Rome supremacy


Hey guys,

Was Rome always the center of Christianity from the death of Peter onward? Was it only after the last apostle died? If not, what was the relationship between John and the Pope? Or was the authority of Rome a doctrine that developed over time?

Thanks in advance,



A presbyterian, and two Anglicans:

“…it can hardly be denied that the document [Clement to the Corinthians] reveals the sense of a certain superiority over all ordinary congregations. The Roman church here, without being asked (as far as appears), gives advice, with superior administrative wisdom, to an important church in the East, dispatches messengers to her, and exhorts her to order and unity in a tone of calm dignity and authority, as the organ of God and the Holy Spirit. This is all the more surprising if St. John, as is probable, was then still living in Ephesus, which was nearer to Corinth than Rome.” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, volume 2 [1910], page 158)

“Everywhere, in the East no less than the West, Rome enjoyed a special prestige, as is indicated by the precedence accorded without question to it…Thus Rome’s preeminance remained undisputed in the patristic period. For evidence of it the student need only recall the leading position claimed as a matter of course by the popes, and freely conceded to them, at the councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451)…It goes without saying that Augustine [c. 354 - 430 AD] identifies the Church with the universal Catholic Church of his day, with its hierarchy and sacraments, and with its centre at Rome…By the middle of the fifth century the Roman church had established, de jure as well as de facto, a position of primacy in the West, and the papal claims to supremacy over all bishops of Christendom had been formulated in precise terms…The student tracing the history of the times, particularly of the Arian, Donatist, Pelagian and Christological controversies, cannot fail to be impressed by the skill and persistence with which the Holy See [of Rome] was continually advancing and consolidating its claims. Since its occupant was accepted as the successor of St. Peter, and prince of the apostles, it was easy to draw the inference that the unique authority which Rome in fact enjoyed, and which the popes saw concentrated in their persons and their office, was no more than the fulfilment of the divine plan.” (JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, pages 406, 407, 413, 417)

"Unquestionably, the Roman church very early developed something like a sense of obligation to the oppressed all over Christendom…Consequently there was but one focus of authority…To Christians of the Occident, the Roman church was the sole, direct link with the age of the New Testament and its bishop was the one prelate in their part of the world in whose voice they discerned echoes of the apostles’ speech. The Roman bishop spoke always as the guardian of an authoritative tradition, second to none. Even when the eastern churches insisted that their traditions were older and quite as sacred, if not more so, the voice in the West, unaccustomed to rivalry at home, spoke on regardless of protest or denunciation at a distance…

"The Roman See, as distinct from the Roman church, was and ought to be predominant, not for its situation or other worldly advantages, not even for its treasure of doctrine, bequeathed by its two founders [Peter and Paul], but, primarily and fundamentally, because its bishop was heir in his own person to the unique prerogative conferred upon Peter. To Peter had been granted a primacy among the apostles, so to the Roman bishop was assigned a leadership over the bishops…

“The Arians, who had ousted Athanasius from Alexandria, offered to submit the case to [Pope] Julius for his judgment. Athanasius himself and other orthodox refugees from eastern sees went directly to Rome as to a court of appeal…From the time when Eleutherus was asked to condemn the Montanists, through the period when Callistus, Stephen and Dionysius revised and interpreted dogma, down to the days when the Nicene creed was defended on the ground of its Roman origin and Liberius and Damasus endorsed or rejected eastern declarations of faith according as they did or did not measure up to their own standards, the Roman bishops asserted their right to speak for the tradition of Peter.” (Shotwell/Loomis, The See of Peter, page 217-228)

And Orthodox theologians from The Primacy of Peter here

Phil P



So far as I know from Church history, Rome has been the center of Christendom for a very long time. St. Peter, after establishing the Church at Antioch (according to some traditions), became Bishop of Rome and lived there intermittently, due to occasional exile.

Its importance was echoed after the conversion of Constantine, who in 381 declared that while Constantinople was the “New Rome” and the seat of empire, its Bishop would still be second to the Bishop of Rome and that it was still the seat of authority. Even the Orthodox Church accepts that Rome was first in honor among the five Sees that made up the Patriarchate.

So near as I can tell though, it is not the city itself which warranted power, but that it was in there that St. Peter established his See.



Wow, thanks for thos citations, Phil P.

So, in answer to the OP’s question:

Was Rome always the center of Christianity from the death of Peter onward? it sounds like a resounding Yes.

Was it only after the last apostle died? No; because the Apostle John was still alive when Clement, the 4th Pope, wrote to settle matters at Corinth. John, at Ephesus, didn’t have the last word; the pope did.


Wow, great quotes. So, the pope would have had more power than John? Being a Protestant, that will be hard to swallow, but I will work on it. It just seems like the apostles would have the final word; its easy to accept the Primacy of Peter, but it is hard to accept the primace of his successors over other apostles

I have been reading Walker’s History of the Christian Church and he seems to imply that Rome’s power grew over time due to its wealth and the fact that the makeup of Rome’s Christians were more intellectual. What’s your thoughts on that?

Thanks again



I think that Rome’s temporal power and even its ecclesiastical power did grow over time, in response to changing conditions of history. But from the very beginning, the Bishop of Rome was recognized as the head of the Church, to whom other dioceses and bishops and local congregations would look for the resolution of problems.


Years ago I read Dr. Norman Geisler’s book “A general introduction to the Bible.” He is a reformed Protestant theologian who recognizes the existence of the pope in the early Church and wrote in his book something that at least to me infers the Bishop of Rome [Damasus at this time] had some sort of supremacy because St. Jerome submitted to his request. Geisler says this of Jerome and the canon:

"Much of his [Jerome] life work centered around translating the Bible and disputing with others over the canon of the Old Testament. In addition, he assumed the inspiration, canonicity and authority of the New Testament as it has come down to the modern world. According to B.F. Westcott, “The testimony of Jerome may be considered as the testimony of the Roman Church; for not only was he educated at Rome, but his labours on the text of Scripture were undertaken at the request of Damasus bishop of Rome; and later popes republished the canon he recognized” (A General Introduction to the Bible, page 106)

St. Jerome was a legate to pope Damasus and submitted to his request, thus giving evidence to the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome.
The first time the complete canon as we have it today including the deuterocanonicals, was cited was at the council of Rome 382 AD under pope Damasus. Something to think about :slight_smile:


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