Many will think Why do Catholics celebrate a Chair? They will say this is another form of idolatry. This accusation will be true IF Catholics worship the chair. We do not worship the Chair which Peter sat. But we celebrate the office of Peter and his successors.
What is so important about the office of Peter and his successors? Many see the Papacy as one that is oppressive and of control. Yet, Jesus set this office, not as a reward for any accomplishment. But this office was given to Simon Son of Jonah because of his profession of faith that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. As Jesus said in the Gospel today, Simon’s profession was not given by flesh and blood, but by the Father in Heaven. This is the charism of this office: that the person sitting on this chair will be the keeper of God’s revelation to his people. He is not the master of this but is the servant of the Word. He is the final arbiter of the Truth revealed by God.
Some misunderstood this as total infallibility. They think EVERYTHING the Pope says is to be obeyed. This is not the case because the Pope is not God. The Pope also makes mistakes. The gift of infallibility is very limited. This gift is limited to faith and morals. If the Pope speaks on topics referring to science, like climate change, or of politics, he speaks beyond his competence. These are to be viewed as his opinions and not pronouncements of facts.
Likewise, not all pronouncements on faith and morals are to be taken as Truth. The Pope needs to make it clear he is using the privilege of his office to pronounce a matter of faith or moral, that is he is speaking from his Chair (ex-cathedra). Even when he issues letters that speak on matters of faith and morals, this is also limited to what the Church has consistently taught through the ages, called the Magisterium of the Church. Pronouncements of the Pope are infallible only when it does not contradict Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church. Anything pronounced outside of these do not need to be considered infallible.
These past few years, we have seen a lot of confusion coming from people who distort what the Pope says. These are unfortunate incidents, and people who do this with a malicious intent will be held accountable before the Lord. It is important for Catholics to learn their faith, especially in these times of confusion, where Bishops, priests and high profile politicians seem to speak opinions rather than the true teaching of the Church.
In the First Reading, Peter warns the elders. The Greek word for elder is presbuteros, which is the word we use for presbyters or priests. They are to tend the flock of God that is in your charge. Jesus will hold them responsible for what happens to those entrusted to them. This is why it is important to pray for the Pope, the Bishops and priests, because they are responsible for the souls of those entrusted to them. Pray for the flock whose pastors are in error. Pray for the flock whose pastors prefer to be known as nice men rather than the husband of the Church.
We must take care of pastors who remain faithful to the teaching of the Church. We need to stand behind them and let them know we appreciate them. In these days of confusion, the faithful pastors are persecuted and need to be encouraged.
Lord, I pray for our Holy Father. Thank you for his presence and his office. I pray for our Bishop. Give him your wisdom that he may remain faithful to you and look after his flock. I pray for our pastor and give him courage to stand for the Truth.