Pope Benedict spoke today on the foundation of the Catholic Church upon the rock represented by St. Peter the Apostle, who he said, is the custodian of communion with Christ. The Holy Father made his Catechetical remarks during his general audience, which was held in St. Peter's Square in the presence of more than 50,000 people.
The Pope began his Catechesis by recalling how the Gospel of St. John, "in recounting the first meeting of Jesus with Simon, brother of Andrew, records a curious event: Jesus 'looked at him and said: so you are Simon, the son of John? You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter)'."
"This fact takes on particular significance if we consider how, in the Old Testament, a change of name often accompanied a new mission," said the Pope before going on to mention a number of evangelical episodes that highlight "the will of Christ to attribute to Peter a special importance within the Apostolic college," such as when He stayed in Peter's house in Capernaum, or chose his boat on the Lake of Gennesaret.
"Peter himself," the Holy Father continued, "was aware of his special position: it was often he who would speak, also in the name of the others, asking for explanation of a difficult parable or the exact meaning of a precept. It was also Peter, Pope Benedict, said who made the first profession of faith in the name of the twelve Apostles. "To Jesus Who asks: 'But who do you say that I am?' it is Peter who replies: 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'," the Pope said.
"In response," the Pope added, "Jesus then pronounced the solemn declaration that defined, once and for all, Peter's role in the Church: 'And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church. ... I will give you the keys of the kingdom, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Benedict XVI went on: "The three metaphors Jesus uses are themselves very clear: Peter will be the rock foundation upon which the building of the Church rests; he will hold the keys of the kingdom of heaven to open and close to whom he will; and finally, he can bind and loosen in the sense that he can impose or prohibit whatever he considers necessary for the life of the Church. ... This describes ... what would later be qualified with the term 'primacy of jurisdiction'."
After the resurrection, Peter was the first of the Apostles to witness the appearance of Jesus, and this again marks "the continuity between his primacy among the
Apostles and the preeminence he would continue to have in the community that came into being following the events of Easter."
"The fact that a number of the key texts referring to Peter are associated with the Last Supper, during which Christ conferred upon him the ministry of confirming his brethren, shows how the Church, which was born from the Paschal remembrance celebrated in the Eucharist, has, in the ministry entrusted to Peter, one of her constitutive elements."
"This is primacy for all time," the Pontiff added, "Peter must be the custodian of communion with Christ. He must guide [people] to communion with Christ, and guide in such a way that the net does not break but supports that great universal communion by which together we can be with Christ, Who is Lord of us all. This is his responsibility, guaranteeing communion with Christ, with Christ's charity, and the implementation of that charity in daily life."
"Let us pray that the primacy of Peter," Benedict said in closing, "entrusted to weak human beings, may always be exercised in this original sense that the Lord intended; and that it be ever more recognized in its true significance by the brethren not yet in full communion with us."
During a brief ceremony held following the general audience, the Pope was granted honorary citizenship of the German town of Altotting.