Chair of St. Peter strong as ever


Catholic Register, 24 February 2017

VATICAN CITY – The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Feb. 22, is my favourite day to visit St. Peter’s Basilica.

The massive bronze throne that adorns the apse is lit up with metre-high tapers, making one of Bernini’s most impressive works even more glorious. It’s actually a reliquary, for it contains the relics of a chair which tradition assigns to Peter himself, symbolizing the teaching authority of the Roman pontiff.

Bernini’s “chair” is supported by clouds of glory pouring out of the Holy Spirit window, as if to say that the enormous weight of the Petrine office can only be supported by God Himself. But Peter has human collaborators too, and Bernini situated four great fathers of the Church — Ambrose, Augustine, John Chrysostom and Athanasius — alongside the cathedra of Peter, prince of the apostles.

I have a special affection for the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s. I was ordained a deacon there in 2001, and always stop to offer a prayer of thanksgiving whenever I am in Rome. So it was a blessing to be able to offer the Holy Mass in St. Peter’s this past Feb. 22.

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