The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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Where in the world is the Pope?

Canisius | 18 January, 2006 16:51

The comments about the papacy in vol. 3, p. 316-317 got me to thinking about the problem raised: St. Peter ordained any number of bishops in various places, so how was Peter supposed to indicate which of his succesors was the one to inherit his special authority in the Church?

A bunch of ideas come to mind. He could have written a will, for example. But then again, in times of persecution a system of documentation might be hard to keep up. Also, if a fire were to destroy any important documents, and those documents were really the only way of indicating the rightful sucessor to Peter, problems could arise.

The same problem comes up with any physical object used as a marker. If rightful succession depended on possessing Peter's walking staff, for example, what would we do if the staff were destroyed or lost? Replace it, I suppose, but then what if it is found? Multiplying markers would be a big problem.

We can take it back to what Jesus did in the first place, I suppose. He didn't write a document or give Peter a token: he just declared him to be the leader in the presence of eleven witnesses. As long as the apostolic college endured, or the people who had known what the apostolic college taught, everyone would know that Peter was the head of the Church.

Peter could do the same thing: he could declare his successor in the presence of some number of witnesses, or declare what process would be used to choose a successor. The problem here is that the Church was eventually going to get really, really big. When Jesus chose Peter, he chose him in front of what was effectively the entire Church at the time. Today a pope could choose his leader or have him chosen on international TV for the whole world to see. But in the 12th century, for example, the Church was really big but there was no way to have the whole Church witness. So there needed to be a chosen set of witnesses. If you wonder who the pope is, just ask the chosen set of witnesses and they'll tell you.

OK, problem: how do you find the chosen set of witnesses? What marker will identfy them?

Solution: the witnesses will be the Christians of a certain geographical region. All you have to do is find that region, find the Christians there, ask them, and you know who the pope is. We know who the pope is because the church at Rome knows who her bishop is!

It makes sense, of course, that a pastor should be identified by his flock. Since the Pope is the pastor of the whole Church in a way, one might wonder why he should also be the pastor of a particular diocese; the above thoughts are my best guess at the moment.


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