"We gather in faith..."

Teaching and commentary from our pastor, Bishop Francis J. Christian

Reflections

Today's Gospel is one of the places Catholics look

to understand the office of the pope, who is the

successor of Peter. Following upon Peter's

confession of faith in Jesus as Messiah, Jesus

declares Peter to be the "rock" upon which the

church shall be built. He is, like Eliakim in the first

reading, "a peg in a sure spot," a fixed point of

reference in the life of the Catholic community.

Non-Catholics, and even some Catholics,

occasionally misunderstand Church teaching

regarding the role of the pope. We believe that the

pope is infallible in his role as head of the Church,

meaning that under his leadership, as it says in the

Gospel reading, "the gates of the netherworld shall

not prevail against it." This does not mean that the

pope is always correct in his views on matters that

are not directly related to faith and morals. The pope

can be mistaken about the weather or the stock

market, or even sometimes issues of Church

governance. The pope also does not necessarily have

special insight into God's will; what our second

reading says applies to popes as much as to any other

member of the Church: "who has know the mind of

the Lord or who has been his counselor?"

At the same time, while we should not overstate

Catholic beliefs about the pope, we also should not

understate them The papacy is a great gift to the

Church, uniting Catholics with each other around the

world and down through history. In his teaching, the

pope continues to fulfill the office of "rock" that

Jesus conferred on Peter, providing stability to the

faith of the Church so that we can journey with

confidence on our way to God's kingdom.