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 मत्ती को सुसमाचार (अध्याय 16).
When Jesus asked the Disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”, Peter answered for them, replying, “You are the Christ, जीवित परमेश्वरको पुत्र” (16:15-16). बारी मा, येशूले उसलाई भन्नुभयो, “अनमोल तपाईं, Simon Bar-Jona! मासु र रगतको लागि तपाईं यो प्रकट भएको छैन, 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, तपाईं पत्रुस हो, र यो चट्टानमाथि म मेरो मण्डली निर्माण हुनेछ, 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 “पत्रुस” comes from the Aramaic word Kepha (वा 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.
पक्कै, this passage in no way undermines our belief in Christ as the true Foundation of the Church (देख्न कोरिन्थीहरूलाई पहिलो पत्र 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 [पत्रुस] was a rock, yet he was not यो 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 (देख्न यशैया 22:22). मा मत्ती 16:19, Christ the King appoints His steward, पत्रुस, to oversee the Church, His kingdom on earth, in His absence.
The terms “bind” र “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, यसबाहेक, 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, वास्तबमा—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 (ल्याटिन, “from the chair”). Ex cathedra refers to the Chair of Peter, छ, 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 (देख्न प्रस्थान को बुक 18:13).
मोशाले’ authority, पनि, was handed down through a line of successors. The Seat of Moses remained active until the time of Christ, as the Jesus, Himself, भने, “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” (मत्ती 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 (देख्न प्रेषितहरूको प्रेरित, 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 (अर्थात्, परमेश्वरको) हामीलाई मार्फत (अर्थात्, 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, रोमीहरूलाई पत्र, ग. 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, हाम्रा परमेश्वर, 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, र, because you hold the presidency in love, named after Christ and after the Father. … You have envied no one, तर तपाईंले अरूलाई सिकाएको. I desire only that what you have enjoined in your instructions may remain in force (ठेगाना, 3).
Saint Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons, Heresies विरुद्ध, ग. 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, स्थापित र दुई भन्दा महिमित प्रेषित द्वारा रोम मा आयोजित, पत्रुस र पावल, 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, छ, 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. त्यसपछि, sixth after the Apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telesphorus, who also was gloriously martyred. Then Hyginus; after him, Pius; and after him, Anicetus. Soter succeeded Anicetus, र अब, in the twelfth place after the Apostles, the lot of the episcopate has fallen to Eleutherus. In this order, र प्रेरितहरूको शिक्षालाई गरेर चर्च मा तल हात, 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. त्यसपछि, sixth after the Apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telesphorus, who also was gloriously martyred. Then Hyginus; after him, Pius; and after him, Anicetus. Soter succeeded Anicetus, र अब, in the twelfth place after the Apostles, the lot of the episcopate has fallen to Eleutherus. In this order, र प्रेरितहरूको शिक्षालाई गरेर चर्च मा तल हात, the preaching of the truth has come down to us (3:3:2-3)