O God, Who by delivering to Thy blessed Apostle Peter the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, didst confer upon him the pontifical power of binding and of loosing, grant that, by the help of his intercession, we may be delivered from the bonds of our sins. Who livest and reignest with Thee, One God, world without end. Amen.
– Roman Catholic Prayer
The Chair of Saint Peter, or the cathedra (latin) or kathedra (greek) is believed to be the seat or throne of the First Bishop of Christianity. The day is to celebrate the day St. Peter first held a service, as Bishop in Rome. However, there is much speculation over which “seat was first.” Prior to Pope John XXIII, the Roman Church would celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter in Rome (18 JANUARY), and the Feast of St. Peter in Antioch (22 FEBRUARY). Some early church documents point to the chair in Antioch older than the one in Rome. Other documents state the inverse. However, the late Pope decided that the chair in Rome was first, thus the January date is celebrated. However, old habits die hard. Older Roman Catholics, Anglo-Catholics, Lutherans celebrate one, or both days as a commemoration to the office of the Episcopate.
Despite where the chair was first, the office of the Episcopate is one that is highly revered for several reasons. Being the pastor to pastors, the “Prince of the Church” and in the line of St. Peter the Apostle is very appealing to those who are called to this vocation. It is to the point where denominations that are NOT liturgical, NOT connected to Apostolic Succession nor believe in the episcopal structure of church governance, have “Bishops.”
At the beginning of my “official” transition to Anglicanism, I struggled with the episcopal structure. Coming from a Baptist lens, a “bishop” was nothing more than a Pentecostal minister who has a mega-church and spend a lot of time in ministry. I would called them “Bishop” because that is what they wanted to be called. If I did not call them “Bishop so and so”, they would hold some sort of grudge against me and label me disrespectful.
When I first spoke to my current Bishop over the phone, I called him “Bishop” and he corrected me by instructing me to call him by his first name. I was stunned! Here was a man, who is a Bishop with valid Apostolic Succession, and he is not hung up on the title! That one time, I complied, however, I was so impressed with his emphasis on the role of the Bishop, and not the title, vestments, or prestige, I have NO problem calling him or any other Bishop “Your Grace.”
The Pope, or, the Bishop of Rome, is to be respected due to his position as a successor and occupier of St. Peter’s Chair. Although I disagree with some of the Holy Father‘s actions and decrees, especially the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, I do commend his service to God and society. May God bless him, as he moves on to the next stage of his life next week.