Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter and the papacy.
St. Peter’s original name was Simon. He was a married man with children, and worked as a fisherman when Jesus called him to be an Apostle.
Jesus gave Peter a special place among the Apostles. He was one of the three who accompanied Christ on special occasions, including the Transfiguration of Christ and the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was the only Apostle to whom Christ appeared on the first day after the Resurrection. Peter also spoke on behalf of the disciples often.
Peter was not without sin, however. He fell asleep in the Garden instead of praying, and he denied knowing who Jesus was after Christ was arrested.
Jesus made Peter the head of the community of believers and placed the spiritual guidance of the faithful in his hands: When Jesus asked the Apostles: "Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?"
Simon replied: "Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
And Jesus said: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood have not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to you: That you are Peter [Cephas, a rock], and upon this rock [Cephas] I will build my Church [ekklesian], and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven". (Mt 16:13-20)
After Pentecost, Peter delivered the first public sermon, and won many converts. He performed miracles, preaching in Jerusalem, Judaea, and Syria. He was arrested in Jerusalem under Herod Agrippa I, but escaped execution. From there he went to Rome, where he preached the Gospels.
St. Peter was crucified in Rome, head down, saying that he did not deserve to die as Christ did. His death is estimated between 64 and 68. His remains now rest under the altar at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
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