Has there always been a pope?

Ever since the time of Jesus, there has been a pope. In fact, Pope Francis is the 266th pope.

During mass, the priest invites us as Christians to profess our faith, but it was Simon Peter who was the first to confess that Jesus is ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Mt. 16:16).

This was a very important moment, as we can tell from Jesus’ answer to Simon Peter: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”(Mt. 16:17).

So, Simon Peter was the first to profess his faith in Jesus as the Christ, God’s anointed one.  And immediately after this profession, Jesus renames Simon Peter as Cephas, (Peter) meaning rock, and puts him in charge of  His new church. Jesus says to him: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church…I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt. 16: 18-20)

And so we see that Jesus makes Peter the first pope and he was the first bishop of Rome. Subsequent popes continue Peter’s office of building the Church and also become the bishop of Rome, and this is why “Tu es Petrus” (you are Peter) is sung and chanted when a new pope is chosen. The lineage of bishops of Rome (i.e. popes) is referred to as the Apostolic Succession.

St Peter was martyred on the outskirts of Rome, at Nero’s Circus and buried there. A huge basilica was built there by Emperor Constantine which stood for 1000 years. It was rebuilt in the Renaissance period on the same spot, the basilica we know today as St Peter’s,  and excavations show that it is actually built on the tomb of St Peter! So,  the Church actually is built on the rock that is St Peter!

Peter keys


July 14, 2013. General pope facts.

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