View Full Version : How did the city of Rome become the head of the Catholic church?

05-14-2005, 12:09 AM
What popes, doctrines, etc. established Rome as the center of the Catholic Church? Approx. when did this happen? Thanks

05-14-2005, 12:49 AM
Well, there was no single event (or even discrete series of events) that caused it to happen.

Traditionally, Peter travelled to Rome as a missionary and was martyred there.

Rome was the center of its empire until around 315. As an important city, it was also the seat of one of several Patriarchal sees (places where bishops with a lot of power hang out). Originally, the patriarchates were Antioch (where the earliest Christians had fled from Jerusalem during various persecutions and where the Romans had established their civil government for the region), Alexandria, (where the Romans had their civil government for much of North Africa), and Rome. When Constantine pulled out of Rome and headed to the East, Rome remained an important city in the Empire as well as the see of the bishop of Rome, but Byzantium (later Constantinople) grew in importance and acquired the distinction of being a patriarchate. Then, various bishops of Jerusalem argued that that city should also be a patriarchate and eventually that claim was accepted.

Being out by itself in the West, Rome was able to garner and consolidate a lot of power while the other four jostled for elbow room at the East end of the Mediterranean. These Patriarchates were considered the leading sees of the church. The Bishop of Rome was seen as the "first among equals," however that claim was seen differently by different people, with the Catholics of today looking back to the tradition of Peter to claim that Rome was first in authority while the others look on the title as merely first in honor.

With the rise of Islam, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch stopped being forces within the church. Later, when the bishops of Rome and Byzantium got into a squabble, the two groups separated, with Rome making a claim of supremacy while the remaining patriarchates claimed that Rome was simply in schism with the real church. 1054 is the traditional date when the bishops of Rome and Byzantium excommunicated each other, alhough there were several attempts at reconciliation and the true irreparable break actually occured several decades later.

At that time, Rome was the Patriachate for all of Europe, West of the Adriatic, and the Catholic Church was firmly established.

(In the ensuing years, a number of other diocese have been named patriarchates, but they do not figure in this narration.)

The Highwayman
05-14-2005, 04:30 AM
I would agree with the previous post but would add a few bits to clear certain things up.

As was stated, St. Peter and St. Paul are said to have held the position of the Bishop of Rome. There is much debate on this point but that does not concern your question. As we know from the Bible, St. Peter is the “Rock” upon which the earthly Church is built. Christ also tells us that what is bound on earth by St. Peter is also bound in Heaven and so forth.

Once the Church became the official state religion of the Roman Empire, there were cities which were by tradition associated with certain Evangelists. I believe that who went where is also debated but this is pretty much agreed to by East and West.

The Church of Alexandria, founded according to tradition by St. Mark, St. Luke with Antioch, and St. Peter with Rome. Because of the passage in the Bible, the Bishop of Rome was preeminent amongst them and this view was not just held by the Bishop of Rome but by the other Bishops as well.

As the Western Empire fell, the Bishop of Rome began to take on the traditions, rituals, and basically became the de facto leader of the Western Empire. This was not the case in the East which had an Emperor (who made his Bishops heel from time to time) till the 15th century. Also, all these old Churches with the exception of Rome ceased to exist after the Muslim invasions.

Finally, the reason the Bishop of Rome (a.k.a. The Pope) is preeminent amongst the other Churches is that Rome was the most important city in the Empire, if not politically it was historically. It was the "Roman" empire after all. When St. Augustine speaks of the City of God, he is speaking about a heavenly city as directly opposed to Rome, the most important City of Man.

RM Mentock
05-14-2005, 07:32 AM
And, relatively recently, the papacy moved to France for a little while. So, it's political

Captain Amazing
05-14-2005, 07:49 AM
As was stated, St. Peter and St. Paul are said to have held the position of the Bishop of Rome.

Peter supposedly did. Paul was never supposedly Bishop of anywhere. He is supposed to have been executed in Rome, though.

05-14-2005, 03:21 PM
The first suggestion we have that the Bishop of Rome considered himself the pre-eminent bishop of Christianity comes from St. Clement (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04012c.htm) (A.D. 88-97), later regarded as the fourth pope.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.