WDTPRS 22 Feb – Feast of the Cathedra of Peter (2002MR): Antioch or Rome or… somewhere else?

Congratulations to all those who belong to the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter a fine feast day.

Today is an opportunity to reflect of the will of the Savior about a necessary element for His Church: the Petrine Ministry.

Once upon a time, there were two feasts of Peter’s cathedra, chair, his official role as teacher who strengthens the brethren, etc.  On 18 January we would celebrate Peter’s cathedra in Rome. On 22 February we would celebrated Peter’s cathedra in Antioch.

Remember that Peter went to Antioch, a key city in the East, and there had a disagreement with Paul.  Peter spent about 7 years in Antioch, guiding the church as its bishop, before he pulled up stakes, and… I guess… cathedra… and went to Rome.  He wouldn’t have taken a literal chair, but he did take his office and authority, given to him by Christ.   He had this office and authority before he went to Antioch, while he was at Antioch, when he left Antioch, when he got to Rome and when he died in Rome.

Because the Petrine Ministry is necessary for the Church, Christ made it obviously a “hereditary” office, just as the Davidic stewards enjoyed with the conferral of keys.  After Peter, another man held the Petrine Ministry and so on down to our day.   That would have happened whether Peter had stayed in Jerusalem, stayed in Antioch, or had gone to Luoyang in China of the Han Dynasty.

Based on Peter’s move from Antioch to Rome, there are those who say that there is nothing which absolutely connects being the Successor of Peter with being Bishop of Rome.  He was, after all, The Rock, when he was in Antioch.  For all practical purposes Petrine Ministry and office of Bishop of Rome now seem to be fused together.  Most authors think they are inseparable.  But… they weren’t, unless one thinks that Christ gave Peter His authority in view of Peter’s future in Rome.   Possible, but there’s no Biblical evidence for that.  On the surface, it looks like one could be Successor of Peter (who can be anywhere) and someone else Bishop of Rome (who should be in Rome).

One supposes that, in time of need, some Successor of Peter could move his see to, say, Texas.

In any event, that’s an interesting thing to reflect on today when we have Antioch and Rome together on one day instead of two.

Let’s see the Novus Ordo prayers for the feast.


Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus,
ut nullis nos permittas perturbationibus concuti,
quos in apostolicae confessionis petra solidasti.

There is nothing especially difficult about the grammar and vocabulary of this prayer, though it is theologically profound. NB: the solidasti is really solidavisti, a “syncopated” form.

I’m sure some of you can come up with your smooth but accurate versions.


Ecclesiae tuae, quaesumus, Domine,
preces et hostias benignus admitte,
ut, beato Petro pastore,
ad aeternam perveniat hereditatem,
quo docente fidei tenet integritatem.

This is harder than the Collect. From the point of view of vocabulary, trying to get the right sense of admitto helps to establish the “mood” of the prayer. Admitto carries the weight of “suffering” or “allowing” something to enter into one’s presence. “Admit” is more eloquent than just “receive”. Admitto immediately lends a sense of God’s highness and our needy lowliness, waiting upon God’s good pleasure. Grammatically, you have to get that quo docente right, or nothing else works. I think the trick here is to avoid taking quo docente as an ablative absolute (which is what beato Petro pastore clearly is) and instead see it as an ablative of “agent”.


O Lord, we beseech Thee,
kindly suffer to receive the prayers and sacrificial offerings of Thy Church,
so that, blessed Peter being Her shepherd,
and, by whom as he is teaching holds fast to the integritry of the Faith,
She may attain to the eternal inheritance.


Deus, qui nos,
beati Petri apostoli festivitatem celebrantes,
Christi Corporis et Sanguinis communione vegetasti,
praesta, quaesumus,
ut hoc redemptionis commercium
sit sacramentum nobis unitatis et pacis.

Commercium is a loaded word. It means “exchange”. It has a theological, not a mercantile sense, of course. Bread and wine were chosen by God, from all gifts He gave us, to be transformed into His Body and Blood.


O God, who with the Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ,
has nourished us celebrating the feast of the blessed Apostle Peter,
grant, we beseech Thee,
that this sacred exchange of redemption
be for us a sacramental sign of unity and peace.

We chose from among those gifts of bread and wine, those concrete gifts which we offered at this particular Mass. They were a symbol of something from to be offered ourselves, to be returned to the one who gave them. God accepted them, and transformed them through His Spirit into the Body and Blood of Christ. Then gave them back to us, so that we, through them might be transformed more and more into what they are. This is an amazing interchange of gifts, God always having logical priority over the giving and the given. Thus, in the process, we are united to God and each other in a marvelous sacred “exchange”.

The current ICEL versions (biretta tip to HE):

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that no tempests may disturb us,
for you have set us fast
on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.

Prayer over the Offerings
Accept with favor, O Lord, we pray,
the prayers and offerings of your Church,
that, with Saint Peter as her shepherd,
she may come to an eternal inheritance,
for it is through his teaching
that she holds the faith in its integrity.

Prayer after Communion
O God, who at our celebration
of the feast day of the blessed Apostle Peter
have nourished us by communion in the Body and Blood of Christ,
grant, we pray, that this redeeming exchange
may be for us a Sacrament of unity and peace.

As a bonus… here are a few photos of St. Peter’s shot some years ago on this Feast of the Cathedra of St. Peter.

It is pretty dark in the Basilica, so steady is the name of the game. Here is a shot through the columns over the main altar toward the apse, where you can see the candles arrayed around the magnificent bronze by Bernini.

A closer view.

The bronze Cathedra is decorated with lighted candles only once a year, today.

The black bronze statue of St. Peter attributed to the marvelous Arnulfo di Cambio was always dressed up in his cope and tiara, with a ring on his finger and pectoral Cross on two days, 29 June and today. Then the modernists in the Fabrica started fooling around. Too triumphalistic. They started cutting out elements. But all of them were back the day I shot these except for the griccia alb, which I can live without I guess. I don’t know if it is back this year or not.

And ….

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Gaby Carmel says:

    “For all practical purposes Petrine Ministry and office of Bishop of Rome now seem to be fused together. Most authors think they are inseparable. But… they weren’t, unless one thinks that Christ gave Peter His authority in view of Peter’s future in Rome. Possible, but there’s no Biblical evidence for that. On the surface, it looks like one could be Successor of Peter (who can be anywhere) and someone else Bishop of Rome (who should be in Rome)”: this is an interesting comment, given that the present pope likes to say simply that he is the bishop of Rome…

  2. kellamr says:

    Fr. Z, I am a parishoner at St. Linus in the Chicago Archdiocese. Linus was Peter’s successor as Bishop of Rome. He is now listed as the second Pope (Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus….). From my reading on Linus he was not seen as Pope of the universal church at that time, but simply the Bishop of Rome. He had been chosen Peter and Paul for that role. Petrine succession, as with much of the church rules, did not exist. It is believed the Clement was in fact Peter’s choice for leader of the universal church.

    Either way we celebrate today because after Peter, Linus sat in that chair.
    The third-century poem, “Adversus Marcionem”, says (P.L., II, 1099):
    Hâc cathedrâ, Petrus quâ sederat ipse, locatum
    Maxima Roma Linum primum considere iussit.
    (On this chair, where Peter himself had sat, great Rome first placed Linus and bade him sit.)

  3. The Cobbler says:

    “One supposes that, in time of need, some Successor of Peter could move his see to, say, Texas.”

    Didn’t that happen in the science fiction classic “A Canticle for Leibowitz”?

  4. The Cobbler says: “A Canticle for Leibowitz”?

    I do believe you are right!

  5. Erick Ybarra says:

    It had been my understanding that St. Peter’s primacy has become permanently fixed to the Roman Church. I get this from the fact that each person who enters the office of the Roman bishopric takes up the prerogatives associated with the “see of Peter” and not merely a succession after the previous Pope.

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  7. TWF says:

    I agree with Erick – I think the testimony of the early Church is quite clear that primacy is not tied only to the person of the Bishop of Rome, but also specifically to the local Church in Rome. St. Irenaeus and his assertion that all Churches must agree with the Church in Rome because of her “superior origins” comes to mind…and note that he ties those superior origins to both Sts. Peter and Paul. While the Pauline aspect is less emphasized, the Popes of Rome have claimed the authority of both princes of the apostles.
    “…by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul…” (Munificentissimus Deus).

  8. The Astronomer says:

    The bifurcated papacy makes my brain hurt.

    Too far above my pay grade…literally.

  9. JonPatrick says:

    That also happens in Fr. Henson’s Lord of the World where the pope has to flee Rome and hide out in the Holy Land. I could forsee this happening if say there was a Muslim invasion of southern Europe.

  10. William Tighe says:

    I agree with George Edmundson, whose book one may read here:


    that St. Peter’s first stay in Rome (the first of three) preceded his time in Antioch, and that the “other place” to which he is said to have gone in Acts 12:18 was Rome.

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