Christ did not intend that the special power of chief teacher and ruler of the entire Church should be exercised by Saint Peter alone, but intended that this power should be passed down to his successor, the Pope, Bishop of Rome, who is the Vicar of Christ on earth, and the visible Head of the Church.
St. Peter lived for a short time at Antioch; then he went to Rome and there fixed his official residence permanently. It was there, and as Bishop of Rome, that he died as a martyr some twenty years later in 67 A.D.
The Church was not to die with Peter. Therefore his official rank and dignity and powers were to be handed on to his successors from generation to generation. In the same way, successors to a civil office acquire all the powers attached to the office. Thus the Bishop of Rome, the lawful successor of St. Peter, is what Peter was, Vicar of Christ, and visible head of the Church. Christ is the true and invisible Head of the Church. But its visible head is the Bishop of Rome, our Holy Father John Paul II, the 264th successor of Peter.
No one but the Bishop of Rome has ever claimed supreme authority over the whole Church. Therefore, either he is St. Peter's successor, or St. Peter has no successor, and the promise of Christ had failed.
The supremacy of the Bishop of Rome over all Christendom has been disputed because of the perversity of men and the power of evil. It has been denied by unruly sons. The very fact that it was disputed shows that it existed. In the same way even the authority of God Himself has been questioned; His very existence has been denied. From the beginning, too, parental authority has been diefied. The authority of lawful rulers has ever been attacked. The denials, defiance, and attacks have not destroyed the existence of such authority. Does God die because men deny His existence? "The fool said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psalms 52: 2).
From earliest times the titles "high priest" and "bishop of bishops" have been given to the Bishop of Rome. Appeals were made to him, and disputes were settled by him. As an example, the third successor of Peter Pope Saint Clement I settled a dispute in the Church at Corinth that had been referred to him for a decision. He wrote letters of remonstrance and admonition to the Corinthians, and they submitted to his correction. At that time, very near Corinth the Apostle John was living. Why did the Corinthians, instead of appealing to faraway Rome and to Clement, not refer their troubles to John, Bishop of Ephesus? Evidently because Rome's authority was universal even at that early time, while that of Ephesus was local.
There have been numerous cases of appeal throughout the long history of the Church; all were referred to Rome. In the fifth century when Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus in the East, was deposed, he appealed to Pope Leo, and the Pope ordered him reinstated. The Power was everywhere recognized as head of the Church not only in the West, but in the East, up to the great schism of the ninth century. With one voice the Fathers of the Church pay homage to the Bishop of Rome as their superior.
All of them recognized the Pope as Supreme Head. St. Ambrose said in the fourth century: "Where Peter is, there is the Church." General councils were not held without the presence of the Bishop of Rome or his representative. No council was accepted as universal or general unless its acts received the approval of the Bishop of Rome.
At the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451, the Pope’s letter was read to the assemblage of bishops, and they cried with one voice: “Peter has spoken by Leo; let him be anathema who believes otherwise!” As late as the year 1439, in the council of Florence, the Greeks who wished to return to the Church acknowledged the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.
Every nation converted from paganism has received the faith from missionaries specially sent by the Pope, or by bishops acknowledging the Pope as their Head. Saint Patrick was sent by Pope Celestine to Ireland; Saint Palladius was sent by the same Pope to Scotland, Saint Augustine was sent by Pope Saint Gregory the Great to England, Saint Remigius went to France under the protection of the See of Rome. Saint Boniface was sent by Pope Gregory II to Germany and Bavaria. And so on. The reason there is over one billion Catholics in the world today can be traced to the lineology of the Popes who inspired evangelization through the ages in fulfilling Our Lord's edict in Matthew 28: 18-20, All power in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world."
Two years before the death of its holy founder Saint Francis of Assisi, his Franciscan missionaries land on the isle of Britain sent there by Pope Honorius III.
The stern and inflexible Pope Sixtus V excommunicates the Huguenot Henry of Navarre, thus denying him his rightful ascendency to the throne of France. It was Sixtus' alliance with Philip II of Spain that turned him against Henry. However, a few years later he would soften as Henry gave indications of reconciliation and conversion to Catholicism before finally becoming King Henry IV, king of France in 1589.
Death of Saint Peter Claver, Priest, Religious and Missionary. For more on this saint, click on DAILY LITURGY