Communion of Saint Leo I

Matthew 16:18

Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church. [P.T. Alleluia.]

Haydock

Verse 18. Kagw. And I say to thee, and tell thee why I before declared, (John i. 42.) that thou shouldst be called Peter, for thou art constituted the rock upon which, as a foundation, I will build my Church, and that so firmly, as not to suffer the gates (i.e. the powers) of hell to prevail against its foundation; because if they overturn its foundation, (i.e. thee and thy successors) they will overturn also the Church that rests upon it. Christ therefore here promises to Peter, that he and his successors should be to the end, as long as the Church should last, its supreme pastors and princes. T. — In the Syriac tongue, which is that which Jesus Christ spoke, there is no difference of genders, as there is in Latin, between petra, a rock, and Petrus, Peter; hence, in the original language, the allusion was both more natural and more simple. V. — Thou art Peter;[2] and upon this (i.e. upon thee, according to the literal and general exposition of the ancient Fathers) I will build my church. It is true S. Augustine, in one or two places, thus expounds these words, and upon this rock, (i.e. upon myself:) or upon this rock, which Peter hath confessed: yet he owns that he had also given the other interpretation, by which Peter himself was the rock. Some Fathers have also expounded it, upon the faith, which Peter confessed; but then they take not faith, as separated from the person of Peter, but on Peter, as holding the true faith. No one questions but that Christ himself is the great foundation-stone, the chief corner-stone, as S. Paul tells the Ephesians; (C. ii, v. 20.) but it is also certain, that all the apostles may be called foundation-stones of the Church, as represented Apoc. xxi. 14. In the mean time, S. Peter (called therefore Cephas, a rock) was the first and chief foundation-stone among the apostles, on whom Christ promised to build his Church. Wi. — Thou art Peter, &c. As S. Peter, by divine revelation, here made a solemn profession of his faith of the divinity of Christ, so in recompense of this faith and profession, our Lord here declares to him the dignity to which he is pleased to raise him: viz. that he, to whom he had already given the name of Peter, signifying a rock, (John i. 42.) should be a rock indeed, of invincible strength, for the support of the building of the church; in which building he should be next to Christ himself, the chief foundation-stone, in quality of chief pastor, ruler, and governor; and should have accordingly all fulness of ecclesiastical power, signified by the keys of the kingdom of heaven. — Upon this rock, &c. The words of Christ to Peter, spoken in the vulgar language of the Jews, which our Lord made use of, were the same as if he had said in English, Thou art a rock, and upon this rock I will build my church. So that, by the plain course of the words, Peter is here declared to be the rock, upon which the church was to be built; Christ himself being both the principal foundation and founder of the same. Where also note, that Christ by building his house, that is, his Church, upon a rock, has thereby secured it against all storms and floods, like the wise builder. Matt. vii. 24, 25. — The gates of hell, &c. That is, the powers of darkness, and whatever Satan can do, either by himself or his agents. For as the Church is here likened to a house, or fortress, built on a rock; so the adverse powers are likened to a contrary house or fortress, the gates of which, i.e. the whole strength, and all the efforts it can make, will never be able to prevail over the city or Church of Christ. By this promise we are fully assured, that neither idolatry, heresy, nor any pernicious error whatsoever shall at any time prevail over the Church of Christ. Ch. — The gates, in the Oriental style, signify the powers; thus, to this day, we designate the Ottoman or Turkish empire by the Ottoman port. The princes were wont to hold their courts at the gates of the city. V.

Denzinger

149: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

From the epistles of the Synod "Repletum est gaudio"
to Leo the Pope, at the beginning of November, 451

For if where two or three are gathered together in His name, there He says He is in the midst of them, how great an intimacy did He show with regard to the five hundred and twenty consecrated men, who preferred to both native land and to labor the knowledge of confession for Him. Over these you ruled as a head over the members, among those holding office, displaying your good will.

149 [The more ancient version.]: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

From the epistles of the Synod "Repletum est gaudio"
to Leo the Pope, at the beginning of November, 451

For if where two or three are gathered together in his name, there he says he is in the midst of them [cf. Matt. 18:20], how great an intimacy will He show in regard to the five hundred and twenty priests, who have preferred to both native land and to labor the knowledge of confession for Him. Over these you ruled as a head over the members, among those holding office, displaying your good will.

171: The Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff

ST. HORMISDAS 514-523
"Libellus professionis fidei" 
added to the epistle
"Inter ea quae" 
to the bishops of Spain, 
April 2, 517

[Our] first safety is to guard the rule of the right faith and to deviate in no wise from the ordinances of the Fathers; because we cannot pass over the statement of our Lord Jesus Christ who said: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church” . . . [Matt. 16:18]. These [words] which were spoken, are proved by the effects of the deeds, because in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved without stain. Desiring not to be separated from this hope and faith and following the ordinances of the Fathers, we anathematize all heresies, especially the heretic Nestorius, who at one time was bishop of the city of Constantinople, condemned in the Council of EPHESUS by the blessed CELESTINE, Pope of the City of Rome, and by the venerable man Cyril, high priest of the City of Alexandria. Similiarly anathematizing both Eutyches and Dioscorus of Alexandria condemned in the holy Synod of CHALCEDON [see n. 148] which we follow and embrace, which following the sacred Council of NICEA proclaimed the apostolic faith, we detest both Timothy the parricide, surnamed the Cat, and likewise his disciple and follower in all things, Peter of Alexandria. We condemn, too, and anathematize Acacius, formerly bishop of Constantinople, who was condemned by the Apostolic See, their confederate and follower, or those who remained in the society of their communion, because Acacius justly merited a sentence in condemnation like theirs in whose communion he mingled. No less do we condemn Peter of Antioch with his followers, and the followers of all mentioned above.

230: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

PELAGIUS I 556-561
From epistle (26) "Adeone te"
to a certain bishop (John ?),
about the year 560]

Has the truth of your Catholic mother so failed you, who have been placed in the highest office of the priesthood, that you have not at once recognized yourself as a schismatic, when you withdrew from the apostolic sees? Being appointed to preach the Gospel to the people, had you not even read that the Church was founded by Christ our Lord upon the chief of the Apostles, so thatthe gates of hell might not be able to prevail against it [cf. Matt. 16:18]? If you had read this, where did you believe the Church to be outside of him in whom alone are clearly all the apostolic sees? To whom in like measure as to him, who had receivedthe keys, has the power of binding and of loosingbeen granted [cf. Matt. 16:19]? But for this reason he gave first to him alone, what he was about to give also to (in) all, so that, according to the opinion of blessed Cyprian the martyr who explains this very thing, the Church might be shown to be one. Why, therefore, did you, already dearest in Christ, wander away from your portion, or what hope did you have for your salvation?

247: The Necessity of Union with the Church

PELAGIUS II 579-590
From epistle (2) "Dilectionis vestrae"
to the schismatic bishops of Istria,
about 585]

…Do not (therefore) because of a love of ostentation, which is always next to pride, remain in the vice of obstinacy; since in the day of judgment no one can excuse himself.…

For although it is evident from the word of the Lord Himself in the Sacred Gospel [cf. Matt. 16:18 ] where the Church is established, let us hear nevertheless what the blessed Augustine, mindful of the opinion of the same Lord, has explained. For he says that the Church of God is established among those who are known to preside over the apostolic sees) through the succession of those in charge, and whoever separates himself from the communion or authority of these sees, is shown to be in schism. And following additional remarks (he says): “If you are put outside, for the name of Christ you will also die. Suffer for Christ among the members of Christ; clinging to the body, fight for the head.” But the blessed Cyprian… among other things, says the following: “The beginning starts from unity, and the primacy is given to PETER, So that the Church and the chair of Christ may be shown (to be) one: and they are all shepherds, but the flock, which is fed by the Apostles in unanimous agreement, is shown to be one.” * And after a few (remarks he adds): “Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church believe that he has the faith? Does he who deserts and resists the chair of PETER, on which the Church was founded, have confidence that he is in the Church?” Likewise after other remarks (he asserts): “They can. not arrive at the reward of peace, because they disrupt the peace of the Lord by the fury of discord.… Those who were not willing to be at agreement in the Church of God, cannot remain with God; although given over to flames and fires, they burn, or thrown to wild beasts, they lay down their lives, there will not be [for them] that crown of faith, but the punishment of faithlessness, not a glorious result (of religious virtue), but the ruin of despair. Such a one can be slain, he cannot be crowned.… For the crime of schism is worse than that which they [commit] who have offered sacrifice, who, nevertheless, having been disposed to penance for their sins prayed to God with the fullest satisfaction. In this case the Church is sought and solicited; in the other the Church is opposed. So in this case he who has fallen, has injured only himself; in the other, who attempts to cause a schism deceives many by dragging (them) with himself. In this case there is the loss of one soul; in the other there is danger to many. Certainly the one knows that he has sinned and laments and bewails (it); the other puffed up with pride in his sin and pluming himself on the sins themselves, separates sons from their mother, seduces the sheep from the shepherds, disturbs the sacraments of God, and, whereas the former having stumbled sinned once, the latter sins daily. Lastly although the lapsed, if afterwards he acquired martyrdom, is able to secure the promises of the kingdom; if the other is slain outside of the Church, he cannot attain to the rewards of the Church.”

298: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

HADRIAN I 772-795
From the epistle "Pastoralibus Curis"
to the Patriarch Tarasius
in the year 785

…Let that false assembly, which without the Apostolic See… was held contrary to the traditions of the venerable fathers against the divine images, be declared anathema in the presence of our delegates, and let the word of our Lord Jesus Christ be fulfilled, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her” (Matt. 16:18); and again: “Thou art Peter…” (Matt. 16:18-19), whose throne holding the first place in all the world shines forth and holds its place as the head of the whole Church of God.

351: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

From the epistle "In terra pax hominibus"
to Michael Cerularius and to Leo of Achrida,
September 2, 1053

…The holy Church built upon a rock, that is Christ, and upon Peter or Cephas, the son of John who first was called Simon, because by the gates of Hell, that is, by the disputations of heretics which lead the vain to destruction, it would never be overcome; thus Truth itself promises, through whom are true, whatsoever things are true: “The gates of hell will not prevail against it” [Matt. 16:18]. The same Son declares that He obtained the effect of this promise from the Father by prayers, by saying to Peter: “Simon, behold Satan etc.” [Luke 23:31]. Therefore, will there be anyone so foolish as to dare to regard His prayer as in anyway vain whose being willing is being able? By the See of the chief of the Apostles, namely by the Roman Church, through the same Peter, as well as through his successors, have not the comments of all the heretics been disapproved, rejected, and overcome, and the hearts of the brethren in the faith of Peter which so far neither has failed, nor up to the end will fail, been strengthened?

782: The Creed of the Catholic Faith is Accepted

PAUL III 1534-1549
COUNCIL OF TRENT 1545-1563
Ecumenical XIX (Contra Novatores 16 cent.)
SESSION III (Feb.4, 1546)

This sacred and holy ecumenical and general Synod of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Spirit, with the three legates of the Apostolic See presiding over it, in consideration of the magnitude of the matters to be transacted, especially those which are comprised under these two heads, the extirpation of heresies and the reform of morals, because of which chiefly the Synod was convoked…, has proposed that the creed of faith, which the Holy Roman Church utilizes, inasmuch as it is that principle, wherein all who profess the faith of Christ necessarily agree, and is the firm and sole foundation, against which the “gates of Hell shall never prevail” [Matt. 16:18], be expressed in the very same words in which it is read in all the churches. This creed is as follows…

1821: The institution and foundation of the Church

THE VATICAN COUNCIL 1869-1870
Ecumenical XX (on Faith and the Church)
SESSION IV (July 18, 1870)
Dogmatic Constitution I on the Church of Christ

“The eternal Pastor and Bishop of our souls” [1 Pet. 2:25], in order to render the saving work of redemption perennial, willed to build a holy Church, in which, as in the house of the living God, all the faithful might be contained by the bond of one faith and charity. Therefore, before His glory was made manifest, “He asked the Father, not only for the Apostles but also for those who would believe through their word in Him, that all might be one, just as the Son Himself and the Father are one” [John 17:20 f.]. Thus, then, as He sent the apostles, whom He had selected from the world for Himself, as He himself had been sent by the Father [John 20:21], so in His Church He wished the pastors and the doctors to be “even to the consummation of the world” [Matt. 28:20]. But, that the episcopacy itself might be one and undivided, and that the entire multitude of the faithful through priests closely connected with one another might be preserved in the unity of faith and communion, placing the blessed Peter over the other apostles He established in him the perpetual principle and visible foundation of both unities, upon whose strength the eternal temple might be erected, and the sublimity of the Church to be raised to heaven might rise in the firmness of this faith. And, since the gates of hell, to overthrow the Church, if this were possible, arise from all sides with ever greater hatred against its divinely established foundation, We judge it to be necessary for the protection, safety, and increase of the Catholic flock, with the approbation of the Council, to set forth the doctrine on the institution, perpetuity, and nature of the Sacred Apostolic Primacy, in which the strength and solidarity of the whole Church consist, to be believed and held by all the faithful, according to the ancient and continual faith of the universal Church, and to proscribe and condemn the contrary errors, so pernicious to the Lord’s flock.

1833: The Infallible “Magisterium” of the Roman Pontiff

For the fathers of the fourth council of Constantinople, adhering to the ways of the former ones, published this solemn profession: “Our first salvation is to guard the rule of right faith […]. And since the sentiment of our Lord Jesus Christ cannot be passed over when He says: ‘Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church’ [Matt. 16:18], these words which were spoken are proven true by actual results, since in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved untainted, and holy doctrine celebrated. Desiring, then, least of all to be separated from the faith and teaching of this [Apostolic See], We hope that We may deserve to be in the one communion which the Apostolic See proclaims, in which the solidarity of the Christian religion is whole and true”

1955: The Unity of the Church

LEO XIII 1878-1903
From the Encyclical, 
"Satis cognitum," 
June A, 1896

Now, if we look at what was done, Jesus Christ did not arrange and organize such a Church as would embrace several communities similar in kind, but distinct, and not bound together by those bonds that make the Church indivisible and unique after that manner clearly in which we profess in the symbol of faith, “I believe in one Church."… Now, Jesus Christ when He was speaking of such a mystical edifice, spoke only of one Church which He called His own: “I will build my Church” [Matt. 16:18]. Whatever other church is under consideration than this one, since it was not founded by Jesus Christ, cannot be the true Church of Christ.… And so the Church is bound to spread among all men the salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ, and all the blessings that proceed therefrom, and to propagate them through the ages. Therefore, according to the will of its Author the Church must be alone in all lands in the perpetuity of time.… The Church of Christ, therefore, is one and perpetual; whoever go apart (from it) wander away from the will and prescription of Christ the Lord and, leaving the way of salvation, digress to destruction.

163: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff and the Patriarchal Sees

ST. GELASIUS I 492-496
From the epistle 42, or decretal 
"de recipiendis et non
recipiendis libris," 
in the year 495

After (all these) prophetic and evangelical and apostolic writings (which we have set forth above), on which the Catholic Church by the grace of God is founded, we have thought this (fact) also ought to be published, namely that, although the universal Catholic Church spread throughout the world has the one marriage of Christ, nevertheless the holy Roman Church has not been preferred to the other churches by reason of synodical decrees, but she has held the primacy by the evangelical voice of the Lord and Savior saying:Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven, and wh atsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven [Matt. 16:18 f.]. There is added also the association of the most blessed Paul the Apostle, the vessel of election, who not at a different time, as the heretics say, but at the one time, on one and the same day, while contending for the prize together with Peter was crowned with a glorious death under Caesar Nero in the City of Rome; and equally have they consecrated the above-mentioned Church of Rome to Christ the Lord and have raised it above all other cities in the whole world by their presence and their venerable triumph.

Accordingly the see of PETER the Apostle of the Church of Rome is first, having neither spot, nor wrinkle, nor anything of this kind [Eph. 5:27]. But the second see at Alexandria was consecrated in the name of blessed PETER by Mark his disciple and evangelist… but the third in honor is considered the see of the most blessed Apostle PETER at Antioch.…

298: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

HADRIAN I 772-795
From the epistle "Pastoralibus Curis"
to the Patriarch Tarasius
in the year 785

…Let that false assembly, which without the Apostolic See… was held contrary to the traditions of the venerable fathers against the divine images, be declared anathema in the presence of our delegates, and let the word of our Lord Jesus Christ be fulfilled, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her” (Matt. 16:18); and again: “Thou art Peter…” (Matt. 16:18-19), whose throne holding the first place in all the world shines forth and holds its place as the head of the whole Church of God.

5000: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

ST. BONIFACE I, 418-422
From the Letter, "Manes beatum,"
to Rufus and the other Bishops
throughout Macedonia, etc.,
March 11, 422

The watchful care over the universal Church confided to Peter abides with him by reason of the Lord’s statement; for he knows on the testimony of the Gospel [Matt. 16:18] that the Church was founded on him. His office can never be free from cares, since it is certain that all things depend on his deliberation. These considerations turn my mind to the regions of the Orient, which we behold in a way with genuine solicitude. Far be it from the priests of the Lord, that anyone of them fall into the offense of making the decrees of our elders foreign to him, by attempting something in the way of a novel and unlawful usurpation, realizing that he thus makes him a rival, in whom our Christ has placed the highest power of the priesthood, and whoever rises to reproach him cannot be an inhabitant of the heavenly regions. “To you,” He said, “I shall give the keys of the kingdom of heaven” [Matt. 16:19] into which no one shall enter without the favor of the door—keeper. He said: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my church” [Matt. 11:29]. Whoever, therefore, desires before God to be judged worthy of the dignity of the priesthood, since one reaches God with the support of Peter, on whom, as we have said above, it is certain that the Church was founded, should be “meek and humble of heart” [Matt. 11:29]. lest as a contumacious disciple of him, whose pride he has imitated, he undergo the punishment of the teachers…

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