Venerable Brethren, Health, and Benediction.
It is sufficiently well known unto you that no small share of Our thoughts and of Our care is devoted to Our endeavour to bring back to the fold, placed under the guardianship of Jesus Christ, the Chief Pastor of souls, sheep that have strayed. Bent upon this, We have thought it most conducive to this salutary end and purpose to describe the exemplar and, as it were, the lineaments of the Church. Amongst these the most worthy of Our chief consideration is Unity. This the Divine Author impressed on it as a lasting sign of truth and of unconquerable strength. The essential beauty and comeliness of the Church ought greatly to influence the minds of those who consider it. Nor is it improbable that ignorance may be dispelled by the consideration; that false ideas and prejudices may be dissipated from the minds chiefly of those who find themselves in error without fault of theirs; and that even a love for the Church may be stirred up in the souls of men, like unto that charity wherewith Christ loved and united himself to that spouse redeemed by His precious blood. "Christ loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it" (Eph. v., 25).
Wherefore, having put all Our hope in the "Father of lights," from whom "cometh every best gift and every perfect gift" (Ep. James i., 17) - from Him, namely, who alone "gives the increase" (I Cor. iii., 6) - We earnestly pray that He will graciously grant Us the power of bringing conviction home to the minds of men.
He who seeks the truth must be guided by these fundamental principles. That is to say, that Christ the Lord instituted and formed the Church: wherefore when we are asked what its nature is, the main thing is to see what Christ wished and what in fact He did. Judged by such a criterion it is the unity of the Church which must be principally considered; and of this, for the general good, it has seemed useful to speak in this Encyclical. ,
Another head like to Christ must be invented - that is, another Christ - if besides the one Church, which is His body, men wish to set up another. "See what you must beware of - see what you must avoid - see what you must dread. It happens that, as in the human body, some member may be cut off - a hand, a finger, a foot. Does the soul follow the amputated member? As long as it was in the body, it lived; separated, it forfeits its life. So the Christian is a Catholic as long as he lives in the body: cut off from it he becomes a heretic - the life of the spirit follows not the amputated member" (S. Augustinus, Sermo cclxvii., n. 4).
But, as we have already said, the Apostolic mission was not destined to die with the Apostles themselves, or to come to an end in the course of time, since it was intended for the people at large and instituted for the salvation of the human race. For Christ commanded His Apostles to preach the "Gospel to every creature, to carry His name to nations and kings, and to be witnesses to him to the ends of the earth." He further promised to assist them in the fulfilment of their high mission, and that, not for a few years or centuries only, but for all time - "even to the consummation of the world." Upon which St. Jerome says: "He who promises to remain with His Disciples to the end of the world declares that they will be for ever victorious, and that He will never depart from those who believe in Him" (In Matt., lib. iv., cap. 28, v. 20). But how could all this be realized in the Apostles alone, placed as they were under the universal law of dissolution by death? It was consequently provided by God that the Magisterium instituted by Jesus Christ should not end with the life of the Apostles, but that it should be perpetuated. We see it in truth propagated, and, as it were, delivered from hand to hand. For the Apostles consecrated bishops, and each one appointed those who were to succeed them immediately "in the ministry of the word."
Jesus Christ, therefore, appointed Peter to be that head of the Church; and He also determined that the authority instituted in perpetuity for the salvation of all should be inherited by His successors, in whom the same permanent authority of Peter himself should continue. And so He made that remarkable promise to Peter and to no one else: "Thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. xvi., 18). "To Peter the Lord spoke: to one, therefore, that He might establish unity upon one" (S. Pacianus ad Sempronium, Ep. iii., n. 11). "Without any prelude He mentions St. Peter's name and that of his father (Blessed art thou Simon, son of John) and He does not wish Him to be called any more Simon; claiming him for Himself according to His divine authority He aptly names him Peter, from petra the rock, since upon him He was about to found His Church" (S. Cyrillus Alexandrinus, In Evang. Joan., lib. ii., in cap. i., v. 42).
The promise is carried out when Christ the Lord after His Resurrection, having thrice asked Peter whether he loved Him more than the rest, lays on him the injunction: "Feed my lambs - feed my sheep." That is He confides to him, without exception, all those who were to belong to His fold. "The Lord does not hesitate. He interrogates, not to learn but to teach. When He was about to ascend into Heaven He left us, as it were, a vice-gerent of His love....and so because Peter alone of all others professes his love he is preferred to all-that being the most perfect he should govern the more perfect" (S. Ambrosius, Exposit. in Evang. secundum Lucam, lib. x., nn. 175-176).
And since all Christians must be closely united in the communion of one immutable faith, Christ the Lord, in virtue of His prayers, obtained for Peter that in the fulfilment of his office he should never fall away from the faith. "But I have asked for thee that thy faith fail not" (Luke xxii., 32), and He furthermore commanded him to impart light and strength to his brethren as often as the need should arise: "Confirm thy brethren" (Ibid.). He willed then that he whom He had designated as the foundation of the Church should be the defence of its faith. "Could not Christ who confided to him the Kingdom by His own authority have strengthened the faith of one whom He designated a rock to show the foundation of the Church?" (S. Ambrosius, De Fide, lib. iv., n. 56). For this reason Jesus Christ willed that Peter should participate in certain names, signs of great things which properly belong to Himself alone: in order that identity of titles should show identity of power. So He who is Himself "the chief corner-stone in whom all the building being framed together, groweth up in a holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. ii., 21), placed Peter as it were a stone to support the Church. "When he heard `thou art a rock,' he was ennobled by the announcement. Although he is a rock, not as Christ is a rock, but as Peter is a rock. For Christ is by His very being an immovable rock; Peter only through this rock. Christ imparts His gifts, and is not exhausted....He is a priest, and makes priests. He is a rock, and constitutes a rock" (Hom. de Poenitentia, n. 4 in Appendice opp. S. Basilii). He who is the King of His Church, "Who bath the key of David, who openeth and no man shutteth, who shutteth and no man openeth (Apoc. iii., 7), having delivered the keys to Peter declared him Prince of the Christian commonwealth. So, too, He, the Great Shepherd, who calls Himself "the Good Shepherd," constitued Peter the pastor "of His lambs and sheep. Feed My lambs, feed My Sheep." Wherefore Chrysostom says: "He was preeminent among the Apostles: He was the mouthpiece of the Apostles and the head of the Apostolic College....at the same time showing him that henceforth he ought to have confidence, and as it were blotting out his denial, He commits to him the government of his brethren....He saith to him: 'If thou lowest Me, be over my brethren.' Finally He who confirms in "every good work and word" (2 Thess. ii., 16) commands Peter "to confirm his brethren."
These things enable us to see the heavenly ideal, and the divine exemplar, of the constitution of the Christian commonwealth, namely: When the Divine founder decreed that the Church should be one in faith, in government, and in communion, He chose Peter and his successors as the principle and centre, as it were, of this unity. Wherefore St. Cyprian says: "The following is a short and easy proof of the faith. The Lord saith to Peter: 'I say to thee thou art Peter'; on him alone He buildeth His Church; and although after His Resurrection He gives a similar power to all the Apostles and says: 'As the Father hath sent me,' &c., still in order to make the necessary unity clear, by His own authority He laid down the source of that unity as beginning from one" (De Unit. Eccl., n. 4). And Optatus of Milevis says: "You cannot deny that you know that in the city of Rome the Episcopal chair was first conferred on Peter. In this Peter, the head of all the Apostles (hence his name Cephas), has sat; in which chair alone unity was to be preserved for all, lest any of the other apostles should claim anything as exclusively his own. So much so, that he who would place another chair against that one chair, would be a schismatic and a sinner" (De Schism. Donat., lib. ii). Hence the teaching of Cyprian, that heresy and schism arise and are begotten from the fact that due obedience is refused to the supreme authority. "Heresies and schisms have no other origin than that obedience is refused to the priest of God, and that men lose sight of the fact that there is one judge in the place of Christ in this world" (Epist. xii. ad Cornelium, n. 5). No one, therefore, unless in communion with Peter can share in his authority, since it is absurd to imagine that he who is outside can command in the Church. Wherefore Optatus of Milevis blamed the Donatists for this reason: "Against which ages (of hell) we read that Peter received the saving keys, that is to say, our prince, to whom it was said by Christ: `To thee will I give the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the gates of Hell shall not conquer them.' Whence is it therefore that you strive to obtain for yourselves the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven-you who fight against the chair of Peter?" (Lib. ii., n. 4-5).
This power over the Episcopal College to which we refer, and which is clearly set forth in Holy Writ, has ever been acknowledged and attested by the Church, as is clear from the teaching of General Councils. "We read that the Roman Pontiff has pronounced judgments on the prelates of all the churches; we do not read that anybody has pronounced sentence on him" (Hadrianus ii., in Allocutione iii., ad Synodum Romanum an. 869, Cf. Actionem vii., Conc. Constantinopolitani iv). The reason for which is stated thus: "there is no authority greater than that of the Apostolic See" (Nicholaus in Epist. lxxxvi. ad Michael. Imperat.) wherefore Gelasius on the decrees of Councils says: "That which the First See has not approved of cannot stand; but what it has thought well to decree has been received by the whole Church" (Epist. xxvi., ad Episcopos Dardaniae, n. 5). It has ever been unquestionably the office of the Roman Pontiffs to ratify or to reject the decrees of Councils. Leo the great rescinded the acts of the Conciliabulum of Ephesus. Damasus rejected those of Rimini, and Hadrian I. those of Constantinople. The 28th Canon of the Council of Chalcedon, by the very fact that it lacks the assent and approval of the Apostolic See, is admitted by all to be worthless. Rightly, therefore, has Leo X. laid down in the 5th council of Lateran "that the Roman Pontiff alone, as having authority over all Councils, has full jurisdiction and power to summon, to transfer, to dissolve Councils, as is clear, not only from the testimony of Holy Writ, from the teaching of the Fathers and of the Roman Pontiffs, and from the decrees of the sacred canons, but from the teaching of the very Councils themselves." Indeed, Holy Writ attests that the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven were given to Peter alone, and that the power of binding and loosening was granted to the Apostles and to Peter; but there is nothing to show that the Apostles received supreme power without Peter, and against Peter. Such power they certainly did not receive from Jesus Christ. Wherefore, in the decree of the Vatican Council as to the nature and authority of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, no newly conceived opinion is set forth, but the venerable and constant belief of every age (Sess. iv., cap. 3).