The early Christians understood from the beginning that Peter and his successors held a place of primacy in the universal Church.
St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (AD 130-202)
“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 successions 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, 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.” (Against Heresies 3:3:2 [inter A.D. 180-190])
St. Titus Flavius Clemens, Alexandrian presbyter (AD 150-215)
“[T]he blessed Peter, the chosen, the preeminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with himself the Savior paid the tribute [Matt. 17:27], quickly grasped and understood their meaning. And what does he say? ‘Behold, we have left all and have followed you’.” [Matt. 19:2 7, Mark 10:28] (Who is the Rich Man That is Saved? 21:3-5 [A.D. 200]).
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, early Christian author (AD 160-225)
“[T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [and] whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18-19]. … Upon you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys, not to the Church; and whatever you shall have bound or you shall have loosed, not what they shall have bound or they shall have loosed.” (Modesty 21:9-10 [A.D. 220])
St. Clement I, bishop of Rome (1st century AD-101)
“Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus himself, with his truthful mouth, named Peter, the first-fruits of our Lord, the first of the apostles; to whom first the Father revealed the Son; whom the Christ, with good reason, blessed; the called, and elect.” (Letter of Clement to James 2 [A.D, 221])
St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (AD 200-258)
“With a false bishop appointed for themselves by heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from schismatics and blasphemers to the Chair of Peter and to the principal church [at Rome], in which sacerdotal unity has its source.” (Epistle to Cornelius [Bishop of Rome] 59:14 [A.D. 252])
“The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ . . . On him he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4 [A.D. 251])
St. Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem (AD 313-386)
“In the power of the same Holy Spirit, Peter, both the chief of the apostles and the keeper of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, in the name of Christ healed Aeneas the paralytic at Lydda, which is now called Diospolis.” [Acts 9 ;3 2-3 4] (Catechetical Lectures 17;27 [A.D. 350])
“Our Lord Jesus Christ then became a man, but by the many He was not known. But wishing to teach that which was not known, having assembled the disciples, He asked, ‘Whom do men say that the Son of man is?’ …And all being silent (for it was beyond man to learn) Peter, the Foremost of the Apostles, the Chief Herald of the Church, not using the language of his own finding, nor persuaded by human reasoning, but having his mind enlightened by the Father, says to Him, ‘Thou art the Christ,’ not simply that, but ‘the Son of the living God.'” (Cyril, Catech. xi. n. 3)
“For Peter was there, who carrieth the keys of heaven.” (Cyril, Catechetical Lectures A.D. 350)
“Peter, the chief and foremost leader of the Apostles, before a little maid thrice denied the Lord, but moved to penitence, he wept bitterly.” (Cyril, Catech ii. n. 15)
“In the power of the same Holy Spirit, Peter, also the foremost of the Apostles and the key-bearer of the Kingdom of Heaven, healed Aeneas the paralytic in the name of Christ.” (Cyril, Catech. xviii. n. 27)
St. Anthony the Great of Egypt, father of all monks (AD 251-365)
“Peter, the Prince of the Apostles” (Anthony, Epist. xvii. Galland, iv p. 687)
St. Epiphanius, archbishop of Salamis (AD 310-403)
“Holy men are therefore called the temple of God, because the Holy Spirit dwells in them; as that Chief of the Apostles testifies, he that was found to be blessed by the Lord, because the Father had revealed unto him. To him then did the Father reveal His true Son; and the same (Peter) furthermore reveals the Holy Spirit. This was befitting in the First of the Apostles, that firm Rock upon which the Church of God is built, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The gates of hell are heretics and heresiarchs. For in every way was the faith confirmed in him who received the keys of heaven; who looses on earth and binds in heaven. For in him are found all subtle questions of faith. He was aided by the Father so as to be (or lay) the Foundation of the security (firmness) of the faith. He (Peter) heard from the same God, ‘feed my lambs’; to him He entrusted the flock; he leads the way admirably in the power of his own Master.” (Epiphanius, T. ii. in Anchor)
St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria (AD 296-373)
“Rome is called the Apostolic throne.” (Athanasius, Hist. Arian, ad Monach. n. 35)
“The Chief, Peter.” (Athan, In Ps. xv. 8, tom. iii. p. 106, Migne)
St. Macarius of Egypt, Coptic Christian hermit (AD 300-391)
“The Chief, Peter.” (Macarius, De Patientia, n. 3, p. 180)
“Moses was succeeded by Peter, who had committed to his hands the new Church of Christ, and the true priesthood.” (Macarius, Hom. xxvi. n. 23, p. 101)
St. Optatus, bishop of Milevis in Numidia
“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 — of all the apostles, the one chair in which unity is maintained by all. Neither do the apostles proceed individually on their own, and anyone who would [presume to] set up another chair in opposition to that single chair would, by that very fact, be a schismatic and a sinner. . . . Recall, then, the origins of your chair, those of you who wish to claim for yourselves the title of holy Church” (The Schism of the Donatists 2:2 [circa A.D. 367]).
St. Ambrose, archbishop of Milan (AD 340-397)
“[Christ] made answer: “You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church . . .” Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]?” (The Faith 4:5 [A.D. 379]).
St. John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople (AD 347-407)
“Peter himself the Head or Crown of the Apostles, the First in the Church, the Friend of Christ, who received a revelation, not from man, but from the Father, as the Lord bears witness to him, saying, ‘Blessed art thou, This very Peter and when I name Peter I name that unbroken Rock, that firm Foundation, the Great Apostle, First of the disciples, the First called, and the First who obeyed he was guilty …even denying the Lord.” (Chrysostom, T. ii. Hom)
“Peter, the Leader of the choir of Apostles, the Mouth of the disciples, the Pillar of the Church, the Buttress of the faith, the Foundation of the confession, the Fisherman of the universe.” (Chrysostom, T. iii Hom)
“Peter, that Leader of the choir, that Mouth of the rest of the Apostles, that Head of the brotherhood, that one set over the entire universe, that Foundation of the Church.” (Chrys. In illud hoc Scitote)
“(Peter), the foundation of the Church, the Coryphaeus of the choir of the Apostles, the vehement lover of Christ …he who ran throughout the whole world, who fished the whole world; this holy Coryphaeus of the blessed choir; the ardent disciple, who was entrusted with the keys of heaven, who received the spiritual revelation. Peter, the mouth of all Apostles, the head of that company, the ruler of the whole world.” (De Eleemos, iii. 4; Hom. de decem mille tal. 3)
“In those days Peter rose up in the midst of the disciples (Acts 15), both as being ardent, and as intrusted by Christ with the flock …he first acts with authority in the matter, as having all put into his hands ; for to him Christ said, ‘And thou, being converted, confirm thy brethren.” (Chrysostom, Hom. iii Act Apost. tom. ix.)
“He passed over his fall, and appointed him first of the Apostles; wherefore He said: ‘ ‘Simon, Simon,’ etc. (in Ps. cxxix. 2). God allowed him to fall, because He meant to make him ruler over the whole world, that, remembering his own fall, he might forgive those who should slip in the future. And that what I have said is no guess, listen to Christ Himself saying: ‘Simon, Simon, etc.'” (Chrys, Hom. quod frequenter conveniendum sit 5, cf. Hom 73 in Joan 5).
“And why, then, passing by the others, does He converse with Peter on these things? (John 21:15). He was the chosen one of the Apostles, and the mouth of the disciples, and the leader of the choir. On this account, Paul also went up on a time to see him rather than the others (Galatians 1:18). And withal, to show him that he must thenceforward have confidence, as the denial was done away with, He puts into his hands the presidency over the brethren. And He brings not forward the denial, nor reproches him with what had past, but says, ‘If you love me, preside over the brethren …and the third time He gives him the same injunction, showing what a price He sets the presidency over His own sheep. And if one should say, ‘How then did James receive the throne of Jerusalem?,’ this I would answer that He appointed this man (Peter) teacher, not of that throne, but of the whole world.” (Chrysostom, In Joan. Hom. 1xxxviii. n. 1, tom. viii)
St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo (AD 354-430)
“Among these [apostles] Peter alone almost everywhere deserved to represent the whole Church. Because of that representation of the Church, which only he bore, he deserved to hear ‘I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven’.” (Sermons 295:2 [A.D. 411])
“Who is ignorant that the first of the apostles is the most blessed Peter?” (Commentary on John 56:1 [A.D. 416]).
St. Proclus, patriarch of Constantinople and a disciple of St. John Chrysostom (AD 434)
“Peter, the coryphaeus of the disciples, and the one set over (or chief of) the Apostles. Art not thou he that didst say, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’? Thou Bar-Jonas (son of the dove) hast thou seen so many miracles, and art thou still but Simon (a hearer)? He appointed thee the key-bearer of Heaven, and has though not yet layed aside thy fisherman’s clothing?” (Proclus, Or. viii In Dom. Transfig. t. ix. Galland)
St. Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria (AD 376-444)
“He suffers him no longer to be called Simon, exercising authority and rule over him already having become His own. By a title suitable to the thing, He changed his name into Peter, from the word ‘petra’ (rock); for on him He was afterwards to found His Church.” (Cyril, T. iv. Comm. in Joan., p. 131)
“He (Christ) promises to found the Church, assigning immovableness to it, as He is the Lord of strength, and over this He sets Peter as shepherd.” (Cyril, Comm. on Matt., ad loc.)
“Therefore, when the Lord had hinted at the disciple’s denial in the words that He used, ‘I have prayed for thee that thy faith not fail,’ He at once introduced a word of consolation, and said (to Peter): ‘And do thou, when once thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.’ That is, ‘Be thou a support and a teacher of those who through faith come to me.’ Again, marvel also at the insight of that saying and at the completeness of the Divine gentleness of spirit. For so that He should not reduce the disciple to despair at the thought that after his denial he would have to be debarred from the glorious distinction of being an Apostle, He fills him with good hope, that he will attain the good things promised. …O loving kindness! The sin was not yet committed, and He already extends His pardon and sets him (Peter) again in his Apostolic office.” (Cyril Comm. on Luke’s Gospel)
“For the wonderous Peter, overcome by uncontrollable fear, denied the Lord three times. Christ heals the error done, and demands in various ways the threefold confession … For although all the holy disciples fled, …still Peter’s fault in the threefold denial was in addition, special and peculiar to himself. Therefore, by the threefold confession of blessed Peter, the fault of the triple denial was done away. Further, by the Lord’s saying, Feed my lambs, we must understand a renewal as it were of the Apostleship already given to him, washing away the intervening disgrace of his fall, and the littleness of human infirmity.” (Cyril, Comm. on John’s Gospel).
“They (the Apostles) strove to learn through one, that preeminent one, Peter.” (Cyril, Ib. 1. ix. p. 736).
“And even blessed Peter, though set over the holy disciples, says ‘Lord, be it far from Thee, this shall be done to Thee.” (Cyril, Ibid. 924).
“If Peter himself, that prince of the holy disciples, was, upon an occassion, scandalized, so as suddenly to exclaim, ‘Lord, be it far from Thee,’ what wonder that the tender mind of woman should be carried away?” (Cyril, Ibid, p. 1064)
“That the Spirit is God we shall also learn hence. That the prince of the Apostles, to whom ‘flesh and blood,’ as the Savior says, ‘did not reveal’ the Divine mystery, says to Ananias, ‘Why hath Satan tempted thy heart.?” (Cyril, T. v. Par. 1. Thesaur. p. 340)
“Besides all these, let there come forward that leader of the holy disciples, Peter, who, when the Lord, on a certain occassion, asked him, ‘Whom do men say that the Son of man is?’ instantly cried out, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.'” (Cyril, T. v. P.2, Hom. viii. De Fest. Pasch. p. 105)
“‘If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me.’ When the Coryphaeus (Peter) had heard these words, he began to change.” (Cyril, Ib. Hom.)
“This bold man (Julian), besides all this, cavils at Peter, the chosen one of the holy Apostles.” (Cyril, T. vi.l. ix. Contr. Julian. p. 325).
Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus in Syria (AD 393-460)
“The great foundation of the Church was shaken, and confirmed by the Divine grace. And the Lord commanded him to apply that same care to the brethren. ‘And thou,’ He says, ‘converted, confirm thy brethren.'” (Theodoret, Tom. iv. Haeret. Fab. lib. v.c. 28)
“‘For as I,’ He says, ‘did not despise thee when tossed, so be thou a support to thy brethren in trouble, and the help by which thou was saved do thou thyself impart to others, and exhort them not while they are tottering, but raise them up in their peril. For this reason I suffer thee also to slip, but do not permit thee to fall, thus through thee gaining steadfastness for those who are tossed.’ So this great pillar supported the tossing and sinking world, and permitted it not to fall entirely and gave it back stability, having been ordered to feed God’s sheep.” (Theodoret, Oratio de Caritate in J. P. Minge, ed., Partrologiae Curses Completus: Series Graeca).
“I therefore beseech your holiness to persuade the most holy and blessed bishop (Pope Leo) to use his Apostolic power, and to order me to hasten to your Council. For that most holy throne (Rome) has the sovereignty over the churches throughout the universe on many grounds.” (Theodoret, Tom. iv. Epist. cxvi. Renato, p. 1197).
“If Paul, the herald of the truth, the trumpet of the Holy Spirit, hastened to the great Peter, to convey from him the solution to those in Antioch, who were at issue about living under the law, how much more do we, poor and humble, run to the Apostolic Throne (Rome) to receive from you (Pope Leo) healing for wounds of the the Churches. For it pertains to you to have primacy in all things; for your throne is adorned with many prerogatives.” (Theodoret Ibid, Epistle Leoni)
St. Eulogius, patriarch of Alexandria (AD 581)
“Neither to John, nor to any other of the disciples, did our Savior say, ‘I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,’ but only to Peter.” (Eulogius, Lib. ii. Cont. Novatian. ap. Photium, Biblioth, cod. 280)
St. John Cassian, Christian monk (AD 360-435)
“That great man, the disciple of disciples, that master among masters, who wielding the government of the Roman Church possessed the principle authority in faith and in priesthood. Tell us, therefore, we beg of you, Peter, prince of Apostles, tell us how the Churches must believe in God.” (Cassian, Contra Nestorium, III, 12, CSEL, vol. 17, p. 276)
Macedonius, patriarch of Constantinople (AD 466-516)
“Macedonius declared, when desired by the Emperor Anastasius to condemn the Council of Chalcedon, that ‘such a step without an Ecumenical Synod presided over by the Pope of Rome is impossible.'” (Macedonius, Patr. Graec. 108: 360a (Theophan. Chronogr. pp. 234-346 seq.)
Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus Augustus, Roman Emperor (AD 482-565)
Writing to the Pope:
“Yielding honor to the Apostolic See and to Your Holiness, and honoring your Holiness, as one ought to honor a father, we have hastened to subject all the priests of the whole Eastern district, and to unite them to the See of your Holiness, for we do not allow of any point, however manifest and indisputable it be, which relates to the state of the Churches, not being brought to the cognizance of your Holiness, since you are the Head of all the holy Churches.” (Justinian Epist. ad. Pap. Joan. ii. Cod. Justin. lib. I. tit. 1).
“Let your Apostleship show that you have worthily succeeded to the Apostle Peter, since the Lord will work through you, as Surpreme Pastor, the salvation of all.” (Coll. Avell. Ep. 196, July 9th, 520, Justinian to Pope Hormisdas).
St. Maximus the Confessor, Christian monk (AD 580-662)
“The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High.” (Maximus, Opuscula theologica et polemica, Migne, Patr. Graec. vol. 90)
“How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? Having surely received this canonically, as well as from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter (Peter and Paul), and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues in synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate …..even as in all these things all are equally subject to her (the Church of Rome) according to sacerodotal law. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers (the popes) are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church of Rome.” (Maximus, in J.B. Mansi, ed. Amplissima Collectio Conciliorum, vol. 10)
“If the Roman See recognizes Pyrrhus to be not only a reprobate but a heretic, it is certainly plain that everyone who anathematizes those who have rejected Pyrrhus also anathematizes the See of Rome, that is, he anathematizes the Catholic Church. I need hardly add that he excommunicates himself also, if indeed he is in communion with the Roman See and the Catholic Church of God …Let him hasten before all things to satisfy the Roman See, for if it is satisfied, all will agree in calling him pious and orthodox. For he only speaks in vain who thinks he ought to pursuade or entrap persons like myself, and does not satisfy and implore the blessed Pope of the most holy Catholic Church of the Romans, that is, the Apostolic See, which is from the incarnate of the Son of God Himself, and also all the holy synods, accodring to the holy canons and definitions has received universal and surpreme dominion, authority, and power of binding and loosing over all the holy churches of God throughout the whole world.” (Maximus, Letter to Peter, in Mansi x, 692).
Sergius, Metropolitain of Cyprus (AD 649)
Writing to Pope Theodore:
“O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars of the Church been fixed. (Sergius Ep. ad Theod. lecta in Sess. ii. Concil. Lat. anno 649)”
John VI, patriarch of Constantinople (ca. AD 715)
“The Pope of Rome, the head of the Christian priesthood, whom in Peter, the Lord commanded to confirm his brethren.” (John VI, Epist. ad Constantin. Pap. ad. Combefis, Auctuar. Bibl. P.P. Graec.tom. ii. p. 211, seq.)
St. Nicephorus, patriarch of Constantinople (AD 758-828)
“Without whom (the Romans presiding in the seventh Council) a doctrine brought forward in the Church could not, even though confirmed by canonical decrees and by ecclesiastical usuage, ever obtain full approval or currency. For it is they (the Popes of Rome) who have had assigned to them the rule in sacred things, and who have received into their hands the dignity of headship among the Apostles.” (Nicephorus, Niceph. Cpl. pro. s. imag. c 25 [Mai N. Bibl. pp. ii. 30]).
St. Theodore the Studite of Constantinople, Christian monk (AD 759-826)
Writing to Pope Leo III:
“Since to great Peter Christ our Lord gave the office of Chief Shepherd after entrusting him with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, to Peter or his successor must of necessity every novelty in the Catholic Church be referred.” [Therefore], save us, oh most divine Head of Heads, Chief Shepherd of the Church of Heaven. (Theodore, Bk. I. Ep. 23)
Writing to Pope Paschal:
“Hear, O Apostolic Head, divinely-appointed Shepherd of Christ’s sheep, keybearer of the Kingdom of Heaven, Rock of the Faith upon whom the Catholic Church is built. For Peter art thou, who adornest and governest the Chair of Peter. Hither, then, from the West, imitator of Christ, arise and repel not for ever (Ps. xliii. 23). To thee spake Christ our Lord: ‘And thou being one day converted, shalt strengthen thy brethren.’ Behold the hour and the place. Help us, thou that art set by God for this. Stretch forth thy hand so far as thou canst. Thou hast strength with God, through being the first of all.” (Letter of St. Theodore and four other Abbots to Pope Paschal, Bk. ii Ep. 12, Patr. Graec. 99, 1152-3)
Writing to Emperor Michael:
“Order that the declaration from old Rome be received, as was the custom by Tradition of our Fathers from of old and from the beginning. For this, O Emperor, is the highests of the Churches of God, in which first Peter held the Chair, to whom the Lord said: Thou art Peter …and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Theodore, Bk. II. Ep. 86)
“I witness now before God and men, they have torn themselves away from the Body of Christ, from the Surpreme See (Rome), in which Christ placed the keys of the Faith, against which the gates of hell (I mean the mouth of heretics) have not prevailed, and never will until the Consummation, according to the promise of Him Who cannot lie. Let the blessed and Apostolic Paschal (Pope St. Paschal I) rejoice therefore, for he has fulfilled the work of Peter.” (Theodore Bk. II. Ep. 63).
“In truth we have seen that a manifest successor of the prince of the Apostles presides over the Roman Church. We truly believe that Christ has not deserted the Church here (Constantinople), for assistance from you has been our one and only aid from of old and from the beginning by the providence of God in the critical times. You are, indeed the untroubled and pure fount of orthodoxy from the beginning, you the calm harbor of the whole Church, far removed from the waves of heresy, you the God-chosen city of refuge.” (Letter of St. Theodor and Four Abbots to Pope Paschal).
“Let him (Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople) assemble a synod of those with whom he has been at variance, if it is impossible that representatives of the other Patriarchs should be present, a thing which might certainly be if the Emperor should wish the Western Patriarch (the Roman Pope) to be present, to whom is given authority over an ecumenical synod; but let him make peace and union by sending his synodical letters to the prelate of the First See.” (Theodore the Studite, Patr. Graec. 99, 1420)
Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem (AD 560-638)
“Teaching us all orthodoxy and destroying all heresy and driving it away from the God-protected halls of our holy Catholic Church. And together with these inspired syllables and characters, I accept all his (the pope’s) letters and teachings as proceeding from the mouth of Peter the Coryphaeus, and I kiss them and salute them and embrace them with all my soul … I recognize the latter as definitions of Peter and the former as those of Mark, and besides, all the heaven-taught teachings of all the chosen mystagogues of our Catholic Church.” (Sophronius, Mansi, xi. 461)
“Transverse quickly all the world from one end to the other until you come to the Apostolic See (Rome), where are the foundations of the orthodox doctrine. Make clearly known to the most holy personages of that throne the questions agitated among us. Cease not to pray and to beg them until their apostolic and Divine wisdom shall have pronounced the victorious judgement and destroyed from the foundation …the new heresy.” (Sophronius, [quoted by Bishop Stephen of Dora to Pope Martin I at the Lateran Council], Mansi, 893)
Stephen, bishop of Dora in Palestine (ca. AD 645)
“And for this cause, sometimes we ask for water to our head and to our eyes a fountain of tears, sometimes the wings of a dove, according to holy David, that we might fly away and announce these things to the Chair (the Chair of Peter at Rome) which rules and presides over all, I mean to yours, the head and highest, for the healing of the whole wound. For this it has been accustomed to do from old and from the beginning with power by its canonical or apostolic authority, because the truly great Peter, head of the Apostles, was clearly thought worthy not only to be trusted with the keys of heaven, alone apart from the rest, to open it worthily to believers, or to close it justly to those who disbelieve the Gospel of grace, but because he was also commissioned to feed the sheep of the whole Catholic Church; for ‘Peter,’ saith He, ‘lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep.’ And again, because he had in a manner peculiar and special, a faith in the Lord stronger than all and unchangeable, to be converted and to confirm his fellows and spiritual brethren when tossed about, as having been adorned by God Himself incarnate for us with power and sacerdotal authority …..And Sophronius of blessed memory, who was Patriarch of the holy city of Christ our God, and under whom I was bishop, conferring not with flesh and blood, but caring only for the things of Christ with respect to your Holiness, hastened to send my nothingness without delay about this matter alone to this Apostolic see, where are the foundations of holy doctrine.”
How about St. James the Just? Was he the first leader of the universal Church and not St. Peter as what the anti-Catholics claimed?
The anti-Catholics argued that it was St. James who was appointed by the Lord as the chief of the apostles because, according to them, he judged in the Mosaic law controversy at the local council of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:1-21).
A number of factors point to St. Peter actually being both the leader at the council and the leader of the early universal Church, and not St. James:
First, there is the manner in which his speech begins and ends. By standing up to speak after the debate had subsided, St. Peter made an emphatic physical gesture affirming his authority and centrality. The silence afterwards indicated the finality of what St. Peter had just said; no one disputes either his speech or his right to make it. In fact, the witness of St. Paul and St. Barnabas, along with St. James’ speech, only reinforce and agree with what Peter says.
Secondly, few non-Catholic commentators seem to notice the striking wording St. Peter used in his speech. If he was only a witness, wouldn’t he have appealed only to his experience? But while Peter did focus on his experience, the main object of his speech was God: “God made a choice among you, that by my mouth . . .”; “And God . . . bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit”; “He made no distinction”; and “why therefore do you put God to the test?” (vs. 7-10). It is readily apparent that St. Peter was quite comfortable in being a spokesman for God. Even St. James seems to take this for granted by stating, “Simeon has related how God first concerned himself . . .” (v. 14). There is an immediacy to Peter’s relating of God’s work which is noticeably absent from St. James’ speech.
Therefore, as mentioned, St. Paul, St. Barnabas, and St. James all reinforced and agreed with St. Peter’s declaration, albeit in different ways. The first two related “the signs and wonders God” had been working “among the Gentiles” (v. 12). St. James pointed first to the words of St. Peter and then to the Prophets (vs. 14-15). Those who claim James’s speech was the definitive one point to the language in verse 19 (“Therefore it is my judgement . . .”) as evidence for James’s primacy. Yet James is simply suggesting a way of implementing what St. Peter had already definitively expressed.
NOTE: St. James was the first leader of the local church at Jerusalem (not of the universal Church) and remained there after Peter and the other members of the twelve left the scene (cf. Acts 12:17), whether through death or on travels. James had authority only in Jerusalem (and its “province”), but his name was known more widely because he was a blood relative of Jesus. Paul’s loyalty was to the “mother church” or community of saints in Jerusalem. His respect for James was a respect for the local leader of that church.
St. Titus Flavius Clemens, Alexandrian presbyter (AD 150-215)
“After the ascension of the savior, Peter and James [the brother of the apostle John] and John did not struggle for glory, because they had previously been given honor by the Savior, but chose James the Just as bishop of Jerusalem.” (Sixth Book of Hypotheses)
St. Julian, Eunomian bishop of Cilicia (AD 364)
“I, James, the brother of Christ according to the flesh, but His servant as the only begotten God, and one appointed bishop of Jerusalem by the Lord Himself…” (Apostolic Constitutions Book VIII, XXXV)
Eusebius Pamphili, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine (AD 260-340)
“This James, whom the people of old called the Just because of his outstanding virtue, was the first, as the record tells us, to be elected to the episcopal throne of the Jerusalem church.” (Ecclesiastical History 2.23)
St. Hegesippus, early Christian chronicler (AD 110-180)
“After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem.” (Fifth Book of Commentaries)
St. Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, Roman presbyter (AD 347-420)
“He [James] alone enjoyed the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since, indeed, he did not wear woolen, but only linen clothes, and went into the Temple alone and prayed on behalf of the people, so that his knees were reputed to have acquired the callousness of a camel’s knees,” and that after Jesus departed “was immediately appointed Bishop of Jerusalem by the Apostles.” (Lives of Illustrious Men, chapter II)