Who is the pope, why is he the leader of Christ’s Church on earth, and from where does his authority derive?
Our current pope, Pope Benedict XVI, like every pope before him, is a direct successor of the first pope, Saint Peter, who was the first Bishop of Rome.
Saint Peter received his authority to lead the Church directly from Jesus.
Among his many interactions with Jesus, Peter is remembered for his exchange with Christ on the road to Caesarea Philippi, recorded in the ພຣະກິດຕິຄຸນຂອງມັດທາຍ (ບົດ 16).
When Jesus asked the Disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”, Peter answered for them, replying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:15-16). ກົງກັນຂ້າມ, ພຣະເຢຊູໄດ້ກ່າວກັບເຂົາ, “ເປັນພອນໃຫ້ແກ່ທ່ານ, Simon Bar-Jona! ສໍາລັບເນື້ອຫນັງແລະເລືອດບໍ່ໄດ້ເປີດເຜີຍນີ້ໄປຫາທ່ານ, but my Father who is in heaven” (17).
The question of Jesus’ identity was definitively answered for His followers by Peter with divine assistance. Jesus went on to say,
“And I tell you, ທ່ານຄືເປໂຕ, ແລະໃນນີ້ຂ້າພະເຈົ້າຈະສ້າງສາສນາຈັກຂອງຂ້າພະເຈົ້າ, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kindgom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (18-19).
This passage provides the main Biblical proof for Peter’s primacy among the Apostles. Today’s Catholic bishops are the spiritual descendants of the Apostles. The Bishop of Rome (or the Pope) is the successor of Peter. He retains Peter’s primacy among the bishops.
The name “Peter” comes from the Aramaic word Kepha (ຫຼື Cephas), meaning “Rock.” Jesus chose to give the Apostle Simon this new name at Caesarea Philippi for symbolic reasons. The distinctive feature of the area is a large outcropping of rock, upon which at that time the ruins of a pagan temple stood. It was here that Jesus chose to proclaim His plans to build a new Church on Peter that would not succumb to the passage of time.
ແນ່ນອນ, this passage in no way undermines our belief in Christ as the true Foundation of the Church (ເບິ່ງ ຈົດຫມາຍຄັ້ງທໍາອິດກັບຊາວໂກຣິນໂທ 3:11). Jesus did not mean to imply Peter would somehow replace Him as the Rock of the Church, but that he would merely represent Him as such. As Saint Francis de Sales put it,
Although [Peter] was a rock, yet he was not ໄດ້ rock; for Christ is truly the immovable rock, but Peter on account of the rock. Christ indeed gives his own prerogatives to others, yet he gives them not losing them himself, he holds them nonetheless. He is a rock, and he made a rock; what is his, he communicates to his servants (Controversies).
In entrusting the keys to Peter, Jesus was referring back to the Davidic custom by which the king, upon leaving the city, would appoint his royal steward overseer of the kingdom in his absence, lending him the keys to its gates (ເບິ່ງ ເອຊາຢາ 22:22). ໃນ ມັດທາຍ 16:19, Christ the King appoints His steward, Peter, to oversee the Church, His kingdom on earth, in His absence.
The terms “bind” ແລະ “loose” in the passage above indicate that the authority given to Peter to declare certain things permissible or forbidden to the earthly faithful. Peter’s decisions on these matters, ຍິ່ງໄປກວ່ານັ້ນ, shall be confirmed in heaven. If God is going to confirm the decisions of Peter, a sinner, then obviously Peter must be given a special grace to prevent him from issuing commands contrary to the will of God. This preventive grace is infallibility.
The Church teaches that the Pope, as Peter’s successor, retains this infallibility.
This is not a claim that the Pope is without sin—infallibility has nothing to do with conduct, ໃນຄວາມເປັນຈິງ—rather it is the belief that when teaching definitively on a matter of faith and morals he will be guarded by the Holy Spirit against teaching error.
Infallibility does not mean everything the Pope says or writes is without error, but only those things said ex cathedra (ພາສາລະຕິນ, “from the chair”). Ex cathedra refers to the Chair of Peter, ທີ່ຢູ່, to the seat of apostolic authority. The concept of a primary seat of authority comes from the Old Testament, in which Moses sat in judgment of the people, settling their religious disputes (ເບິ່ງ ປື້ມບັນທຶກຂອງການອົບພະຍົບ 18:13).
ໂມເຊ’ authority, ເກີນໄປ, was handed down through a line of successors. The Seat of Moses remained active until the time of Christ, as the Jesus, ພຣະອົງເອງ, ກ່າວວ່າ, “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice” (ມັດທາຍ 23:1-3). Peter and the Popes fulfill a similar role in the New Covenant, serving as Christ’s earthly representative through whom God speaks to the people to resolve religious disputes and maintain unity among the faithful.
This special role is seen in the Biblical account of Peter’s actions at the Council of Jerusalem, at which the Apostles are called to decide whether or not adherence to the Mosaic Law is required for salvation. It is Peter who ends the dispute, teaching the assembly on doctrine (ເບິ່ງ ກິດຈະການຂອງອັກຄະສາວົກໄດ້, 15:7). His successors have maintained this role in the Church throughout the ages.
Interestingly, those who have rejected the Pope’s role have suffered doctrinal confusion and ongoing (and accelerating) division, which is evidenced by the explosion of non-Catholic, Christian sects.
Early Christian Historical References to the Papacy:
Pope Saint Clement I, the fourth Bishop of Rome, ຈົດຫມາຍສະບັບເພື່ອຊາວໂກຣິນໂທ, circa AD 96:
Accept our counsel and you will have nothing to regret. … If anyone disobey the things which have been said by Him (i.e., ພຣະເຈົ້າ) ໂດຍຜ່ານພວກເຮົາ (i.e., the Church of Rome), let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger. … You will afford us joy and gladness if, being obedient to the things which we have written through the Holy Spirit, you will root out the wicked passion of jealousy, in accord with the plea for peace and concord which we have made in this letter (58, 59, 63).
Saint Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, ຈົດຫມາຍເຖິງຊາວໂຣມ, c. A.D. 107:
Ignatius, ເອີ້ນວ່າຍັງ Theophorus, ສາດສະຫນາຈັກທີ່ໄດ້ພົບເຫັນຄວາມເມດຕາໃນຄວາມຍິ່ງໃຫຍ່ຂອງພຣະບິດາຜູ້ສູງສຸດແລະໃນພຣະເຢຊູຄຣິດ, ລູກຊາຍຜູ້ດຽວຂອງພຣະອົງ; ສາດສະຫນາຈັກອັນເປັນທີ່ຮັກແລະ enlightened ຫຼັງຈາກຮັກຂອງພຣະເຢຊູຄຣິດ, ພຣະເຈົ້າຂອງພວກເຮົາ, ໂດຍປະສົງຂອງພຣະອົງທີ່ໄດ້ willed ທຸກສິ່ງທຸກຢ່າງທີ່ເປັນ; to the Church also which olds the presidency, ໃນສະຖານທີ່ຂອງປະເທດຂອງ Romans ໄດ້, ຄຸນຄ່າຂອງພຣະເຈົ້າ, ຄຸນຄ່າຂອງກຽດສັກສີ, ຄຸນຄ່າຂອງພອນ, ຄ່າຄວນຂອງ praise, ຄຸນຄ່າຂອງຄວາມສໍາເລັດ, ຄຸນຄ່າຂອງການຊໍາລະ, ແລະ, ເພາະວ່າທ່ານຖືປະທານປະເທດໃນຄວາມຮັກ, named after Christ and after the Father. … You have envied no one, ແຕ່ວ່າຄົນອື່ນທ່ານໄດ້ສອນ. I desire only that what you have enjoined in your instructions may remain in force (ທີ່ຢູ່, 3).
Saint Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons, ຕໍ່ມັນມີທຸກສິ່ງ, c. A.D. 185:
But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, ສ້າງຕັ້ງຂຶ້ນແລະຈັດຢູ່ໃນ Rome ໂດຍທັງສອງອັກຄະສາວົກມີລະດັບ, ເປໂຕແລະໂປໂລໄດ້, that Church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, ທີ່ຢູ່, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition. ...
The blessed Apostles, having founded and built up the Church, they handed over the office of the episcopate to Linus. Paul makes mention of this Linus in the Epistle to Timothy (4:21). To him succeeded Anacletus; ແລະຫຼັງຈາກທີ່ເຂົາ, in the third place from the Apostles, Clement was chosen for the episcopate. He had seen the blessed Apostles and was acquainted with them. It might be said that he still heard the echoes of the preaching of the Apostles, and had their traditions before his eyes. And not only he, for there were many still remaining who had been instructed by the Apostles.
In the time of Clement, no small dissension having arisen among the brethren in Corinth, the Church in Rome sent a very strong letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace and renewing their faith. … To this Clement, Evaristus succeeded; and Alexander succeeded Evaristus. ຫຼັງຈາກນັ້ນ,, sixth after the Apostles, Sixtus was appointed; ຫຼັງຈາກທີ່ເຂົາ, Telesphorus, who also was gloriously martyred. Then Hyginus; ຫຼັງຈາກທີ່ເຂົາ, Pius; ແລະຫຼັງຈາກທີ່ເຂົາ, Anicetus. Soter succeeded Anicetus, ແລະປັດຈຸບັນ, in the twelfth place after the Apostles, the lot of the episcopate has fallen to Eleutherus. In this order, ແລະໂດຍການສິດສອນຂອງອັກຄະສາວົກໄດ້ມອບຕໍ່ໆກັນໄປໃນສາດສະຫນາຈັກ, the preaching of the truth has come down to us. In the time of Clement, no small dissension having arisen among the brethren in Corinth, the Church in Rome sent a very strong letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace and renewing their faith. … To this Clement, Evaristus succeeded; and Alexander succeeded Evaristus. ຫຼັງຈາກນັ້ນ,, sixth after the Apostles, Sixtus was appointed; ຫຼັງຈາກທີ່ເຂົາ, Telesphorus, who also was gloriously martyred. Then Hyginus; ຫຼັງຈາກທີ່ເຂົາ, Pius; ແລະຫຼັງຈາກທີ່ເຂົາ, Anicetus. Soter succeeded Anicetus, ແລະປັດຈຸບັນ, in the twelfth place after the Apostles, the lot of the episcopate has fallen to Eleutherus. In this order, ແລະໂດຍການສິດສອນຂອງອັກຄະສາວົກໄດ້ມອບຕໍ່ໆກັນໄປໃນສາດສະຫນາຈັກ, the preaching of the truth has come down to us (3:3:2-3)