Papal Ministry Is to Confirm Unity of Church, Says John Paul II

At Angelus Address on Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2004 ( The papal ministry is to guarantee the unity of the faith of the universal Church, says John Paul II.

When greeting several thousand faithful who gathered to pray the midday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope commented on the meaning of today’s liturgical feast, the Chair of St. Peter.

This feast, he said, «sheds light on the singular mystery, entrusted by the Lord to the head of the apostles, to confirm and guide the Church in the unity of the faith.»

«It consists of the Petrine ministry, that peculiar service that the Bishop of Rome is called to render to the whole Christian people,» the Holy Father said. It is an «indispensable mission, which is not based on human prerogatives, but on Christ himself as the cornerstone of the ecclesial community.»

For this reason, the Pontiff asked for prayers «so that the Church, in the variety of cultures, languages and traditions, will be unanimous in believing and professing the truths of faith and morality transmitted by the apostles.»

The Chair of St. Peter recalls the throne or seat of the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. It is located permanently in the mother church of the diocese, which for this reason is called a «cathedral.» It is the symbol of the authority of the bishop and of his ordinary magisterium in the local Church.

In the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica is the famous bronze monument executed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and placed there in 1666 to keep the relic of what was considered the chair of the Apostle Peter.

With the objective of surmounting the divisions between Christian Churches and communities in the interpretation of the Petrine ministry, in No. 95 of his encyclical «Ut Unum Sint,» John Paul II proposed to pastors and theologians that they «find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.»

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