The Chair of St. Peter the Apostle

The Chair of St. Peter refers to the special role and mission that Jesus bestowed on Peter, designating him as the rock on which He would build his Church. Jesus chose Peter to sit in his place to teach and care for his flock, singling him out from among the other Apostles.

The Chair of St. Peter represents the authority, unity, and charity that the pope shares with all of the bishops in carrying out the mission of Jesus and his Church.

Every Catholic bishop presides in a particular area, known as a see or diocese where they have an designated seat (cathedra) in the main church (cathedral). As the Bishop of Rome, the pope is the successor to St. Peter and Vicar of Christ. He overseas the universal Church from his seat of spiritual authority in the See of Rome, also known as the Holy See, Petrine See, or Apostolic See.

When the pope speaks with the full teaching authority as the successor of St. Peter, he is said to be speaking ex cathedra, or “from the chair”. These statements are infallible when they refer to faith or morals.

An actual chair that may have been used by St. Peter while he served as pope was enclosed in bronze and turned into a work of art. The chair, known as Cathedra Petri or “the Chair of Peter” in Latin, is now kept at the Vatican in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle on February 22 each year to give thanks for the special commission that was given to St. Peter and passed down to the current pope.

St. Peter was the first pope:

From the chair, today’s pope shepherds Jesus’ flock:

The authority to protect the original teaching of Jesus:

Celebrating the “Chair” of Peter, therefore, as we are doing today, means attributing a strong spiritual significance to it and recognizing it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the eternal Good Shepherd, who wanted to gather his whole Church and lead her on the path of salvation. Among the numerous testimonies of the Fathers, I would like to quote St Jerome’s. It is an extract from one of his letters, addressed to the Bishop of Rome. It is especially interesting precisely because it makes an explicit reference to the “Chair” of Peter, presenting it as a safe harbour of truth and peace. This is what Jerome wrote: “I decided to consult the Chair of Peter, where that faith is found exalted by the lips of an Apostle; I now come to ask for nourishment for my soul there, where once I received the garment of Christ. I follow no leader save Christ, so I enter into communion with your beatitude, that is, with the Chair of Peter, for this I know is the rock upon which the Church is built”

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 22 February 2006

Symbolizing a special role and mission:

A symbol of authority and unity:

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi He asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven; and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”

Matthew 16: 13-19

Expressing theology, doctrine, and spirituality:

The Lord made Simon alone, whom He named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.” This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 881

The true chair of St. Peter encased in art:

Pointing toward something more important than a chair:

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

Every priest is a Jacob’s Ladder:

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