Christ's Faithful People
ca.33 - 67 AD
The first Pope was a Galilean fisherman named Simon. He was from Bethsaida on the lake of Genesareth. He and his brother Andrew had been attracted by St. John the Baptist. When the Baptist directed them to Christ, Jesus saw in Simon a man of destiny. He saw in the rough fisherman the rock on which He would build His Church, and so He called Simon "Peter," which means rock. Later, Jesus in a scene of historic importance solemnly commissioned Peter.
"And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is?
"But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
"Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?
"Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.
"And Jesus answering said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven." (Matthew 16:13-19.)
Peter had made a great act of faith and had been given a great responsibility. He was to be the Vicar of Christ on earth, the first Pope.
Yet Peter fell: in a moment of weakness he denied Jesus; but he was quick to repent. With bitter sorrow he mourned his shameful sin, and Jesus forgave him utterly as only God can forgive. He favored Peter with a special apparition in the glory of the first Easter. He ratified and confirmed the appointment of Peter as first Pope when He gave Peter the charge to feed His flock, lambs and sheep alike.
After the Holy Ghost descended on the apostles that great day of Pentecost, Peter worked hard and worked well for Jesus. He presided over the council which chose Matthias to replace Judas, he supported the newly converted Paul, he threw open the gates of the Church to the Gentiles. He suffered imprisonment only to be released by an angel because he was destined for further labor. He worked in Jerusalem, in Antioch, and in great Rome itself, the imperial metropolis of the Western world. Peter proved by his devotion, a devotion faithful unto death, that Jesus had indeed seen something He could build on in the rough, untried Galilean fisherman.
When Nero struck the Christian flock, the shepherd was not spared. They crucified Peter head down, tradition tells us, because he did not feel worthy to die like his Lord, Jesus. It was on a hill they crucified Peter. The name of that hill was the Vatican.