The Catholic Church is called Roman:
1. because the visible head of the Church is Bishop of Rome;
2. because St. Peter and his successors fixed their see in Rome;
3. because all the Catholic Churches in the world profess their union with the Roman Church.
The Catholic Church is called Roman, because at Rome the pope, as visible head of the Church, has fixed his see. St. Peter was the first pope and first bishop of Rome. After having preached in Jerusalem, and presided for seven years over the Church of Antioch, he left St. Ignatius in his place at Antioch, and went to Rome, where he fixed his see. He was, however, often absent to perform his apostolical duties in other countries. He came to Rome in A.D. 40. Having remained there for some considerable time, he went back to the East, but returned to Rome not long after. In 49, on account of some tumult raised by the Jews against the Christians, St. Peter and St. Paul were banished from Rome by Claudius, but they were soon allowed to return. St. Peter returned again to the East, and in 51 was present at the General Council held at Jerusalem by the apostles, where, in a discourse, he showed that the Gentile converts were not bound by the Jewish ceremonies. St. Peter went back to Rome a few years previous to his martyrdom, in the reign of the Emperor Nero. But before his final return thither, he preached the Gospel over all Italy, and likewise in other provinces of the West. When again in Rome, he and St. Paul, by their prayer, put an end to the magical delusions of Simon Magus. Enraged at this, the tyrant Nero put both apostles into the Mamertine prison. After an imprisonment of eight months, St. Peter was scourged, and then crucified with his head downward. He chose this manner of crucifixion, because he believed himself unworthy to suffer and die in the same way as his divine Master. According to Eusebius and Others, he held possession of the See of Rome for about twenty-five years, assisted by St. Paul, who shared with him the honor of having founded Christian Rome.
St. Peter, then, the Prince of the Apostles, who first occupied the Apostolic See, transmitted, by the command of God, to the pontiffs, who even to the end of time should occupy his see, his primacy in the apostolate and in the pastoral charge, together with all the authority which he
had received from God our Saviour. Hence the Greeks, in 1274, subscribed this profession of faith, which was presented to them by Gregory X : "The holy Roman Church possesses a supreme and complete primacy and authority over the whole Catholic Church, she acknowledges truly and humbly that she received it, together with plenary authority, from the Saviour himself, in the person of Peter, the Prince or Head of the Apostles, of whom the Roman Pontiff is the successor, and as she is bound more than the other churches to defend the truth of religion, so, if any questions arise concerning the faith, they ought to be determined by her judgment. Whoever considers himself wronged in any matter which pertains to the Church, can appeal to her tribunal; and in all the causes which relate to ecclesiastical jurisdiction, recourse may be had to her judgment. All churches are subject to her, and the prelates who govern them owe respect and obedience to her. The plenitude of power belongs to her in such a manner, that the other churches are admitted by her to a share in her solicitude. Several of these, especially the patriarchal churches, have been honored with
various privileges by the Roman Church, without prejudice to her prerogatives, which she must preserve whether in General Councils or in certain other cases." (Labbe, t. xi, p. 965.)
In the fourteenth century, it is true, several popes resided at Avignon, in France, yet they did not cease, on that account, to be the Bishops of Rome and the heirs of St. Peter. Rome is, indeed, the capital of Christendom, and is justly called the Eternal City, for it has always been the centre of Catholic unity, and the see of the successors of St. Peter.
From St. Peter's time every succeeding head of the Church was Bishop of Rome, and, seated in the Chair of Peter, governed the Church as her Sovereign Pontiff, as the visible representative of ecclesiastical unity, as the supreme teacher and guardian of the faith, as the supreme legislator and interpreter of the canons, as the legitimate superior of all bishops, as the final judge of councils, enjoying the primacy both of honor and jurisdiction; so that the pagan historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, styled Pope Liberius: "the overseer of the Christian religion," and the Fathers, the Councils, the Doctors of the Church, ecclesiastical writers, and the saints of all ages, have called the Bishop of Rome pope, that is, father, because he is the common spiritual father of all Christians. They have called him also the Most Holy Father, the Universal Bishop of the Church, the Vicar of Christ, the Pastor of pastors, the Judge of judges. They have given him the title of Sovereign Pontiff, because he is superior to all other pontiffs or bishops, not only as to honor, but also as to jurisdiction, and because he exercises supreme authority in the Universal Church. On account of this primacy or supremacy which the head of the Church has received immediately from God, in the person of Peter, the Council of Trent defines that the faithful, of whatever dignity, be they kings or emperors, bishops, primates, or patriarchs, owe him a real and true obedience. The same council declares that it pertains to him to provide the churches with pastors to determine the impediments which make marriage null and to dispense with them, to convoke a General Council, to confirm its decrees, to resolve the doubts raised by them, to create cardinals, to appoint bishops, to watch over the reform of studies, to correct abuses, to decide the most grave causes in which bishops are concerned; he can reserve to himself the absolving from certain grave crimes, absolve those who have possessed themselves of ecclesiastical property: without his judgment nothing of importance can be established in the Church.
To be continued . . . . . . . .