I Peter 5.1-4; Psalm 22; Matthew 16.13-19
It should go without saying that this feast doesn’t honour a piece of furniture but the office that the chair represents. In Judaism a rabbi teaches when he is seated. [cf Matthew 5.1] This practice continues in the ancient Catholic Christian custom of the Bishop being seated to preach. It is the Pope’s ‘seat’ (Sede, the word from which we get the English word sedan) that is said to act in governing the affairs of the church. (Similarly we speak of the Chair of a committee or of a meeting.) And of course we are familiar with the Bishop’s chair in the Cathedral, the central focus of the building and at once the sign and the actual focal point of the Bishop’s central ministry of holding a diocesan community together.
Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 described this feast as ‘a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and charity.’ As we celebrate this feast it is fitting for us to pray especially for the intentions of the Holy Father, asking God to give him strength and courage to lead Christ’s flock, uniting, not dividing them.