The Chair of St Peter

The feast of the Chair of St Peter is a celebration of the unity of the Church under its teacher and pastor, the Apostle Peter. Historically, there are two feasts referred to as the Chair of St Peter, one from Rome and one from Antioch, but today most eyes will be turned towards modern Rome, where Benedict XVI is preparing to lay down his office and the cardinals are preparing to elect someone to take it up. Inevitably, the media are full of speculation, some of it so blatantly secular as to make one smile.

One point which seems to elude many is that the election of a pope is not like election to political office. It is not a question of satisfying a popular wish for a candidate to represent a particular ethnicity; nor is it a question of trying to eliminate anyone who might have any ‘scandal’ attached to his name. The Church has survived some amazingly bad popes, as she has survived some amazingly bad members generally. She is, after all, founded on Christ; and there is grace even in the worst of sinners. The electing cardinals do not have to meet any criteria other than being within the age limit currently in place; so all those calls to exclude Cardinal Brady or Cardinal Mahony on the grounds that their record on sex abuse cases is distinctly questionable are, in electoral terms, wide of the mark. I think I am right in saying that even cardinals who have been excommunicated cannot be excluded from the conclave.

That tells us something quite important about the Church and her self-understanding. We really do rely on God acting in and through weak and imperfect beings to bring about the realisation of his Kingdom on earth. We are apt to forget that amidst all our plans for mission and evangelisation. We rely on God and he, astonishingly, relies on us.

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9 thoughts on “The Chair of St Peter”

  1. My parish priest sent the catechists a link to a booklet to read. Titled ‘Conclave Step by Step through the Papal Interregnum.’

    I’m looking forward to reading it and learning about the steps that are taken from an internal perspective. Especially in relation to the rules of exclusion that you refer to, and our faith in God, and his faith in relying on us.

  2. Your post should be printed in the newspapers, read on radio and TV. Maybe placed on billboards!

    I feel very demeaned with the tabloid headlines and other forms of media promoting a tournament attitude towards the upcoming Papal election. I wish it would make me smile, too, but it doesn’t, particularly when overhearing two people at the grocery store checkout “I hope they get what they deserve.” in a very unkind tone of voice, the other woman nodding and referring to child molesters.

    I pray we receive what we need, a good and holy leader, and quickly. I wish our Holy Father had waited until after Easter to abdicate, but it was his choice, for reasons he understands best. Perhaps the constant barrage of negativity from the bashers is one of our Lenten crosses to bear, certainly for me it is. I take comfort in Christ’s promise that the Church will never be defeated by evil.

  3. Off course the way of the world is to speculate and to gamble. So, to the gambling world, the selection process for a new leader such as the Pope or the Arch Bishop of Canterbury is an opportunity to gamble.

    Someone sets odds, having studied the form of those in the list of people who may be eligible and of they go.

    I’m not a gambler, I dislike it intensely, but hope that on this occasion the bookies are taken to the cleaners when someone completely unexpected (in secular eyes) but totally suitable in God’s eyes is elected.

    Is gambling or gaming a deadly sin? If it isn’t it should be.

  4. There was an article on the BBC website today about the White Rose movement.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21521060

    The ending of the article made me smile:

    “Since the end of the war, the members of the White Rose have become celebrated figures, as German society has searched for positive role models from the Nazi period.
    But Furst-Ramdohr doesn’t like it. “At the time, they’d have had us all executed,” she says of the majority of her compatriots.
    Her friend Alexander Schmorell was made a saint by the Russian Orthodox church in 2012.
    “He would have laughed out loud if he’d known,” says Furst-Ramdohr. “He wasn’t a saint – he was just a normal person.” ”

    Aren’t we all.

  5. Are we too far into Lent to give something else up? Like listening to the news? Latest in this morning stated a popular opinion poll reveals ?% of R.C.s favour a traditional style leader, ?% want a more progressive Pope, one who approves of homosexuality, ordination of married priests and of women. I have not typed in the numbers because I don’t remember them. Popular opinion polls aren’t part of the selection process. Then the news commentator went on to say “the opinion” was that the Holy Father’s abdication had something to do with vatileaks, the culture of homosexuality and all would be revealed to the new leader, while Pope Benedict is safely out of view in a monastery.

    So, that’s it – no more news for me, I’ve had enough. For the sponsors who pay a good buck for advertising on these stations, their commercials are not being viewed or listened to either as of today.

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