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 မဿဲခရစ်ဝင်ကျမ်း (အခနျး 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). တစ်ပြန်တစ်လှည့်, ယရှေုကလညျး, “မင်္ဂလာသင်, ရှိမုန်ဗာ Jona! အသွေးအသားသည်ဤအကြောင်းအရာကိုသင့်အားထင်ရှားမမူ, ကောင်းကင်ဘုံ၌ရှိတော်မူသောသူသည်သော်လည်းငါ့ခမညျးတျော” (17).
The question of Jesus’ identity was definitively answered for His followers by Peter with divine assistance. Jesus went on to say,
“ထိုအခါငါသည်သင်တို့ကိုပြောပြပါ, သင်သည်ပေတရုဖြစ်၏, ဤကျောက်ပေါ်မှာငါ့အသင်းကိုငါတည်ဆောက်မည်လိမ့်မည်, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kindgom of heaven, သမြှသညျမွကွေီးပျေါမှာခညျြနှောငျကောငျးကငျဘုံ၌ခညျြနှောငျခံရကြလိမ့်မည်, 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 “ပတေရုသ” comes from the Aramaic word Kepha (သို့မဟုတ် 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.
ဒါပေါ့, this passage in no way undermines our belief in Christ as the true Foundation of the Church (ကြည့်ရှု ကောရိန်သုပထမပေးစာ 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 [ပတေရုသ] was a rock, yet he was not ကို 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 (ကြည့်ရှု ကျဟရှောယ 22:22). တွင် မဿဲ 16:19, Christ the King appoints His steward, ပတေရုသ, to oversee the Church, မြေကြီးပေါ်မှာရှိသောသူ၏နိုငျငံ, သူ၏မရှိခြင်းအတွက်.
The terms “bind” နှင့် “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, ထိုမှတပါး, 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, တကယ်တော့—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 ဟောင်း cathedra (လက်တင်, “from the chair”). Ex cathedra refers to the Chair of Peter, ကြောင်း, to the seat of apostolic authority. The concept of a primary seat of authority comes from the Old Testament, မောရှေသည်လူအများ၏တရားသဖြင့်စီရင်၌ထိုင်ရာ, settling their religious disputes (ကြည့်ရှု ထှကျမွောကျရာကမျြးအ 18:13).
Moses’ authority, လွန်း, was handed down through a line of successors. The Seat of Moses remained active until the time of Christ, as the Jesus, Himself, ကပြောပါတယ်, “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; ဒါကြောင့်သူတို့သင်ပြောပြသမျှကိုကျင့်သုံးရန်နှင့်စောငျ့ရှောကျ, ဒါပေမဲ့မသူတို့အဘယ်သို့ပြုမည်အရာကို; သူတို့တရားကိုဟောပြောများအတွက်, but do not practice” (မဿဲ 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 (ကြည့်ရှု တမန်တော်၏တမန်တော်, 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, Letter to the Corinthians, circa AD 96:
Accept our counsel and you will have nothing to regret. … If anyone disobey the things which have been said by Him (တနည်း,, ဘုရားသခ) ငါတို့အားဖြင့် (တနည်း,, ရောမအသင်းတော်), 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, ရောမအက္ခရာ, က c. A.D. 107:
Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church that has found mercy in the greatness of the Most High Father and in Jesus Christ, His only Son; to the Church beloved and enlightened after the love of Jesus Christ, ကြှနျုပျတို့၏ဘုရားသခငျ, by the will of Him that has willed everything which is; to the Church also which olds the presidency, in the location of the country of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, နှင့်, because you hold the presidency in love, named after Christ and after the Father. … You have envied no one, သငျသညျကိုသွန်သင်ကြပြီပေမယ့်အခြားသူများကို. I desire only that what you have enjoined in your instructions may remain in force (လိပ်စာ, 3).
Saint Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons, ယူဖောက်ပြန်ဆန့်ကျင်, က 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, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, 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, ကြောင်း, 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; and after him, 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. ထိုအခါ, sixth after the Apostles, Sixtus was appointed; သူ့နောက်မှာ, Telesphorus, who also was gloriously martyred. Then Hyginus; သူ့နောက်မှာ, Pius; and after him, Anicetus. Soter succeeded Anicetus, ယခု, in the twelfth place after the Apostles, the lot of the episcopate has fallen to Eleutherus. In this order, နှင့်တမန်တော်များ၏ဆုံးမဩဝါဒပေးခြင်းအားဖြင့်အသင်းတော်၌နှိမ့်ချပေးအပ်, 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. ထိုအခါ, sixth after the Apostles, Sixtus was appointed; သူ့နောက်မှာ, Telesphorus, who also was gloriously martyred. Then Hyginus; သူ့နောက်မှာ, Pius; and after him, Anicetus. Soter succeeded Anicetus, ယခု, in the twelfth place after the Apostles, the lot of the episcopate has fallen to Eleutherus. In this order, နှင့်တမန်တော်များ၏ဆုံးမဩဝါဒပေးခြင်းအားဖြင့်အသင်းတော်၌နှိမ့်ချပေးအပ်, the preaching of the truth has come down to us (3:3:2-3)