One of the great strengths of our new pope is that he is a natural master of the symbolic gesture, the powerful image and the memorable action. This picture says it all. If you’re a Catholic you know that Jesus really did his build his church upon the Rock of Peter, and when you visit Rome the powerful imagery of the Basilica of St Peter actually constructed on the tomb of the Apostle is mind blowing.
Here is Francis cradling the remains of Peter, caught up in a moment of prayer. Peter is Francis. Francis is Peter.
People ask why I became a Catholic. It wasn’t really because of the Church of England’s decision to ordain women priests. That was just the spark that got me thinking more profoundly about authority in the Church.
Women priests are the symptom, not the disease. Their existence show vividly the philosophical and theological break with Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which took place in the sixteenth century and has only worsened. When two road diverge–even slightly–that divergence only gets worse.
I realized that for the church to be both dogmatic and relevant to each age it needed an infallible authority. To put this in plain language, it needs someone (in unity with the whole church) who can be the voice of authority and so interpret the dogma and apply it to the current times.
Who else even supposes to be able to do this? What other church dares to voice this authority? Who else can do this but the successor of Peter and who else can claim to be the successor of Peter but the obvious choice. As Peter Kreeft has argued, the claims for the papacy are so outrageous, that like C.S.Lewis knockdown argument for the divinity of Christ, they pope–to make such claims is either mad, bad or correct.
It was in accepting the role of Peter that I came into full communion and it was in that action of submission that everything else that is good in my life came to fruition. I have experienced deep healing, renewed understanding, a fuller experience of Christ the Lord and a solidity and reality to my faith that I never knew existed.
On this week in which we celebrate Christ the King I cry with joy, “Long live Christ the King and Long Live his Steward, Peter the Rock!”