The relief above the main doorway of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, depicting
Christ giving the keys
to the Kingdom of Heaven to the first Pope, St. Peter.
Thou art Peter; and upon
this rock I will build my Church
(St. Matt. xvi. 18).
The Church of Jesus Christ, inasmuch as it is a society,
a kingdom divinely established, should have a Head.
Her invisible Head is Jesus Christ
Himself; her visible
Head is our Holy Father the Pope.
Who is the Pope? The Pope is the successor of St.
Peter, the Vicar of Jesus Christ and His representative
on earth, the Pilot of the bark of St. Peter,
Head of the Church, and the common father of all the
We say the Pope is the successor of St. Peter. By
making the Apostle St. Peter the foundation-rock, the
His Church, Jesus Christ promised him
successors until the end of time. For this immovable
rock implies that Peter will be the perpetual Head of
the Church, and will be ever necessary
to sustain and
govern her. But how will Peter always govern the
Church, being mortal as the rest of men? How will he
yet govern her after his death? By his successors,
who will be the heirs of his power, of his privileges, and
also of his apostolic spirit. Peter, as say the fathers, is
ever living, and will always live, in the person of the
successors whom Christ
promised him in these words:
Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.
The promise of the Saviour has been fulfilled:
having fixed his Pontifical See at Rome, has had as suc-
cessors all the Roman Bishops or Pontiffs who have oc-
cupied his See in the course of the ages down to our day.
History unfolds to us this incomparable succession.
It is a chain of gold held by the hand of Jesus Christ.
Its first link is Peter, and we behold gloriously
the two hundred and fifty-ninth in the person of the
august Leo XIII. After him the chain shall continue to
lengthen until its final link is reached; that is to say,
until the last Pope, who shall end his
reign with the con-
summation of the ages.
This unbroken series of successors of St. Peter pre-
sents us men who differed in name, in time, in character;
but they all occupied
the same See, and held in their
hands the same keys, which were committed by Jesus
Christ to the Apostle St. Peter. In other words, they
taught the same doctrine, possessed the same power
privileges; insomuch that if the Prince of the Apostles
were to return in person to exercise the Pontifical au-
thority, his powers and privileges would not differ from
those of the august Leo XIII., the actual
His immortal heritage.
The Popes may die; the Papacy neither dies nor
Let us thank God, my brethren, for having founded
Church on the indestructible rock of the Papacy,
and let us always have the greatest reverence and love
for our Holy Father the Pope, the successor of St. Peter.
Source: "SHORT SERMONS
FOR THE Low Masses of Sunday.
COMPRISING IN FOUR SERIES
A Methodical Exposition of Christian Doctrine",
BY THE Rev. F.
X. SCHOUPPE, S. J.
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