Dear Father Angelo,
First of all, I would like to introduce myself, since this is the first time I have written to you. My name is Luigi, I am a practicing Catholic, I live in Sicily and I greatly value your Dominican order, because I have great esteem for St. Dominic, who was a great apologist and preacher at a time when the church was suffering from corruption. So even though I am Catholic now, in the past I have been in search of the truth, so I have studied the history of Christianity and the word of God, as well as something about the life and thoughts of the fathers of the church transmitted to the various bishops of Rome until today thanks to the Apostolic descent. All this is based on two verses of the Bible in Matthew 16,18-19 and in John 21,15-19. And, finally in Matthew 10.2, St. Peter is defined as “the first”.
Another reason that strengthens the papal primacy is the fact that it was Jesus himself who changed the name of Simone to Stone (later translated into Peter to adapt it to our language) because it had to be the Stone on which the Church rests. So the reasons why believing in the primacy of Peter seen in this way is there, but if we want to make a more critical comparison of the scriptures, we find that the power to “bind and dissolve in the earth and in heaven” (Matthew 16.19) is not given only to Peter but to all the apostles (Matthew 18.18), and therefore the bishops and not only the Bishop of Rome (the pope). As for the Stone in the New Testament, it is referred to as Jesus, who is the only head of his Church, and only in the Faith to Christ to which all believers had to turn. Even further down, Peter himself says, “By squeezing you to him, a living stone, rejected by men, but chosen and Matthew 16.18 is indicated in the person of Simone-Peter.
Peter is in fact only the Rock of the Faith, as a matter of fact, he was the first to have believed without having seen him, when he said “You are the Messiah”, Matthew 16, 16, and so Jesus nicknamed him the Stone of the Church, that is precious in the site of God… (1 Peter 2.4-5)
Finally, there would be Christ calling Peter the First and commanding him to feed his flock three times, then this would support the idea that Peter was a little more important than the other apostles, but not the best, simply “the first among equals.” The mission of Peter was to go to preach among the people, but especially to Rome where he was to die (John 21:18-19).
May God bless you and enlighten you with the Holy Spirit, I also ask you to pray for me so that I may go only towards the truth.
Answer of the priest
1. It is true that Christ is the stone upon which the kingdom of God is built. This does not detract from the fact that in a subordinate sense Christ has set up another one and has asked him to refer to it.
2. Christ did not place Peter simply as the first of his peers, but put him above all others. He gave him a power that others didn’t give him. In Mt 16,18-19, “And I so I say to you, you are Peter and upon this stone I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” In v. 19, he said, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus gives to Peter a power that does not extend to the apostles. Only he has the keys to the Kingdom.
3. In Mt 18,18, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”. Jesus extends the power to bind and dissolve even the apostolic college, but not the individual apostles. Moreover there is an Apostolic College because there is Peter. Without him there would be no Apostolic College.
Finally, Christ, by giving the college what he had previously given Peter, does not take away from him the power he had conferred upon him. For this reason, it is rightly said that the college only has a cum Petro et sub Petro (with Peter and below Peter).
In addition to the steps on the primacy that you mentioned, there is another one, of particular importance, in which Jesus tells Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan, has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turn back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22.31-32).
4. The passages of the Scriptures are eloquent and incontrovertible. But divine revelation, and the Orthodox know this very well, is not only made up of sacred scripture, but also of sacred tradition. It is interesting to note that this primacy was understood in the life of the church when the Divine Revelation was not yet closed. Incidentally, the Divine Revelation ends with the death of the last apostle. Tradition is the ring that binds our faith to the faith of the apostles. It’s that ring I can say, “My faith is the same as the apostles, those who have been with Jesus and who have heard his teachings with their ears.”
5. Well, the tradition reminds us that in the nineties, while Saint John is still alive in Ephesus, disorder erupts among the faithful in Corinth. Rather than appealing to St. John in Ephesus, on the other side of the Aegean Sea, the Christians of Corinth go directly to the third successor of Peter who is Pope Clement. And he intervenes with his authority. Saint John writes his gospel after these events. And it indirectly confirms the authority with which Pope Clement intervened by referring the task given by Christ to Peter to feed sheep and lambs, that is, the faithful and bishops.
That’s the text you mentioned to me.
I thank you for your esteem for the Order of St. Dominic, I assure you of the prayers requested and I bless you.
Translation by Marina N.
Edited by Bob N.