The Chair, the Pope, and the Bishop

Today is the feast day for The Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle. This day commemorates the apostolic succession and office of supreme pastor from Saint Peter to the soon to be successor of Pope Benedict XVI, that was given by Jesus Christ himself.

St. Peter

We also celebrate the oneness of the Church in collaboration with Saint Peter and united with the official teaching office of the Church, the Magisterium. The Roman Pontiff in accordance with the Magisterium either declares acts in an ordinary way or solemnly declares by – ex cathedra – speaks with infallibility on matters of faith and morals. The term – ­cathedra –comes from the Greek term – “seat of honor.” Jesus uses the term once in the Scriptures and tells Peter and the Apostles that they will sit on thrones for judgment. The cathedra harkens back to the time of Moses when he would sit and judge the people.

papal throne

Paragraph 880 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “When Christ instituted the Twelve, “he constituted [them] in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from among them.” Just as “by the Lord’s institution, St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another.”

Even though the Holy Father is the shepherd of the entire Catholic Church, he is also the Bishop of Rome. Given that his duties extend outside of that diocese as Supreme Pontiff, the Roman diocese has numerous Bishops that oversee and care for the lay faithful. Every Bishop (or Archbishop) of every local diocese (archdiocese) sits on his own chair of authority. The Bishop, who represents the Pope in his diocese and is a modern day Apostle, has the authority to teach, sanctify, and govern the faithful under his care.

Phoenix Bishops

The term bishop comes from the Greek term – episkopos – “overseer” (episcopacy).  The Bishop’s church is called a cathedral and it’s where the actual seat resides usually with his emblem (coat of arms) embroidered upon it. Because some dioceses are larger than others, a second or even a third bishop will reside. This Bishop is known as an auxiliary.

Bishop Olmsted Coat of Arms(Coat of Arms – Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted)

The Vatican II document, Unitatis Redintegratio, states,

“In order to establish this His holy Church everywhere in the world till the end of time, Christ entrusted to the College of the Twelve the task of teaching, ruling and sanctifying. Among their number He selected Peter, and after his confession of faith determined that on him He would build His Church. Also to Peter He promised the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and after His profession of love, entrusted all His sheep to him to be confirmed in faith and shepherded in perfect unity. Christ Jesus Himself was forever to remain the chief cornerstone and shepherd of our souls. Jesus Christ, then, willed that the apostles and their successors -the bishops with Peter’s successor at their head-should preach the Gospel faithfully, administer the sacraments, and rule the Church in love. It is thus, under the action of the Holy Spirit, that Christ wills His people to increase, and He perfects His people’s fellowship in unity: in their confessing the one faith, celebrating divine worship in common, and keeping the fraternal harmony of the family of God (2).

As we enter the final week of the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, let us pray that the Cardinals who are beginning to gather for the conclave in Rome will choose a worthy successor to a Pope who has rekindled the Church’s passion for the Holy Scriptures and Divine Liturgy. May the Holy Spirit direct their decisions and help them find a man ready to fight against the threats of relativism and immorality. Let us also keep Benedict in prayer as he begins his life of solitude and prayer for the Church.

 Also…Happy Birthday to my sister, Carla!

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