Upon This Rock


The apostolate was substantially the same among all the Apostles: all could witness to Jesus’ Resurrection, receive the revelation of the Christian truth, write canonical works, and govern the Church of Christ. Peter, however, received in addition a unique privilege, which, on the level of jurisdictional power, placed him at once above all the other Apostles…. Peter is the foundation upon which Christ will build his Church. The gates of hell, the powers of death, will not prevail against her. Peter will receive the power of the keys in order to open and close the Kingdom.


According to Saint Luke (22:31-32), the Apostles will be submitted to a great trial, but the Lord prays for Peter, and to Peter is given the task of strengthening the others: Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren. Peter, therefore, would have to sustain the other Apostles…. The Apostles, as privileged sheep of Christ, are messengers, legates, ambassadors of Christ, to put into execution Christ’s plan, to found local Churches and to incorporate them into the Church universal. But Peter, as pastor, is the visible center of coordination for the whole Church, the depositary of the supreme universal power, the substitute, the vicar of Christ in order to rule his sheep. Peter received the mission to strengthen his brothers, and it is he, in fact, whom we see in the Acts of the Apostles governing the first steps of the universal Church….


Does this privilege given to Peter endure, or did it cease with him? Was it given to him alone, or is it also given to his successors in consideration for the future of the Church?… The notion of endurance and succession is necessarily implied in the nature of Peter’s privilege from the moment it appeared that Peter was to found the Church as the rock upon which the whole structure rests.


Cardinal Charles Journet

Cardinal Journet († 1975) was a Swiss priest and theologian who was influential at the Second Vatican Council. / From The Theology of The Church, Victory Szczurek, o. praem., Tr. © 2004, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. www.ignatius.com. Used with permission.



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