The anti-Catholics rejected the Holy Catholic Church’s claim that St. Peter was the first bishop (Pope) of Rome; for as they argue that St. Peter never even visited Rome. But, did Peter really visit Rome?
Absolutely. There is a plenty of evidence of St. Peter’s presence in Rome not only in the Apostolic Tradition, but also in Sacred Scripture, as follows:
FROM THE HOLY BIBLE:
The Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans
As one reads the thirteenth chapter of Romans, one cannot help but see a concern in St. Paul’s mind about the tenuous state of the Roman Church in relationship to Imperial Rome. Once already the emperor had exiled all Jews from the city on account of “Chrestus” – a Roman mispronunciation of “Christus.” Perhaps, St. Paul was worried that the current emperor Nero Caesar might hear rumors that “Chrestus” was once again stirring up rebellion in the imperial city—this time not only among the Jews but also among the non-Jews. St. Paul therefore exhorts the Roman Christians to “be subject to the governing authorities,” and to honor the Roman Caesar in things pertaining to civic duties (cf. Romans 13:3-7).
It may seem rather odd that St. Paul did not mention St. Peter’s name in his epistle to the Romans. The anti-Catholics are quick to use St. Peter’s absence in the epistle to prove St. Peter’s absence in Rome, with an argument such as this: “If Peter had practiced his apostolic ministry in Rome, Paul would have referred to it. Since Paul did not mention Peter’s apostolic ministry in Rome, it must be the case that Peter had not been in Rome.”
Contrary to this claim, St. Paul did in fact refer to St. Peter in his epistle to the Romans though not by name. This should not come as a surprise because Paul elsewhere avoids the proper names of important people. This is the “principle of anonymity”. The New Testament authors show a general reluctance to name names concerning certain subjects.
The general pattern found in the New Testament is that if anything relates to the Roman Empire, do not be specific. This was a way to protect the Church from imperial persecution. Thus, Rome is referred to as “Babylon”, “another place” and/or “the Beast”. For example, in his epistle to the Romans, the apostle refered to Nero Caesar a number of times, but not once did he refer to Nero by name. St. Paul refered to Nero repeatedly as an “authority”, “ruler”, “servant of God”, and even as a “minister” (cf. Roman 13:2-6). Anyone who knows the diabolical character of Nero may be surprised by these flattering titles, but there is no doubt that St. Paul spoke of the current emperor of his day—Nero Caesar.
In a similar fashion, St. Paul refered to St. Peter as the mysterious and apostolic “other man” of the Church of Rome. St. Paul stated that “another man” has already laid the foundation of the Church of Rome. St. Paul further explains why he had not yet come to Rome: “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on the foundation of another man” (Romans 15:20-21). The implication is that St. Paul had no need to come to Rome because “another man” has already built the foundation of the Church in Rome.
The sufficiency of this other man’s apostleship is manifested by St. Paul’s doctrine that the apostles are the only men capable of laying the foundation of the Church in Christ (Galatians 1:11-24). Thus, St. Paul had no desire to establish the Church in Rome because he saw the Church of Rome as perfectly established by “another man” with apostolic credentials.
The Apostolic Tradition identifies this “other man” as none other than St. Peter himself. This would explain the rather obscure reason given by St. Paul for his being “hindered very much” from coming to Rome (Romans 15:22). St. Paul was aware of his controversial status in the Church. If the Jews of Rome were rioting because of St. Peter, St. Paul would have driven them into hysteria. It would not have been appropriate for St. Paul to go to Rome. St. Paul’s affirmation that Rome is fully established under apostolic authority is seen in his desire merely “to pass through” Rome and “enjoy your company for a little” as he travels to Spain (Romans 15:24).
The Epistle of St. Peter from Babylon
There is, in the greeting at the end of the first epistle of St. Peter: “The Church here in Babylon, united with you by God’s election, sends you her greeting, and so does my son, Mark” (1 Peter 5:13). Babylon is a code-word for Rome. It is used that way multiple times in works like the Sibylline Oracles (5:159f), the Apocalypse of Baruch (2:1), and 4 Esdras (3:1). Eusebius Pamphilius, bishop of Caesarea, in The Chronicle, composed about A.D. 303, noted that “It is said that Peter’s first epistle, in which he makes mention of Mark, was composed at Rome itself; and that he himself indicates this, referring to the city figuratively as Babylon.”
Consider also the other New Testament citations: “Another angel, a second, followed, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of her impure passion’” (Revelation 14:8). “The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered great Babylon, to make her drain the cup of the fury of his wrath” (Revelation 16:19). “[A]nd on her forehead was written a name of mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations’” (Revelation 17:5). “And he called out with a mighty voice, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great’” (Revelation 18:2). “[T]hey will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, ‘Alas! alas! thou great city, thou mighty city, Babylon! In one hour has thy judgment come’” (Revelation 18:10). “So shall Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence” (Revelation 18:21).
These references certainly are not pertaining to the capital of the Babylonian empire for it had been reduced to an inconsequential village by the march of years, military defeat, and political subjugation; it was no longer a “great city.” It played no important part in the recent history of the ancient world. From the New Testament perspective, the only candidates for the “great city” mentioned in Revelation are Rome and Jerusalem.
There is a good reason for saying that “Babylon” means “Rome” and that is persecution. The authorities knew that St. Peter was a leader of the Church, and the Church, under Roman law, was considered organized atheism (The worship of any gods other than the Roman was considered atheism). St. Peter would do himself, not to mention those with him, no service by advertising his presence in the capital—after all, mail service from Rome was then even worse than it is today, and letters were routinely read by Roman officials. St. Peter was a wanted man, as were all Christian leaders. Why encourage a manhunt? As being known, the apostles sometimes referred to cities under symbolic names (cf. Revelation 11:8).
FROM THE EARLY CHRISTIANS:
Ascension of Isaiah
“…then will arise Beliar, the great prince, the king of this world, who has ruled it since its origin; and he shall descend from his firmament in human form, king of wickedness, murderer of his mother, who himself is king of this world; and he will persecute the plant which the 12 apostles of the Beloved shall have planted; one of the 12 will be delivered into his hands.”
St. Clement I, bishop of Rome (d. AD 71)
“Clement to James, who rules [oversees] Jerusalem, the holy church of the Hebrews, and the churches everywhere excellently founded by the providence of God, with the elders and deacons, and the rest of the brethren, peace be always….He himself [Peter], by reason of his immense love towards men, HAVING COME AS FAR AS ROME, clearly and publicly testifying, in opposition to the wicked one who withstood him, that there is to be a good King over all the world, while saving men by his God-inspired doctrine, HIMSELF, BY VIOLENCE, EXCHANGED THIS PRESENT EXISTENCE FOR LIFE” (Epistle of Clement to James)
St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch (AD 35-107)
“Not as Peter and Paul did, do I command you [Romans]. They were apostles, and I am a convict” (Letter to the Romans 4:3 [A.D. 110]).
St. Dionysius, bishop of Corinth (2nd century-171)
“You [Pope Soter] have also, by your very admonition, brought together the planting that was made by Peter and Paul at Rome and at Corinth; for both of them alike planted in our Corinth and taught us; and both alike, teaching similarly in Italy, suffered martyrdom at the same time” (Letter to Pope Soter [A.D. 170], in Eusebius, History of the Church 2:25:8).
St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (AD 130-202)
“Matthew also issued among the Hebrews a written Gospel in their own language, while Peter and Paul were evangelizing in Rome and laying the foundation of the Church” (Against Heresies, 3, 1:1 [A.D. 189]).
“But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the succession of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the succession of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With that church [of Rome], because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition” (ibid., 3, 3, 2).
“The blessed apostles [Peter and Paul], having founded and built up the church [of Rome], they handed over the office of the episcopate to Linus. Paul makes mention of this Linus in the letter to Timothy [2 Tim. 4:21]. To him succeeded Anacletus, and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was chosen for the episcopate. He had seen the blessed apostles and was acquainted with them. It might be said that he still heard the echoes of the preaching of the apostles and had their traditions before his eyes. And not only he, for there were many still remaining who had been instructed by the apostles. In the time of Clement, no small dissension having arisen among the brethren in Corinth, the church in Rome sent a very strong letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace and renewing their faith . . . To this Clement, Evaristus succeeded . . . and now, in the twelfth place after the apostles, the lot of the episcopate [of Rome] has fallen to Eleutherius. In this order, and by the teaching of the apostles handed down in the Church, the preaching of the truth has come down to us” (ibid., 3, 3, 3).
Gaius, Roman jurist (130-180 AD)
“It is recorded that Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and Peter, likewise, was crucified, during the reign [of the Emperor Nero]. The account is confirmed by the names of Peter and Paul over the cemeteries there, which remain to the present time. And it is confirmed also by a stalwart man of the Church, Gaius by name, who lived in the time of Zephyrinus, bishop of Rome. This Gaius, in a written disputation with Proclus, the leader of the sect of Cataphrygians, says this of the places in which the remains of the aforementioned apostles were deposited: ‘I can point out the trophies of the apostles. For if you are willing to go to the Vatican or to the Ostian Way, you will find the trophies of those who founded this Church’” (Disputation with Proclus [A.D. 198] in Eusebius, Church History 2:25:5).
St. Titus Flavius Clemens, Alexandrian presbyter (150-215 AD)
“The circumstances which occasioned . . . [the writing] of Mark were these: When Peter preached the Word publicly at Rome and declared the gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had been a long time his follower and who remembered his sayings, should write down what had been proclaimed” (Sketches [A.D. 200], in a fragment from Eusebius, History of the Church, 6, 14:1).
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, early Christian author (160-225 AD)
“But if you are near Italy, you have Rome, where authority is at hand for us too. What a happy church that is, on which the apostles poured out their whole doctrine with their blood; where Peter had a passion like that of the Lord, where Paul was crowned with the death of John [the Baptist, by being beheaded]” (Demurrer Against the Heretics 36 [A.D. 200]).
“[T]his is the way in which the apostolic churches transmit their lists: like the church of the Smyrneans, which records that Polycarp was placed there by John, like the church of the Romans, where Clement was ordained by Peter” (ibid., 32:2).
“Let us see what milk the Corinthians drained from Paul; against what standard the Galatians were measured for correction; what the Philippians, Thessalonians, and Ephesians read; what even the nearby Romans sound forth, to whom both Peter and Paul bequeathed the gospel and even sealed it with their blood” (Against Marcion 4, 5:1 [A.D. 210]).
St. Hippolytus, Roman presbyter (170-235 AD)
“Victor . . . was the thirteenth bishop of Rome from Peter” (The Little Labyrinth [A.D. 211], in Eusebius, Church History 5:28:3).
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, early Christian author (160-225 AD)
“In this chair in which he himself had sat, Peter in mighty Rome commanded Linus, the first elected, to sit down. After him, Cletus too accepted the flock of the fold. As his successor, Anacletus was elected by lot. Clement follows him, well-known to apostolic men. After him Evaristus ruled the flock without crime. Alexander, sixth in succession, commends the fold to Sixtus. After his illustrious times were completed, he passed it on to Telesphorus. He was excellent, a faithful martyr . . . “ (Poem Against the Marcionites 276–284 [A.D. 267]).
Eusebius Pamphili, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine (260-340 AD)
“[In the second] year of the two hundredth and fifth Olympiad [A.D. 42]: The apostle Peter, after he has established the church in Antioch, is sent to Rome, where he remains as a bishop of that city, preaching the gospel for twenty-five years” (The Chronicle [A.D. 303]).
St. Peter, bishop of Alexandria (3rd century-311 AD)
“Peter, the first chosen of the apostles, having been apprehended often and thrown into prison and treated with ignominy, at last was crucified in Rome” (Penance, canon 9 [A.D. 306]).
Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius, an early Christian author (250-325 AD)
“When Nero was already reigning, Peter came to Rome, where, in virtue of the performance of certain miracles which he worked . . . he converted many to righteousness and established a firm and steadfast temple to God. When this fact was reported to Nero . . . he sprang to the task of tearing down the heavenly temple and of destroying righteousness. It was he that first persecuted the servants of God. Peter he fixed to a cross, and Paul he slew” (The Deaths of the Persecutors 2:5 [A.D. 318]).
St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (313-386 AD)
“[Simon Magus] so deceived the city of Rome that Claudius erected a statue of him. . . .While the error was extending itself, Peter and Paul arrived, a noble pair and the rulers of the Church, and they set the error aright. . . . [T]hey launched the weapon of their like-mindedness in prayer against the Magus, and struck him down to earth. It was marvelous enough, and yet no marvel at all, for Peter was there—he that carries about the keys of heaven. And it was nothing to marvel at, for Paul was there—he that was caught up into the third heaven” (Catechetical Lectures 6:14 [A.D. 350]).
St. Optatus, Bishop of Milevis in Numidia
“You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head—that is why he is also called Cephas [‘Rock’]—of all the apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained by all” (The Schism of the Donatists 2:2 [A.D. 367]).
St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis (315-403 AD)
“At Rome the first apostles and bishops were Peter and Paul, then Linus, then Cletus, then Clement, the contemporary of Peter and Paul” (Medicine Chest Against All Heresies 27:6 [A.D. 375]).
St. Damasus I, bishop of Rome (305-384 AD)
“Likewise it is decreed: . . . [W]e have considered that it ought to be announced that although all the Catholic churches spread abroad through the world comprise one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of other churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall have bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it. In addition to this, there is also the companionship of the vessel of election, the most blessed apostle Paul, who contended and was crowned with a glorious death along with Peter in the city of Rome in the time of Caesar Nero . . . They equally consecrated the above-mentioned holy Roman Church to Christ the Lord; and by their own presence and by their venerable triumph they set it at the forefront over the others of all the cities of the whole world. The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it. The second see, however, is that at Alexandria, consecrated in behalf of blessed Peter by Mark, his disciple and an evangelist, who was sent to Egypt by the apostle Peter, where he preached the word of truth and finished his glorious martyrdom. The third honorable see, indeed, is that at Antioch, which belonged to the most blessed apostle Peter, where first he dwelt before he came to Rome and where the name Christianswas first applied, as to a new people” (Decree of Damasus 3 [A.D. 382]).
St. Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, Roman presbyter (347-420 AD)
“Simon Peter, the son of John, from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, brother of Andrew the apostle, and himself chief of the apostles, after having been bishop of the church of Antioch and having preached to the Dispersion . . . pushed on to Rome in the second year of Claudius to overthrow Simon Magus, and held the sacerdotal chair there for twenty-five years until the last, that is the fourteenth, year of Nero. At his hands he received the crown of martyrdom being nailed to the cross with his head towards the ground and his feet raised on high, asserting that he was unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord” (Lives of Illustrious Men 1 [A.D. 396]).
St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430 AD)
“If all men throughout the world were such as you most vainly accuse them of having been, what has the chair of the Roman church done to you, in which Peter sat, and in which Anastasius sits today?” (Against the Letters of Petilani 2:118 [A.D. 402]).
FURTHERMORE, if the biblical and historical facts are not enough to prove the presence of St. Peter in Rome, let the archeological evidence, therefore, speak.
In the middle decades of this century, the scientists conducted digs under St. Peter’s Basilica to verify or disprove the tradition that the church had been constructed over St. Peter’s tomb. Below are the archeological findings:
⚫ A Greek graffiti was found in 1950 on an adjacent wall in the Necropolis to the tropaion marking the spot: Petros eni, or “Peter is within” (“eni” being a contraction for “eneoti”) — a physical proof based on the historical documents stating that Pope Anicetus (AD 155-160) built memorial or tropaion to mak the graves of the first pope and other Christians to prevent them from pagan desecration (The Book of Popes); and that Constantine the Great built a huge basilica in AD 330 at the grave site to honor the first pope with the high altar remains standing on its exact location.
⚫ After the anthropologists studied the bones that were mostly fragments, with only a few being about 6 inches, including pieces of the cranium and jaw (including a tooth), vertebrae, pelvis, legs, arms and hands, they concluded that the bones belonged to a man, between 60 and 70 years of age; about 5 feet, 7 inches tall; and of robust constitution — an apt description of the fisherman, St. Peter. The bones had been discolored by the earth (the same earth as in the grave). The purple and gold thread cloth (dated to the ancient Roman weaving techniques) was an extremely expensive cloth reserved for imperial honors, thereby befitting the first pope. With some questions being addressed:
◾ Why no feet bones? Since St. Peter was hung upside down as a criminal, he was not entitled to a proper burial. The body of a criminal would have been dumped. The faithful must have bribed the executioners, who simply severed the body from the feet nailed to the cross and gave it to them. Such a practice was not uncommon.
◾ Why were the bones removed from the grave and placed in the secret repository? The brick work of the repository dated to the reign of the Emperor Valerian (AD 253-260). Valerian intensified the persecution of the church. Sealing the bones inside the marble graffiti wall secured them from desecration.
◾ The Basilica of St. John Lateran, for at least 1,000 years has kept the relic of the skull of St. Peter. Were they of the same bones? When comparison tests were done, the anthropologists concluded nothing in the Lateran reliquary interfered with the Vatican bones. They speculated that the skull had been removed from the rest of the bones to preserve it.
GIVEN this evidence, in February 1968, an official report was presented to Pope Paul VI who concluded that the bones had been “identified in a way which we can hold to be convincing.” Today, the sacred relics are secured in 19 plexiglass boxes in the same repository where they had been found.
Thus, taken from the words of a non-Catholic historian, “Some Protestant controversialists have asserted that Peter was never in Rome…I think the historical probability is that he was…Protestant champions had undertaken the impossible task of proving the negative, that Peter was never in Rome” (G. Salmon, Infallibilty of the Church).
Indeed, St. Peter, after laying down the foundation of the church in Rome, died there in God’s highest glory.
ST. PETER WAS IN ROME!