Today, Feb. 22, is no mere Saturday in Ordinary Time. It was no doubt chosen by Pope Francis as the date for his first consistory to install new members into the College of Cardinals because it is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.
The feast reminds the Universal Church that the pope’s authority as bishop of Rome descends directly from Peter, the apostle chosen by Jesus to lead his fledgling church.
In the gospel reading for today, Jesus turns to Peter, the impetuous, occasionally struggling apostle, and figuratively gives him the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. . . . whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16.18-19)
Scripture tells us that Peter became the acknowledged leader of the young community of early Christians after Christ’s resurrection. Tradition holds that he eventually made his way to Rome, where he cofounded the local church with the apostle Paul, and was martyred.
Today, all popes trace their lineage to Peter and the “chair of Peter” is the throne of popes throughout the ages.
The choice of Peter is significant in a number of ways. He was a simple fisherman, not a learned scholar. Though he struggled at times to control his emotions, even giving in to fear to deny Christ before the crucifixion, he demonstrated that he was the most steadfast and loyal of Christ’s followers. Through the choice of this fallible man, Christ showed that, with his help, all of us can be faithful disciples.
In today’s consistory, Pope Francis installed 19 prelates as members of the College of Cardinals. Among them was Archbishop Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, of Quebec City, the primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada. The pope relies on the college to aid him in his governance of the church. He turns to the cardinals for advice and appoints them to various Vatican committees and commissions where they take on some of the work of the church.
By holding the consistory on today’s feast, Pope Francis underlines the strong link between his own papacy and today’s church with the first-century Christians who worked together with Peter to proclaim the Good News.
-Joseph Sinasac, Publishing Director