In the light of persecution and scandal, the Papacy is the Rock of Faith. Thus, there are always those who seek to diminish its power and influence.
Saint John Chrysostom was a saint who confided in the Pope during his trials. He especially had recourse to the Pope after being unexpectedly chosen Patriarch of Constantinople in 397. He liked to say that God made Saint Peter, “a fisherman, to be stronger than any rock when the whole world wars against him.”1 With this in mind, Saint John governed in the East.
Upon his elevation to the office, Saint John immediately reformed the churches under his rule. He upbraided the clergy, reduced expenses and ended frequent banquets. He confined wandering monks to monasteries and built a great hospital using his household budget.
His preaching was seraphic and example without reproach. He gained the favor of all. Even the Empress could not resist his piety—she attended religious processions, listened to his sermons, and presented silver candlesticks to the parishes.2
However, Saint John’s intransigent yet charitable governing soon caused jealousy and slander. His enemies gathered and plotted against him. The effort to unseat him culminated with a great synod in which Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria and forty-two bishops presented a list of ridiculous accusations against Saint John.3 Afterward, he was exiled twice.
The Eastern Patriarch Appeals to Rome
Amidst the turmoil, he unceasingly appealed to “Royal Rome.”4 The Pope sought to help him by sending legates to the East, where they might summon a synod to vindicate him. However, they were imprisoned and sent home.5 These delays were agonizing for Saint John, for it seemed that Rome was silent.6
However, his devotion to the Papacy only increased. He held fast to what he believed: “we do not retain the body of Peter, but we retain the faith of Peter as though it were Peter himself; and while we retain the faith of Peter, we have Peter himself.”7
Such attitudes reflected his teachings about the Papacy. In one sermon, he said that God entrusted Saint Peter “the power over all that is in heaven, in giving the keys to him who extended the Church throughout the world, and showed it stronger than the world.”8 “Would that I could see [Saint Peter’s] tomb, where are laid the arms of justice, the armor of light… This body fortifies [Rome] more surely than any tower or ten thousand circumvallations.”9
He said Rome “has two eyes, the bodies of those two saints [Peter and Paul]. The heaven is not so bright when the sun shoots forth his rays as the city of the Romans, shedding forth the light of these two lamps throughout the world.”10
“What a rose shall Rome send forth to Christ! What diadems are those two, with which the city is crowned, with that chains of gold it is girded; what fountains it hath! For this, I admire the city, not for its much gold, for its columns, or any other fantasy, but because of these two pillars of the Church.”11
Such was the spirit with which he appealed to Rome. The exiled saint, however, was not rescued from his misfortunes. His persecutors escorted him to the extremities of the East, where soldiers tortured him until he finally broke down and died. “His last words were: Doxa to theo panton eneken (Glory be to God for all things).”12
Model of Devotion to the Papacy
The crisis in the Church and the Papacy is a terrible trial for Catholics today. However, the example of Saint John should encourage Catholics to confide in the Church, Her institutions and mission despite all appearances. The Faithful have the promise that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church built upon the Rock of Peter.
- Saint Chrysostom on the Apostle Peter. http://www.biblicalcatholic.com/apologetics/num52.htm
- Baur, C. (1910). St. John Chrysostom. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved July 4, 2022 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08452b.htm
- Saint Chrysostom on the Apostle Peter.