Moving the See of Peter


Could the church move the See of Peter from Rome to another city? For example, could the papacy have moved to Constantinople when Constantinople became a more prominent city? Or if Rome was destroyed in a nuclear blast could they move it elsewhere? Or even just move it to a more prominent city if Christianity dies out in europe, like Mexico City or Lagos?


Ever hear of the new Babylon Captivity–when the Pope moved to Avignon in France?

Remember the mess that caused?


Yes… it was a mess :slight_smile: But is it proof that the church is allowed to move the papacy around? Or only in emergencies?


It’s proof that it is not generally a good idea to do so, especially in secret.


I believe the Avignon popes still claimed to be the Bishop of Rome, rather than the Bishop of Avignon.

Is there anything in canon law about what circumstances allow a pope to assign another city as the ‘head see’?


If the situation ever came up, I am sure the Curia will oblige with a Canon for the occasion.

But the theory of Petrine Primacy is thoroughly linked to the city of Rome. The Papacy would never give that up even if it relocated to Brooklyn. It has to be the Ordinary of Rome who is the Pope, wherever he really is. That’s the theory.

During the Avignon period, there was an Archbishop of Rome, in the city, but he was not the Pope. He was a suffragan to the Archbishop of Rome in Avignon.

I am rather curious as to why this question wound up in this section though. It is an exclusively Latin church issue, is it not?


I put it in this section because I was wondering if the keys of peter could ever be transferred to one of the other primates besides the primate of the Latin church. Or does it always have to be the Latin church that has the keys.


The theory has nothing whatever to do with ritual practices, or “Rite”.

But being connected to the diocese of Rome, that probably means (to me anyway) that the Rite practiced at that city will be the Rite used by the Pope most of the time, wherever he resides.

The office is not a sacrament, and it is not actually tied to any particular Rite, it predates them all. But the theory including Rome in the offices’ past history can’t really be abandoned, it is at the foundation of all the claims.

But of course, whenever the Pope needs a new Canon he’ll get what fits the bill.


In the distant future we might live on another planet and Earth might have been blown up by an asteroid. Would the pope still be the “bishop of Rome”? Maybe it would be a titular see, since Rome would be gone.


Wrong, the papacy is based on the Petrine Foundation, if Rome sank, the next papacy will have to be from the Bishop of Alexandria, Then, next to Alexandria, is the See of Antioch, This is the ancient rule of the 3 Petrine Patriarchate as established by Peter Himself


Well. Now you have taken this subject into a whole different theoretical direction. I wonder what you mean by “sank”?

We have not been talking about Rome “sinking” as such, but the institution of the Papacy moving about. Which it has done before.

The Papal claims are based upon the church of the city of Rome. It has already demonstrated that as an institution it no longer needs to actually be in Rome, or any other city in particular, but the special authority held by the Pope is permanently linked to that city.


Interestingly, Pope Paul VI was Ambrosian Rite (not Roman Rite) prior to his election to the papacy.


If this were to ever happen, it probably wouldn’t be all at once. Maybe first a Pope would take up residence in X, while still being referred to as “Bishop of Rome”; then over the reigns of the next few popes, “Bishop of X” would be gradually used more and more, “Bishop of Rome” less and less.


You have piqued my curiosity! I have never heard of the Ambrosian Rite. Please tell us more.


Where can I read more about the 3 Petrine Patriarchates?


The Council of Trent decreed that all places must switch to the Roman Rite, except for places that had been using a different rite for at least 200 years. It is for this reason that nowadays the vast, vast majority of Western Catholic parishes use the Roman Rite.

Nevertheless, a small number of places continue to use their traditional rites. For example, the Ambrosian Rite is used in Milan. (Paul VI was Archbishop of Milan before becoming Pope of Rome.)

P.S. My understanding is that the number of places that use the various Western rites other than the Roman Rite, are (unfortunately) statistically insignificant. The only statistically significant rites are the Roman Rites and the various Eastern rites (Byzantine, Maronite, etc.)


The Church of Antioch claims Peter as its first bishop. The Church of Alexandria claims saint Mark as its first bishop. Do a google search. Eusebius lists the bishops of these cities in his Ecclessiastical History. In the Penguins Classics versions edited by Andrew Louth they have an appendix which lists the bishops of these three sees plus Jerusalem from the time of the apostles to the time of Nicea in 325.

That said, marlo’s approach definitely does not line up with any traditional approach to the papacy. The papacy(atleast with its doctrines) is definitely linked to the city of Rome. Otherwise the city of Antioch would also be infallible and have universal jurisdiction because it was established by Peter.


For what it’s worth, the sci-fi novel Canticle for Leibowitz postulates that Rome has been destroyed and the papacy has moved to “New Rome,” which appears to be somewhere in Mexico. At the end of the book we are given to understand that the human race on earth has wiped itself out and exists (and the Church with it) only in space.

I’ve wondered about this too.



The pope can move the Holy See wherever he wants to. But don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen


My guess is that if Rome were blown to smithereens, and ceases to exist as a city, the See of Rome will still remain as a Titular See, but the Pope will have the strange status of Bishop of the Titular See of Rome.

But that’s just a guess.

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