The president of the Vatican City State Governorate, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, recalled this week that Pope Benedict XVI is the successor of Peter, the “rock” of the Church, and as such “strengthens the brethren” and shepherds “the flock,” fulfilling the mission entrusted by Christ himself for the salvation of mankind.
In a Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica for a group of German pilgrims, the cardinal explained that the altar in St. Peter’s does not bear the image of the apostle as one would expect because Peter is the living Pontiff who today bears the name of Benedict XVI.
The Pope, he said, “is the one who sites on the Chair of St. Peter, the one who carries out his mandate, which Christ conferred to Peter as the ‘rock’ of the Church in order to ‘strengthen the brethren and shepherd the flock.’”
This “means guiding the Church today as yesterday throughout the times,” the cardinal said. Consequently an interesting question arises: “Why so much insistence on the symbolic value of this Chair?” he wondered aloud.
First of all, Cardinal Lajolo explained, it is because “the Chair sustains the truth that authentically testifies to the word of Christ and protects man, all men, and not only the faithful, from falsehood.”
At the general audience of February 22, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI explained that the term “‘cathedra’ literally means the fixed seat of the bishop, placed in the mother church of a diocese, which for this reason is called a ‘cathedral’ and is the symbol of the bishop’s authority and, in particular, of his ‘magisterium,’ that is, the evangelical teaching that he, since he is a successor of the apostles, is called to protect and pass on to the Christian community.”
“When a bishop takes possession of the particular church entrusted to him, with the mitre and the staff, he sits on his cathedra. From this chair he will guide, as a teacher and pastor, the walk of the faithful in faith, in hope and charity,” Cardinal Lajolo taught.
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