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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bishop of Rome Explains His Universal Role On Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2006 ( On the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Benedict XVI explained that his mission entails guidance of the Rome Diocese as well as "of the whole People of God."

The Pope dedicated his address at the weekly general audience to explain that St. Peter had his first see in Jerusalem, then in Antioch and finally in Rome.

The Holy Father culminated today's audience by announcing a consistory next March 24 to install 15 new cardinals.

Benedict XVI explained that "'cathedra' literally means the established seat of the bishop, located in the mother church of a diocese, which for this reason is called 'cathedral,' and is the symbol of the authority of the Bishop and, in particular, of his 'magisterium,' that is, of the evangelical teaching that he, insofar as a successor of the Apostles, is called to guard and transmit to the Christian community."

The Pope recalled how Peter established his see in Rome, which was then the most important city of the Roman Empire, and the city where he was martyred.

"For this reason, the See of Rome, which had received the greatest honor, received also the task entrusted by Christ to Peter of being at the service of all the local Churches for the building and unity of the whole People of God," noted the Pontiff.

Church Fathers

Benedict XVI backed the role of the primacy of the See of Rome, carried out since the first centuries, with quotations from Fathers of the Church, in particular St. Irenaeus of Lyon (who died around 200), Tertullian (160-223) and St. Jerome (343-420).

"The Chair of the Bishop of Rome represents, therefore, not only his service to the Roman community, but also his mission of guide of the whole People of God," the Pope said.

"To celebrate the 'Chair' of Peter, as we do today, means, therefore, to attribute to it a strong spiritual significance and to recognize in it a privileged sign of the love of God, good and eternal Shepherd, who wants to gather the whole of his Church and guide her along the way of salvation," continued Benedict XVI.

Before concluding, the Holy Father invited the pilgrims to pray before the monument of the Chair of St. Peter -- a work of Bernini, in St. Peter's Basilica -- "for the ministry that God has entrusted to me."

"Raising one's gaze to the alabaster glass window that opens precisely above the chair, invoke the Holy Spirit, so that he will always sustain with his light and strength my daily service to the whole Church," he added.

As the 14,000 people who arrived for the audience could not be accommodated in Paul VI Hall, Benedict XVI met first with Italian students in the nearby St. Peter's Basilica.

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