Choose your language EoF

Gospel for Sunday, August 27: Matthew 16: 13-20

XX Sunday A

13Jesus, having arrived in the region of Caesarea Philippi, asked his disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”. 14They replied: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others Jeremiah or some of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter replied: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus said to him: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18And I say to you: you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the powers of hell will not prevail over it. 19To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

Mt 16: 13-20

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

The Gospel that today’s liturgy proposes to us is the same that we meditated on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. I refer you to that comment for a more faithful exegesis of the text.

Today I want to focus on a certainly not secondary problem that arises from this passage.


The antiquity of this passage has almost never been questioned. Luther and the other reformers also considered it an archaic text, even if they denied the Catholic interpretation according to which the passage could refer not only to the person of Peter, but also to his successors. According to Luther, these verses are addressed to the entire Church.

However, it has sometimes been hypothesized that this text is to be ascribed not to the time of Jesus, but to that of the first Church, which attributed the role of leader to Peter. Peter would have been the first to recognize Jesus as Lord after his resurrection, and therefore the other apostles, and not Jesus himself, would have recognized him as a primacy. “More recent studies, precisely in the Protestant context, have therefore abandoned the theory of the creative community of the primacy of Peter and have, instead, admitted not only the authenticity of the text of the primacy as found in Mt 16, but also the very important fact that the words pronounced by Jesus belong to a context prior to Easter due to their strongly Semitic character” (S. T. Stancati). “This is most likely a pre-Matthean tradition that Matthew inserted into his text” (D. J. Harrington). The passage is therefore very ancient, and probably faithfully reports the dialogue between Jesus and Peter.


Soon the Church of Rome where, according to tradition, both Peter and Paul taught and were martyred, became the reference for all the other Churches. Already in 95 Clement, bishop of Rome, sent a long letter to the Corinthians to resolve their disputes, illustrating the doctrine of the Apostles: “The Apostles announced the Gospel to us, sent by the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ was sent by God. Christ therefore comes from God, the Apostles from Christ: both proceed in an orderly manner from the will of God… Our Apostles learned through our Lord Jesus Christ that disputes would arise around the episcopal function. Therefore, perfectly foreseeing the future, they established the elect and then gave them the order, so that upon their death other tested men would take up their service.” Ignatius of Antioch, at the beginning of the 2nd century, defines the Church of Rome as that “which presides over charity” (“prochathemène tees agàpes”): it does not only mean “a precedence in the feeling of love and in charitable action. But when put in relation to the words that immediately precede: «which also presides over the Roman territory» («ètis kaì prokàthenai èn tòpo chorìou Romàion») it makes us think of a true position of pre-eminence in faith and love” (K. Bihlmeyer , H. Tuechle). Irenaeus of Lyon states in 180-190 that it is appropriate for each Church to have the same faith as that of Rome, because the faith of Peter has been preserved intact there: and he qualifies the Church of Rome as the one with which “due to its origin more excellent the whole Church must agree.” Irenaeus himself provides us with the list of the Bishops of Rome, to whom “the episcopal ministry” was transmitted after Peter. At the end of the 2nd century, Tertullian attributed particular prestige to the Roman Church, because Peter and Paul were martyred there. Also at the end of the 2nd century, as Eusebius of Caesarea tells us, the bishop of Rome, in the discussion on the date of Easter, took an initiative for the entire Church in order to safeguard communion based on “common consensus”. Around 250 Cyprian of Carthage, in a letter to Pope Cornelius, calls the Church of Rome “the chair of Peter and the principal Church, from which priestly unity emanates” (“Petri cathedra atque ecclesia principalis, unde unitas sacerdotalis exorta East”); he attributes to Rome the same role that Jesus gave to Peter, that of confirming the brothers, then stating that “the other Apostles were equal to Peter, equally sharing in the honor and power (to consecrate) and that for the administration of the their dioceses are responsible (only) to God” (K. Bihlmeyer, H. Tuechle). Saint Ambrose (339 or 340-397) will say: “Ubi Petrus, ibi ergo Ecclesia”, “Where Peter is, there is the Church”. Leo the Great (440-461) qualifies the bishop of Rome as “successor of Peter”, speaking at the second Council in the history of the Church, the Council of Chalcedon, in 451.

The doctrine on the primacy of Peter was solemnly affirmed in the medieval Councils, especially in the Council of Lyon (1274) and in the Council of Florence (1439), and finally reaffirmed in the First Vatican Council (1870) and in the Second Vatican Council.

“The Bishop of the Roman see is no «more» Bishop than the one who presides over a local Church. The Pope, however, carries out his ministry in a unique way, that of unity, which is in favor of all the Bishops” (S. T. Stancati).

Unfortunately, from a vision in which the ministries were truly ecclesial services, in the Middle Ages we moved on to an “ecclesiological vision in which the hierarchical aspect is brought to the foreground and occupies the highest level: the Church coincides with the hierarchy… The Church is considered as a large diocese headed by the Pope, while the bishops (and the local Churches) are nothing more than vicars of the pontiff himself… For example, Egidio Romano, in his «De ecclesiastica potestate», establishes an equivalence between the person of the Pope and the Church itself: «Papa qui potest dici Ecclesia» (the Pope, that is, the Church). There will also be an emphasis of a curial nature when the power of the Roman Curia becomes so important that it can replace the same wording as “Roman Church”: “Nunc codicicitur Curia Romana quae ante hac dicebatur Ecclesia Romana” (“Now that which was once called the Roman Church”, said Gerloh of Reichenberg” (S. T. Stancati). What distortion and impoverishment in the conception of the Church, unfortunately still so present today!

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council describes the universal Church as a “communion of local – diocesan – particular Churches, articulated “starting from them” and “in them” (LG, n. 23) … The Church is guided by the entire college episcopal with its head, the bishop of Rome (LG, n.21) “ (S. Pié-Ninot).

Father Turoldo remembered: “The Church is an organism, not an organization; it is not a state, but a life… Institutionalism is a means and not an end. The same order and laws are for life, not life for laws.”


Also to carry forward the ecumenical dialogue, it is necessary that, while remaining faithful to Scripture and Tradition, the ways of living the ministries and also the primacy of the Bishop of Rome are reconsidered, as the last Popes have often hoped for. John Paul II, in particular in the Encyclical “Ut unum sint”, wanted to address especially to pastors and theologians the invitation to “find a form of exercise of the Primacy which, while not renouncing in any way the essential of its mission, opens up to a new situation…, since for very different reasons and against the will of both, what was supposed to be a service was able to manifest itself in a quite different light… May the Holy Spirit give us his light… , so that we can seek, evidently together, the ways in which this ministry can carry out a service of love recognized by both” (n. 95).

It is therefore necessary that the Petrine ministry also be rethought in its ways of expression, as the then Cardinal Ratzinger recalled when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “«The pilgrim Church, in its sacraments and its institutions, which belong to The present age bears the fleeting figure of this world” (LG, n. 48). Also for this reason, the immutable nature of the Primacy of the Successor of Peter was expressed historically

through modes of exercise suited to the circumstances of a pilgrim Church in this changing world. The concrete contents of its exercise characterize the Petrine ministry to the extent that they faithfully express the application to the circumstances of place and time of the needs of its ultimate purpose (the unity of the Church). The greater or lesser extent of these concrete contents will depend in each historical era on the “necessitas Ecclesiae”. The Holy Spirit helps the Church to know this “necessitas” and the Roman Pontiff, listening to the voice of the Spirit in the Churches, seeks the answer and offers it when and how he deems it appropriate”.

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


Spazio Spadoni

You might also like