**“First Among Equals” was a title given to the Bishop of Rome early in the Church’s history. This is undisputed. But the WHY is.
What do you think & why?
Was this due to St. Peter death occurring in Rome - that somehow his death made it St. Peter’s successors in Rome more important than St. Peter’s successors in Antioch?
Was this due to Rome having been the Imperial City - which would explain why the Ecumenical Councils named Constantinople the new Capitol City of the Roman Empire, (previously called Byzantium - the Church founded there by St. Andrew), rather than Antioch, as second to Rome as was explained in the 28th Canon of the Council of Chalcedon?
I believe St. Peter did not found the church in Rome, but was a major participant in it after he left Antioch. Ss. Peter and Paul both are important persons of the Roman Patriarchate, and both were martyred there. The elevation of this city occurred because of this double martyrdom (as well as many other martyrs), it’s position as the capitol of the empire, and the purity of the faith it maintained for so long. Note, I do not believe there is any divine grace protecting Rome from being able to be wrong, just that they held on to the true faith for so long, which makes sense as they were eventually a backwater out in the boonies and so held tightly to the traditions, as St. Paul commanded. Later that isolation resulted in doctrinal innovation.
So mostly your second suggestion, with even more added Christian importance for other reasons, but not any sort of Divine grace or office bestowed upon the Patriarch of Rome.
The Keys to the Kingdom were given to Peter and his successors. Not to an individual diocese. That is why the “First Among Equals” followed him from Antioch to Rome.
If for some reason the Pope were to ever have the need to flee Rome to say Buenos Aries, for example, then the Pope would become the Bishop of Buenos Aries. The Keys of the Kingdom are given to the man, not to the See.
It is due solely to Jesus’ appointment of Peter as the leader, the strengthener of his brothers (Matthew 16:18, Luke 22:32, John 21:15-17). And, there is a greatest among the Apostles, because Jesus said so: “Let him who is the greatest become as the least and the servant of all” (Matthew 23:11, Luke 22:26).
It is impossible to have primacy and equality. The notion is a self contradiction, like some bachelors are married. You are married or single. You have primacy or equality. First among equals is an oxymoron.
Peter was appointed, ordained by Jesus as His prime minister. The idea is that when the king is absent the prime minister represents the king and acts with the authority of the king. This is the symbolism of keys to the kingdom given by Jesus to Peter. The king wears a crown. The prime minister wears around his neck keys.
Jesus our King made promises to all the apostles and singled Peter out for a unique ministry. He left and shall return. His successors in office hold this responsibility. The earliest Church recognized Peter’s unique role and authority. History shows this. It is not theology.
History also shows that the promises made to Peter and his successors are about doctrine. The Holy Spirit leads the Church into all truth and is with her until the end of time. There is no guaranty of personal holiness of any pope. History reveals there were holy and unholy popes, wise and foolish, highly moral and immoral in their personal lives.
Salvation history presents and represents a spiritual conflict between light and darkness, one that has only two sides. Jesus says you are for or against me. He commands His followers to be one, one body, unified. We are shattered into thousands of denominations, divided over doctrinal disputes. Jesus says a house divided against itself will surely fall. Division, denominationalism is evil. It is the work of the evil one. The Church needs and can have only one prime minister. There can not be a great number of equals. That is not what Jesus left us.
The Keys of the Kingdom were giving to St. Peter by Jesus, not to his See. The Keys are passed on to successor to the Chair of St. Peter. The Keys belonging to the Pope is part of the Sacred Tradition with a capital T.
The fact that St. Peter (and St. Paul) were both Martyred Rome added significance. The fact that St. Peter is buried in Rome does help with it Rome’s historic significance. And today, the infrastructure of the Vatican makes Rome the ideal place for the Pope to reside. However, the Pope being the Bishop of Rome is tradition (with a lower case t). If the Pope wanted to move the Chair, he could do it but it would break historic tradition. Plus, today, if the Pope were to move, he would most likely be subject to foreign rule.
So basically, the fact that the Pope continues to be the Bishop of Rome is based on tradition (doctrine and canon law), while the fact that the Pope is the successor of Peter with the Keys to the Kingdom is Sacred Tradition (Dogma)
NOTE: Now the See of Rome does have primacy, but the Keys belong to the Sucessor of St. Peter, not to the See of Rome.
I’m more interested in the Spiritual truths than what is most helpful. For example, Jesus passing the keys to Peter and what that means is more important to me than where Peter’s bones are or how safe Rome is from outside rule.
I just need some clarification. You said that Jesus did not give the keys to the See but to Peter himself, but you also said that the keys belong to the See of Rome because (I’m guessing) the successor of Peter is there. But I still don’t know where the belief comes that Peter’s successors in Rome get the keys but not Antioch; simply because Peter died in Rome. How’s that work?
Actually, I said that the See of Rome has primacy, not that the See of Rome has the Keys.
The Keys belong to the Successor of St. Peter (the Pope) alone, not to the See of Rome or the office of the Bishop of Rome. The Office of the Papacy outranks the Bishop of Rome. It just happens that the Pope has both titles, but the two titles are NOT synonyms of each other. For example, let’s look at Prince Charles in England.
In addition to be being the Prince of Wales, he is also the Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Chester, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, and Lord of The Isles
While all of those titles belong to Prince Charles, not all of those titles are equal.
Jesus passing the keys to Peter is what counts. The Keys of the Kingdom and Papal Infallibility are passed to the man who replaces Peter and his successors. The Pope doesn’t have to be the Bishop of Rome. It’s just traditional that he is.
The fact that Peter’s bones are in the Vatican and the Vatican is safe from outside rule are logistical reasons to be in Rome. Not spiritual or dogmatic reasons.
The Office of the Papacy is spiritually independent of Rome. Peter went to Rome because it was the Capital of the Roman Empire. Other early Popes stayed there because it was the Capital (later Popes stayed there because it was traditional). Being in Rome during the time of the Roman Empire made sense because if they could convert Romans, then Christianity could be free throughout the empire - which is what happened.
The Keys belong to the Successor of St. Peter alone. As I had said before, if a Pope wanted to become the Bishop of Buenos Aries, there would be no Dogma to prevent that.