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The Collegiality of the Petrine Ministry

(By Jaime Sevilla, MAPM, M.Th)

In the news, it has transcended the investigative report of Nicolás Sanéze on the plot that exists in the USA against Pope Francis by some prelates and millionaire people of the conservative ultra-right. The reason is that they do not agree on how the Pope is leading the Church, especially, because it is a poor Church for the poor.

We all know that the main role of the Petrine ministry is to maintain collegiality. It has been this way since the beginning of the Church. That is why Jesus Christ chose Peter to carry out such ministry (Mt 16:18-19). Every bishop chosen by the successor of Peter owes his obedience and unity to the Pope, no matter how much his personality, his pastoral vision or his openness to the changes that times demand. It is sad to see how there are bishops, among them cardinals, who openly stand against Peter’s successor; and if this were not enough, they promote with multimillion-dollar people, strategies to discredit the work of Pope Francis, either discrediting him or inventing negative things about those cardinals and bishops that Peter’s successor has chosen.

These kind of bishops know that they are very bad since their actions not only threaten the collegiality of the Petrine ministry but against the entire unity of the Universal Church. When a bishop has this type of thought or attitude and promotes them within his circle, he should automatically renounce his ministry; since he has left his catholicity aside. No bishop, among them cardinals, has to go against Peter’s successor, because he would be against Jesus Christ and His Church.

As for the laity who lend themselves to the desires of such hierarchs to go against the Pope, I remind them that, as baptized, we also owe our obedience to Peter’s successor, since Jesus Christ left him as the head of His Church to shepherd her (Jn 21:15-17). We have to be aware that the Petrine ministry is the axis of the unity of all baptized. It is around the Pope that we live our universal fraternity. Therefore, when a group of hierarchs and lay people gather to make sinister plans against Peter’s successor, they no longer belong to the Catholic Church as such, but have become a sect; therefore, they lack all authority and credibility as far as the affairs of the Catholic Church are concerned.

Remember that United States Catholics are a very small portion of the Catholic Church. This means that those who have the presumption of wanting to change the Universal Church at will is to live in an unrealistic world. The Church founded by Christ does not have its base in power or wealth, but in the service of others, especially the poorest and most marginalized.

It is interesting to see how there are bishops and laity who long for the times of Pope John Paul II, which seems fine to me; however, we must remember that we must turn the page. It is interesting to see how the time of the papacy of Benedict XVI is longed for, which seems fine to me; but we must understand that Benedict XVI is no longer the successor of Peter, but the bishop emeritus of Rome. The fact that he stayed to live in the Vatican is an act that simply shows Pope Francis’s kindness; since when he renounced the Petrine ministry, he also renounced all that it contains.

Canonically or theologically speaking, the term Pope Emeritus does not exist, there is the Bishop Emeritus of Rome. This means that, like any other bishop, at the end of his ministerial period, he resigns and leaves the episcopal house to his successor. He can never stay to live in the same house as the new titular bishop of the diocese, nor should the current bishop emeritus of Rome have to have stayed to live in the Vatican.

I have expressed all of the above so that we may locate ourselves and appreciate the pastoral ministry of our current Pope. We know that in Francis we find that link of unity of the Universal Church; we are aware that as baptized, we must pray for him all the time and accept the call to promote a poor Church for the poor; since that call is not a personal whim, but the essence of the Gospel. Jesus Christ asks us to bring that Kingdom of God to all people, especially, those most in need.

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