Roman See

(Latin: sedes romana, Roman seat)

The seat of government of the Universal Church; the Roman Church in a local sense. Also the office of the supreme head of the Church; in the latter sense more commonly called the Holy See, the Apostolic See, See of Peter, Papacy. The Roman See was founded by Saint Peter c.42 and governed by him till his death, c.67. This fact constitutes the historical foundation of the claim of the Bishops of Rome to the Primacy of Peter. In attempting to destroy this claim the Lutherans and Calvinists, and more recently some Rationalists have tried to prove that Saint Peter never was at Rome. No scholar of any repute denies it now. The Roman See has always been the primatial see of Christendom. Even during the first three centuries it was acknowledged as such by all the churches of the world. Before the end of the 1st century the church at Corinth appealed to the Roman Church to heal a schism. In the early part of the 2nd century Ignatius of Antioch addressed the Roman Church as the President of the Christian society and gratefully received its instructions and commands. To the Roman Church came the leaders of all the early heresies, seeking approval from the Bishop of Rome, and rebelling only when it was refused. The Bishops of the Roman See were the only ones who dared to summon Councils, and to excommunicate, i.e., to cut off individuals and whole provinces from the common unity in Christ. Its bishops always acted as the judges of Christian life and discipline. To the Roman Church we owe the closing of the Canon of the Scriptures, and the beginnings of Canon Law. It was the one appealed to in all times of stress and misfortune. In a word, for the first three centuries, the churches of the world looked to the Roman See for authoritative decisions in all matters of faith, discipline, government, and ritual for they saw in its bishops the successors of Saint Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth. The supremacy of the Roman See has been attacked since then, however, in the Greek Schism, Protestantism, etc. The succession of bishops in the Roman See is a guarantee that Apostolic doctrine has been preserved in its original purity. Communion with this See was, according to Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine and others, a test of orthodoxy. The death of Saint Peter in the Roman See has for all time irrevocably fixed it as the chief see of the Christian Church. Circumstances, in times past, have made it necessary for its bishops to reside elsewhere (at Avignon during the great Western Schism), but tbey still remained bishops of Rome and consequently the successors of Saint Peter. From Saint Peter, the first bishop, to the present Pope Benedict XVI, 265 bishops have ruled the See of Rome. In modern times the actual diocese is governed by a Cardinal Vicar. Within the territorial limits of the Roman See are situated the various offices of Congregations and Commissions employed in administering the affairs of the Universal Church.

New Catholic Dictionary

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