Benedict XVI (Latin: Benedictus PP. XVI), born Joseph Alois Ratzinger, is the 265th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and by virtue of that office, Sovereign of the Vatican City State. He was elected on April 19, 2005 in a papal conclave, celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass on April 24, 2005, and took possession of his cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on May 7, 2005. Pope Benedict has both German and Vatican citizenship. He succeeded John Paul II, who died at the beginning of April 2005.
Dialogue with Christian religions
Speaking at his weekly audience in St Peter's Square on June 7, 2006, Pope Benedict asserted that Jesus himself had entrusted the leadership of the Church to his apostle Peter. "Peter's responsibility thus consists of guaranteeing the communion with Christ," said Pope Benedict. "Let us pray so that the primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, may always be exercised in this original sense desired by the Lord, so that it will be increasingly recognised in its true meaning by brothers who are still not in communion with us." The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Pope has a leading role among Christians because as bishop of Rome he is successor to the apostle Peter who first held the office. The role of the Roman Catholic papacy remains a source of controversy, not only for Protestant denominations but also for Eastern Orthodox churches and members of the Restorationism movement, which does not accept the dogmas of the First Vatican Council.
The bishops of the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople have expressed concern over Pope Benedict XVI's decision to drop "patriarch of the West" from his official titles in the Vatican yearbook. In a June 8, 2006 statement, the chief secretary of the Orthodox bishops' synod said dropping "patriarch of the West" while retaining the titles "vicar of Jesus Christ" and "supreme pontiff of the universal church" is "perceived as implying a universal jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome over the entire church, which is something the Orthodox have never accepted." The statement was issued after synod members discussed the change during their early June meeting. Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said in a March statement that dropping the title of patriarch in reference to the pope does not minimize the importance of the patriarchal office, particularly in relation to the ancient Eastern churches. "Even less can this suppression be seen as implying new claims" of power or authority on the part of the Vatican, he said. However, members of the Orthodox synod disagreed. From their point of view, "the geographical limits of each ecclesiastical jurisdiction" have been a key part of the structure of the church from the earliest days of Christianity. The church as a whole is "a unity of full local churches" and not a monolith divided into local units simply for the sake of easier governance. The Orthodox synod's statement said that, with the international Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue set to begin again in September with plans to deal with the "thorny problem" of papal primacy, it would have been better not to have dropped the title without consultation.
A leading Ukrainian Orthodox spokesman has said that a visit to Ukraine by Pope Benedict XVI would be "untimely," according to the country's RISU news service. "If Pope Benedict is a moral and a spiritual person and wants only good for Ukraine and its people, he will never take such an unreasonable step," said Valentyn Lukianyk, the head of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods of Ukraine. He was responding to the news that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has invited the Pope to visit the country. There have been numerous clashes between Orthodox and Catholic believers over the ownership of parish properties that were confiscated by the Communists and handed over to Orthodox clerics. At the same time, Orthodox leaders have complained that Catholics are engaged in "proselytism," seeking converts among Orthodox believers. In his statement opposing a papal visit, Lukianyk said that relations between Catholics and Orthodox in Ukraine are now "warming." A visit by Pope Benedict, he said, would place an undue burden on those sensitive ties.
Catholics believe there is biblical, and historical evidence of the Bishop of Rome's primacy. In scripture they cite the following:
- You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church (Mat 16:18)
- Next to Jesus, Peter is mentioned more than any other apostle in Scripture (152 times).
- He stood up and spoke on behalf of the apostles to lead in their replacement of Judas.(Mt 19:27, Acts 1:15, 2:14)
- He stood up to lead the apostles at the birth of the Church at the Pentecost (Acts 2:14)
- The disciples were referred to as Peter and the Apostles. (Acts 2:37, 5:29)
- Peter was given the authority to forgive sins before the rest of the apostles. (Mat 16:18)
- He was always named first when the apostles were listed (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13) -- sometimes it was only "Peter and those who were with him" (Luke 9:32);
- John ran ahead of Peter to the tomb but upon arriving he stopped and did not go in. He waited and let Peter go in. (Jn 20:4)
- Jesus told Peter to "feed my lambs...tend my sheep... feed my sheep." (Jn 21:15-17) The difference between a sheep and a lamb might be significant. A lamb is a baby, a sheep is an adult. Perhaps Jesus was asking Peter to take care of both the general people (the lambs), and the apostles (sheep). Regardless of that interpretation of sheep and lambs, it is clear Jesus is asking Peter to feed and tend his flock. That is what a shepherd does. It appears to me that he is asking Peter to shepherd his Church on earth, on his behalf.
Among the Eastern Early Church Fathers they cite:
- Tatian the Syrian (170 A.D.): "Simon Kephas answered and said, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said unto him, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah: flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee also, that you are Rock, and on this Rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it" (The Diatesseron 23 [A.D. 170]).
- Tertullian (220 A.D.):"Was anything hid from Peter, who was called the Rock, whereon the Church was built; who obtained the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the power of loosing and of binding in heaven and on earth?" (Tertullian, De Praescript Haeret).
- Tertullian thereafter writes to criticize Pope Callistus I by saying ...."I now inquire into your opinions, to see whence you usurp the right for the Church. Do you presume, because the Lord said to Peter, 'On this rock I will build my Church ...[Matt 16-19]' that the power of binding and loosing has thereby been handed over to you, that is, to every church akin to Peter? What kind of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest intent of the Lord when He conferred this personally on Peter? 'On you,' He says, 'I will build my Church; and I give to you the keys'...." (Tertullian, On Modesty 21:9-10)
- The Apocryphal Letter of St. Clement of Rome to St. James (C. 221 A.D.) "Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus Himself, with His truthful mouth, named Peter" (Letter of Clement to James 2 [A.D. 221])
- St. Gregory Nazianzus write …. "See thou that of the disciples of Christ, all of whom were great and deserving of the choice, one is called a Rock and entrusted with the foundations of the Church." (Gregory Naz., T. i or xxxii). ... and "Peter, the Chief of the disciples, but he was a Rock (Gregory Naz., T. ii.) …and … "[Peter], that unbroken Rock who held the keys." (Gregory Naz., Sect. ii Poem Moral. tom. ii.)
- St. Gregory of Nyssa: "Peter, with his whole soul, associates himself with the Lamb; and, by means of the change of his name, he is changed by the Lord into something more divine. Instead of Simon, being both called and having become a Rock, the great Peter did not by advancing little by little attain unto this grace, but at once he listened to his brother (Andrew), believed in the Lamb, and was through faith perfected, and, having cleaved to the Rock, became himself Peter." (Gregory of Nyssa, T. i. Hom. xv. in C. Cantic). …and …. "Peter ...that most firm Rock, upon which the Lord build His Church." (Gregory of Nyssa, Alt. Or. De. S. Steph.)
- St. Basil the Great:…. "The house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the foundations of which are on the holy mountains, for it is built upon the Apostles and prophets. One also of these mountains was Peter, upon which Rock the Lord promised to build His Church." (Basil, T. i. Comment. in Esai. c. ii.). …and …. "The soul of blessed Peter was called a lofty Rock ..." (Basil, Sermon 1 De Fide I.13).
- St. John Chrysostom: "...and when I name Peter, I name that unbroken Rock, that firm foundation, the Great Apostle, the First of the disciples ..." (Chrysostom, T. ii. Hom. iii. de Paednit). …and …. "Peter, the leader of the choir, that Mouth of the rest of the Apostles, that Head of the brotherhood, that one set over the entire universe, that Foundation of the Church." (Chrysostom, In illud. hoc Scitote). and …. "Peter, ... that Pillar of the Church, the Buttress of the Faith, the Foundation of the Confession." (Chrysostom, T. iii. Hom. de Dec. Mill. Talent)
- Benedict's call on papacy will increase divisions, says Italian Protestant
- Orthodox express concern about dropping 'patriarch of the West' title
- Ukrainian Orthodox spokesman opposes papal visit
- Discussion of Bishop of Rome's primacy
- Discussion of James and Peter in Acts 15
- www.2Lungs.orgA discussion of unity issues between Catholics and Orthodox
John Paul II
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