People sometimes falsely claim that there was no papacy until the 4th century…I thought these Excerpts from the Catholic Encylcopedia would clear some things up.
History bears complete testimony that from the very earliest times the Roman See has ever claimed the supreme headship, and that that headship has been freely acknowledged by the universal Church.
St. Clement, a disciple of the Apostles, who, after Linus and Anacletus, succeeded St. Peter as the fourth in the list of popes. In his “Epistle to the Corinthians”, written in 95 or 96, he bids them receive back the bishops whom a turbulent faction among them had expelled. “If any man”, he says, “should be disobedient unto the words spoken by God through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger” (Ep. 59). Moreover, he bids them “render obedience unto the things written by us through the Holy Spirit”.before the last survivor of the Apostles had passed away, we find a Bishop of Rome, himself a disciple of St. Peter, intervening in the affairs of another Church (St John was still living and closer to Corinth)and claiming to settle the matter by a decision spoken under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
St. Irenaeus(189) In his work (Adversus Haereses 3:3:2) He writes: “Because it would be too long in such a volume as this to enumerate the successions of all the churches, we point to the tradition of that very great and very ancient and universally known Church, which was founded and established at Rome, by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul: we point I say, to the tradition which this Church has from the Apostles, and to her faith proclaimed to men which comes down to our time through the succession of her bishops, …For with this Church, because of its superior authority, every Church must agree – that is the faithful everywhere – in communion with which Church the tradition of the Apostles has been always preserved by those who are everywhere.” He then proceeds to enumerate the Roman succession from Linus to Eleutherius, the twelfth after the Apostles, who then occupied the see.
Pope Telesphorus (feast day: January 5) was Pope from about 126 to about 137. The tradition of Christmas midnight masses, the celebration of Easter on Sundays, the keeping of a seven-week Lent before Easter and the singing of the Gloria are usually attributed to his pontificate.
Pope Hyginus was Pope from about 138 to about 140. - he determined the different prerogatives of the clergy, and defined the grades of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Hyginus instituted godparents at baptism to assist the newly born during their Christian life. He also decreed that all churches be consecrated.
While Anicetus was Pope, St. Polycarp, then in extreme old age, came to confer with him (160-162) about the Paschal controversy; According to Eusebius: “Polycarp could not persuade the Pope, nor the Pope, Polycarp. The controversy was not ended but the bonds of charity were not broken”; the Pope permitting the aged saint to celebrate on the day he had been accustomed to in the Church of Smyrna. Hegesippus, the first Christian historian… also came to Rome at this time. His visit is recorded by most ecclesiastical authors as noteworthy, inasmuch as it calls attention to the fact that many illustrious men repaired to Rome at that period, thus emphasizing very early the supreme dignity and authority of the Roman Pontiffs.
St. Victor (189-98) bade the Asiatic Churches conform to the custom of the remainder of the Church, but was met with determined resistance by Polycrates of Ephesus, who claimed that their custom derived from St. John himself. Victor replied by an excommunication. St. Irenaeus, however, intervened, exhorting Victor not to cut off whole Churches on account of a point which was not a matter of faith. He assumes that the pope can exercise the power, but urges him not to do so. Similarly the resistance of the Asiatic bishops involved no denial of the supremacy of Rome.St. Victor, seeing that more harm than good would come from insistence, withdrew the imposed penalty.
St. Cyprian (d. 258) undoubtedly entertained exaggerated views as to the independence of individual bishops, which eventually led him into serious conflict with Rome. Yet on the fundamental principle his position is clear. He attributed an effective primacy to the pope as the successor of Peter. He makes communion with the See of Rome essential to Catholic communion, speaking of it as “the principal Church whence episcopal unity had its rise” The force of this expression becomes clear when viewed in the light of his doctrine as to the unity of the Church. This was he teaches, established by Christ when He founded His Church upon Peter. By this act the unity of the Apostolic college was ensured through the unity of the foundation. The bishops through all time form a similar college, and are bound in a like indivisible unity. Of this unity the Chair of Peter is the source. It fulfils the very office as principle of union which Peter fulfilled in his lifetime. Hence to communicate with an antipope such as Novatian would be schism (Ep. 68:1). He holds, also, that the pope has authority to depose an heretical bishop. When Marcian of Arles fell into heresy, Cyprian, at the request of the bishops of the province, wrote to urge Pope Stephen “to send letters by which, Marcian having been excommunicated, another may be substituted in his place” (Ep. 68:3).
Emperor Aurelian in 270. The emperor decreed that he who was acknowledged by the bishops of Italy and the Bishop of Rome, must be recognized as rightful occupant of the see. The incident proves that even the pagans themselves knew well that communion with the Roman See was the essential mark of all Christian Churches.
For more evidence of papal authority, check out the 16 audio shows called “Pope Fiction” which are free downloads in the audio library at ewtn.com