Catholics recognize that when Pope Benedict XVI comes to our country he does so as the successor of St. Peter. As Peter was chosen to be the head of the first Apostles and chief shepherd of the newly born Church, so Pope Benedict is the head of the Apostolic College, that is, the head of all the bishops throughout the world who are in communion with him. As such, he is also the chief shepherd and supreme pastor of the entire Church.
When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, it was Peter who responded without any hesitancy. He clearly professed: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” In turn, Jesus did not hesitate to tell Peter: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” Notice that Jesus first tells Peter that he is “blessed.” Peter is blessed because he knows the truth of who Jesus is as the anointed Son of God. Moreover, this blessing did not come from some human source but by revelation directly from Jesus’ heavenly Father. It was the Father himself, through the Holy Spirit, who revealed to Peter that Jesus was his eternal Son. It is precisely because of this divine revelation and Peter’s profession of it that Jesus continued to say to him: “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” (Matthew 16:16-18). It is upon the rock of Peter’s profession (his name means “rock”) that Jesus will build his Church. It is the truth of who Jesus is, as the Son of God, and the truth of his Gospel that is the rock-solid foundation of the Church itself. Nothing or no one, not even the devil himself, will ever succeed in distorting or falsifying the truth Jesus’ Gospel as professed by Peter.
As the successor of St. Peter, Benedict is today’s rock upon which the truth of the Church’s profession of faith is assured. Benedict, as did Peter, stands ever ready to profess and guard the Gospel of truth. Thus, the Pope, together with the bishops in union with him, is the guarantor that what we believe and profess as Catholics is the truth of Jesus Christ – his Gospel of life and salvation. We can confidently proclaim with Peter and the Apostles and all Catholics throughout the centuries that Jesus is indeed truly the Son of God. He became man and died for our sins and rose that we might have eternal life.
We can be assured that through baptism we have received the divine life of the Holy Spirit and have become members of the Body of Christ, the Church, and thus we are sons and daughters of the Father. Without doubt we know, in faith, that our sins are forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that Jesus is truly and really present in the Eucharist. Our assurance in all that we believe is founded upon the essential truth that as the Father, through Holy Spirit, revealed to Peter the truth of who Jesus is and the Gospel that he proclaimed, so the Father continues to reveal to his successors, through the same Holy Spirit, the truth of Jesus Christ and his Gospel.
In this we, as Catholics, can rejoice and be glad. As the successor of St. Peter, Pope Benedict still proclaims and guards the Gospel of truth and so we are assured that we live the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through divine life of the Holy Spirit.
Father Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap.
Executive Director for the Secretariat for Doctrine