"You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" (Mt 16:18) are the weighty, great and solemn words that Jesus speaks to Simon, son of John, after his profession of faith. This profession of faith was not the product of the Bethsaida fisherman's human logic or the expression of any special insight of his or the effect of some psychological impulse; it was rather the mysterious and singular result of a real revelation of the Father in heaven. Jesus changes Simon's name to Peter, thus signifying the conferring of a special mission. He promises to build on him his Church, which will not be overthrown by the forces of evil or death. He grants him the keys of the kingdom of God, thus appointing him the highest official of his Church, and gives him the power to interpret authentically the law of God. In view of these privileges, or rather these superhuman tasks entrusted to Peter, Saint Augustine points out to us: "Peter was by nature simply a man, by grace a Christian, by still more abundant grace one of the Apostles and at the same time the first of the Apostles" (Saint Augustine, In Ioannis Evang. tract., 124, 5: PL 35, 1973)....We seem to hear as addressed to us the words that Saint Ephraem represents Christ as speaking to Peter: "Simon, my apostle, I have made you the foundation of the Holy Church. I have already called you Peter because you will support all the edifices. You are the superintendent of those who will build the Church on earth . . . You are the source of the fountain from which my doctrine is drawn. You are the head of my apostles . . . I have given you the keys of my kingdom" (Saint Ephraem, Sermones in hebdomadam sanctam, 4,1: Lamy T.J., S. Ephraem Syri hymni et sermones, 1,412).
... Our mind re-echoes spontaneously the emotion-filled words that our great saintly Predecessor, Saint Leo the Great, addressed to the faithful of Rome: "Blessed Peter does not cease to preside over his See. He is bound to the eternal Priest in an unbroken unity . . . Recognize therefore that all the demonstrations of affection that you have given me because of fraternal amiability or filial devotion have with greater devotedness and truth been given by you and me to him whose See we rejoice to serve rather than preside over it" (Saint Leo the Great, Sermo V, 4-5: PL 54, 155-156).
John Paul I
September 3, 1978