The Papacy

"The blessed Apostles, then, founded and built up the church in Rome.  They committed the office of bishop into the hands of Linus.  Of this, Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy.  To him succeeded Anacletus.  After him, in the third place from the Apostles, Clement was allotted the office of bishop."  St. Irenaeus, "Against All Heresies," c. 180 A.D.


"But since it would take too long to set out here the successions of all the churches, we shall turn to that great, ancient and universally known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul, and we shall show that the tradition it has received of the apostles and the faith that it preaches to men has come down to our time through the regular succession of its bishops; and thus we shall confute all those who, in whatever way, whether by self-complacency, vainglory, blindness or error, enter into unauthorized assemblies.  For it is with this Roman church, by reason of its more powerful pre-eminence that every other church, that is to say all the faithful everywhere, ought to agree, inasmuch as in this church the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those who come from everywhere."  St. Irenaeus, "Against All Heresies," c. 180 A.D.


"Cornelius was made bishop by the judgment of God and of His Christ.  This was by the testimony of almost all the clergy, by the election of the people who were then present, and by the assembly of ancient priests and good men....  This occurred when the place of Fabian, that is, when the place of Peter and the degree of the priestly chair, was vacant."  St. Cyprian Of Carthage, "Epistle 53 to Antonius," c. 250 A.D.


"On him (Peter) He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep, and although He assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet He founded a single chair (cathedra), and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity....  If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith?  If he (should) desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?"  St. Cyprian Of Carthage, "On the Unity of the Catholic Church," 251 A.D.


"In the power of the same Holy Spirit, Peter, both the chief of the apostles and the keeper of the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, in the name of Christ healed Aeneas the paralytic at Lydda, which is now called Diospolis (Acts 9:32-34)."   St. Cyril of Jerusalem, "Catechetical Lectures" c. 350 A.D.


"[Jesus said:] Simon, my follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on Earth a Church for me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which my teaching flows; you are the chief of my disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the first-born in my institution so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures."  St. Ephraim of Syria ("Homily 4," c. 351 A.D.)

"In the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter, the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head--that is why he is also called Cephas ['Rock']--of all the apostles, the one chair in which unity is maintained by all. Neither do the apostles proceed individually on their own, and anyone who would [presume to] set up another chair in opposition to that single chair would, by that very fact, be a schismatic and a sinner. . . .  Recall, then, the origins of your chair, those of you who wish to claim for yourselves the title of holy Church."  St. Optatus, "The Schism of the Donatists," c. 367 A.D.


"[Christ] made answer: 'You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church . . .' Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]?"  St. Ambrose of Milan, "The Faith," c. 379 A.D.


"They (the Novatian heretics) have not the succession of Peter, who hold not the chair of Peter, which they rend by wicked schism; and this, too, they do, wickedly denying that sins can be forgiven (by the sacrament of confession) even in the Church, whereas it was said to Peter:  'I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on Earth, shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven.'"  St. Ambrose of Milan ("On Penance," 388 A.D.)

"It is to Peter that He says: 'You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church' (Matthew 16:18). Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church, no death is there, but life eternal." St. Ambrose of Milan, "Commentary on Twelve Psalms of David" c. 389 A.D.


"(Pope) Stephen . . . was the blessed Peter's twenty-second successor in the See of Rome."  St. Jerome, "Against the Luciferians" c. 383 A.D.


"'But,' you [Jovinian] will say, 'it was on Peter that the Church was founded' [Matt. 16:18]. Well . . . one among the twelve is chosen to be their head in order to remove any occasion for division."  St. Jerome, "Against Jovinian," c. 393 A.D.


"I think it is my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church (Rome) whose faith has been praised by Paul.  I appeal for spiritual food to the church whence I have received the garb of Christ."  St. Jerome, "Letter 15," 396 A.D.


"I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none, but the chair of Peter.  I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built.  Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane.  Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails."  St. Jerome, "Letter 15," 396 A.D.


"Simon Peter, the son of John, from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, brother of Andrew the apostle, and himself chief of the apostles, after having been bishop of the church of Antioch and having preached to the Dispersion . . . pushed on to Rome in the second year of Claudius to over-throw Simon Magus, and held the sacerdotal chair there for twenty-five years until the last, that is the fourteenth, year of Nero. At his hands he received the crown of martyrdom being nailed to the cross with his head towards the ground and his feet raised on high, asserting that he was unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord."  St. Jerome, "Lives of Illustrious Men," c. 396 A.D.


"If all men throughout the world were such as you most vainly accuse them of having been, what has the chair of the Roman church done to you, in which Peter sat, and in which Anastasius sits today?"  St. Augustine of Hippo, "Against the Letters of Petilani" c. 402 A.D.


"Among these [apostles] Peter alone almost everywhere deserved to represent the whole Church. Because of that representation of the Church, which only he bore, he deserved to hear 'I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.'"   St. Augustine of Hippo, "Sermon 295," c. 411 A.D.


"If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly and safely do we number them from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, 'Upon this rock I will build my Church...'  Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement, Clement by Anacletus, Anacletus by Evaristus...."  St. Augustine of Hippo, "Letter 53," 412 A.D.


"Who is ignorant that the first of the apostles is the most blessed Peter?"  St. Augustine of Hippo, "Commentary on John," c. 416 A.D.


"Steadfast in the fear of God, and in faith immovable, upon [St. Patrick] as upon Peter the [Irish] church is built; and he has been allotted his apostleship by God; against him the gates of Hell prevail not."  St. Sechnall of Ireland, "Hymn in Praise of St. Patrick," c. 444 A.D.


Printed with permission from Catholic Defense.