Roman Church

Founded by unknown persons about the middle of the first century, the Roman Church entertained Paul and Peter, Luke and Mark, witnessed the martyrdom of the chief apostles and piously attended their graves. In a single generation Rome withstood the fires of two persecutions, and served in short as the focus of Christian life in the capital of the world.

The Roman Church had chosen to separate herself from the Unity of the true universal church by thinking that she was the only church catholic enough to be called that by name. Divisions ultimately followed. Once they separated the priests from the laity, the Roman Bishop assumed precedence as head over the other bishops.

Christianity had already found its way to Rome by obscure yet significant ways. Probably Jews and Greeks who had been converted in the east and had later removed to Rome, in search of better business conditions or the larger opportunities of the capital, had first introduced the gospel there and organized little house congregations. The fervor of the early believers was such that every convert was a missionary who spread the good news wherever he travelled.

Leo the Great (440-461) already had decided that the Roman rule must be obeyed by the universal church. Alexandria must do as Rome bade it because, though there is no record of any one of the apostles being the master of the other, Leo said St. Mark naturally would have obeyed his master, St. Peter. The Roman Bishop is becoming a monarch.

History seems to prove that the Apostle Peter founded the bishopric of Antioch, and it is possible that he was in Rome. He may even have been Rome's first Bishop. But the early supremacy of certain Christian cities claimed over others rested on the fact that their first Bishop had been an apostle. Originally, all Bishops were independent in their own home towns, but soon Rome, Antioch and Alexandria, apostle-Bishoped cities, took precedence. Gradually, the development of the legends of the Roman's bishops' pre-eminence over all other bishops in the West spread all throughout the world and it was considered a fact that Rome was the only apostolic bishopric in the West. All sorts of special privileges were claimed by the Roman Bishops because of St. Peter. From this developed the claim that the whole Western Church must now bow to the primacy of Rome.
[142, 374, BD]

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