Those of us joining the Ordinariate are being offered a very special gift. This gift is to be in communion with the Pope. Why is it a great gift? It is a great gift for us as in its turn the Papacy is a gift of supreme importance from Christ to the Church. In fact, it can be argued that, without the Pope you do not have the Church, and the papacy can only be understood in the framework of the Church.
The papacy grew out organically from the mission of the apostle Peter. Peter always appears first in rank and the representative of the Twelve (Mk 8:29; Mt 18:21; Lk 12:41; Jn 6:67). In the list of the Twelve in the Synoptic Gospels he comes first. (Mk 3:16-19; Mt 10:1-4; Lk 6: 12-16; Acts 1:13; Lk 9:32)
A most important point is the traditional formula used by Paul in 1 Cor 15: 5 where although chronologically Peter was not the first to see the risen Christ he is named as such by Paul. The Easter event is a revelation of Peter’s call, and 1 Cor 15 is an expression of the primordial conviction that Peter is the primary witness to the resurrection; and the resurrection is that event without which our Christian life is nonsense.
Three texts are vital. The first is Mt 16:13-19. Here Jesus gives Simon a new name: Peter (Rock). Jesus promises the Twelve that he is the rock foundation of the Church, Peter is to guarantee this stability, permanence, unity and security. Christ is the foundation of the Church which appears visibly in Peter. This function of Peter is further defined by the promise that the gates of hell will never prevail and also by the power of the keys. Peter is given authority to rule as representative of the Master! He holds the keys. The second text is Lk 22: 31-34. Here Jesus gives a special task to Peter, when the evil forces will hammer heavily on the Church, Peter will help them recover, he will provide support to his brothers, he is the stronghold of the faith. The third text is Jn 21: 15-19. Peter is made the Shepherd of the flock, to defend it against attack and to preserve due order within it. When the Lord is not any more visibly present, Peter, his representative, will carry out this ministry. The book of Acts is peppered with instances where Peter is exercising this ministry. (See: Acts 1: 15-26; 2:14-41; 3: 1-26; 4:8; 5: 1-11; 5:29; 8:14-17; 8: 18-25; 9: 32-43 and 10: 9-33.)
Jesus did not appoint successors to Peter; the succession was an organic development of Peter’s mission which is to the end of time. (Mt 28:20) The Church holds that the successor of Peter is the Bishop of Rome. Myriad is the testimony to this faith by the Church Fathers. This testimony found focus in the teachings of Ambrose when he said: “Where Peter is, there is the Church.”
Since the word go, Peter was the focus of mission and unity, the guarantor of orthodoxy and above all the visible witness of the Resurrection. He is the visible head and shepherd of the Church on earth and his ministry lives in his successors. Today Peter is known as Benedict XVI. Peter is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of faithful; he is the pastor of the Universal Church, the witness of the Risen Lord.
Can you see what a wondrous gift Peter is for the Church? That is why those joining the Ordinariate are blessed; they will receive this gift from Christ and be in communion with Benedict XVI – the witness of the Resurrection!