in a seemingly rhetorical way, "[He], then, did not know that there must be one bishop in the Catholic Church. Yet he was not unaware — how could he be? — that in it there are ..." and thence follows the accounting (Denziger §45, Jurgens §546a). This came about because Novatian had allegedly made himself antipope; Cornelius was emphasizing the perceived need for recognition of one bishop, one head of the Church. [12]
St. Cyprian of Carthage [13] d. A.D. 258 spoke of "one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one Chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord.... Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering" (Jurgens §573). St. Optatus [14] d. A.D. 385, who opposed the Donatists, clearly believed in a "Chair of Peter", calling it a gift of the Church and saying, as summarized by Henry Wace, that "Parmenian must be aware that the episcopal chair was conferred from the beginning on Peter, the chief of the apostles, that unity might be preserved among the rest and no one apostle set up a rival." [15] "You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head — that is why he is also called Cephas — of all the Apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained by all. Neither do other Apostles proceed individually on their own; and anyone who would set up another chair in opposition to that single chair would, by that very fact, be a schismatic and a sinner" (Jurgens §1242). Other references can be adduced to show that earliest belief held that the Church is monarchical.

Primacy of the Roman Pontiff Church held to be hierarchical

Main article: Primacy of Simon Peter Primacy of Peter the apostle
Pious tradition holds that in 42 A.D., Peter built a church in Rome while he was visiting Simon Magus. Dogma and traditions of the Catholic Church maintain that he served as the bishop of Rome for 25 years until 67 A.D. when he was martyred by Nero

Peter as bishop of Rome
St. Irenaeus of Lyons believed that St. Paul, in conjunction with St. Peter, had been the founders of the Christianity in Rome where they served as bishops and appointed successors.

Role of Paul in the founding of the Church
Irenaeus compiled a list of apostolic succession, including the immediate successors of Peter and Paul: Linus, Anacletus, Clement, Evaristus, Alexander, and Sixtus.
In the second century (AD 189), the assertion of the primacy of the Church of Rome may be indicated in St. Irenaeus of Lyon's Against Heresies (3:3:2): "With [the Church of Rome], because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree... and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition." Although this may be the first clear instance of the church in Rome asserting its primacy (depending on how one reads this passage), there is no historical evidence to show that such a claim was ever accepted by the eastern churches, particularly since the seat of government of the Roman Empire was moved to Constantinople soon after the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea.

The first bishop to claim primacy in writing was Pope Stephen I (254-257). The timing of the claim is significant, for it was made during the worst of the tumults of the third century. There were several persecutions during this century and they hit the Church of Rome hard. But then came the miracle of Constantine's conversion, and suddenly the church at Rome was saved.

Damasus I
The power of the Bishop of Rome increased as the imperial power of the Emperor declined. Edicts of the Emperor Theodosius II and of Valentinian III proclaimed the Roman bishop "as Rector of the whole Church." The Emperor Justinian, who was living in the East in Constantinople, in the sixth century published a similar decree. These proclamations did not create the office of the Pope but from the sixth century onward the Bishop of Rome's power and prestige increased so dramatically that the title of "Pope" began to fit the Bishop of Rome best.

Bishop of Rome becomes Rector of the whole Church
After the Edict of Milan granted Christianity legal status, the church adopted the same governmental structure as the Empire: geographical provinces ruled by bishops. This bishops of important cities therefore rose in power.

Primacy of the Roman Pontiff Edict of Milan
The First Council of Constantinople (AD 381) suggested strongly that Roman primacy was already asserted. However, it should be noted that, because of the controversy of this claim, the Pope did not personally attend this ecumencial council that was held in the capital of the eastern empire, rather than at Rome. It was not until 440 that Leo the Great more clearly articulated the extension of papal authority as doctrine, promulgating in edicts and in councils his right to exert "the full range of apostolic powers that Jesus had first bestowed on the apostle Peter". It was at the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 that Leo I (through his emissaries) stated that he was "speaking with the voice of Peter". At this same Council, an attempt at compromise was made when the bishop of Constantinople was given a primacy of honour only second to that of the Bishop of Rome, because "Constantinople is the New Rome." Ironically, Roman papal authorities rejected this language since it did not clearly recognize Rome's claim to juridical authority over the other churches.

First Council of Constantinople
Rome was not the only city that could claim a special role in Christ's Church. Jerusalem had the prestige of being the city of Christ's death and resurrection, and an important church council was held there in the first century. Antioch was the place where Jesus' followers were first called "Christians" {7} and, with Alexandria, was an important early center of Christian thought. Constantinople became highly important after Constantine moved his capital there in 330 AD.
By the fifth century, however, the bishop of Rome began to claim his supremacy over all other bishops, and some church fathers also made this claim for him.

Relationship with bishops of other cities
The doctrine of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff has been challenged ever since it was first introduced.
When the doctrine originated, the bishops of Rome were claiming authority over all Christians including the other bishops who served in other parts of the Roman Empire. This claim of authority was rejected by bishops serving outside of Rome.
Writing about Pope Leo I, church historian Ernest Trice Thompson writes, "None of the early church fathers interpreted Jesus' words to Peter to mean that to Peter and to his successors, the bishops of Rome, full authority in the church had been granted; this, however, was the claim of Leo. It was a claim that bishops in the older parts of the empire would never accept."

See also

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