The Church Was/Is Roman and Catholic
Acts chapters 9, 19, 22, and 24 mention “the Way,” which was the name of the early Christian community. Clearly, Saints Peter, John, Paul, and the other Apostles were leaders of the Way. With this in mind, I am going to read some writings that describe this Church. As I read, notice the connection between the Apostles and their successors. This connection is called apostolic succession, and the Church in which this connection continues to exist is the Catholic Church, aka the Roman Church, a title used by some of the Church fathers.
Beginning with St. Paul’s Letter to the Roman Church, St. Paul says to the Roman Christians, “To all God’s beloved in Rome who are called to be saints….” “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world” (Ch. 1).
Scripture nowhere states that the faith of the Roman Church stopped being proclaimed throughout the world. In fact, when one looks at all the “churches,” one will notice that no other church comes close to the size and geographic presence of the Catholic Church (1.3 billion members, 197 countries). Thus, St. Paul’s words continue to be true today.
The Apostolic and Early Church Fathers
St. Ignatius of Antioch (Bishop, apostolic father in Antioch, Turkey) in A.D 110, ordained by St. Peter and taught by St. John, wrote,
Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.” “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” “…the Church that is beloved and enlightened by the will of him that wills all things according to the love of Jesus Christ our God, that presides in the place of the Romans…. (A.D. 110).
The Roman Church was and continues to be Catholic.
St. Polycarp (A.D. 69-155, apostolic father and bishop of Smyrna, Greece) was a disciple of St. John the Apostle. A letter titled the Martyrdom of Polycarp states,
Having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquiring the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous [in heaven], rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls, the governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, France, A.D. 189 (Eastern father), bishop and disciple of St. Polycarp, argued,
…we confute all those who,…assemble in unauthorized meetings, by indicating those Traditions derived from the Apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul.
For it is a matter of necessity that every church agrees with this church [the one in Rome], on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, in so far as the apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
By refusing to agree with the Roman Church’s teachings, other churches separate themselves from authentic Christianity.
St. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, Greece (Eastern father), under Pope Soter (A.D. 170), wrote,
From the beginning, it has been your practice to do good to all the brethren in various ways…, you Romans [meaning the church in Rome] keep up the hereditary custom of the Romans, which your blessed Bishop Soter has not only maintained, but added to, furnishing an abundance of supplies to the saints, and encouraging the brethren from abroad with blessed words, as a loving father his children.
Tertullian of Carthage (A.D 155-240, Western ecclesial author), who wrote in A.D. 200,
Where was [the heretic] Marcion, that shipmaster of Pontus, the zealous student of Stoicism? Where was Valentinus, the disciple of Platonism? For it is evident that those men lived not so long ago, in the reign of Antonius for the most part, and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherius….
St. Hegesippus, Palestine, wrote, “And when I had come to Rome, I remained there until Anicetus (eleventh bishop of Rome), whose deacon was Eleutherius. And Anicetus was succeeded by Soter, and he by Eleutherius” (A.D. 180). This quote shows apostolic succession.
Note: J.N.D. Kelly’s, “The Oxford Dictionary of Popes,” traces the names and biographical information of all popes from St. Peter to today.
Lastly, St. Cyprian of Carthage, bishop and Western Father, wrote, “Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress [a schismatic church] is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can anyone who forsakes the Church of Christ attain the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who does not have the Church for his mother [Unity of the Catholic Church 6, first edition (Treatise 1) (A.D. 251)].
Akin, Jimmy. The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church. Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.
The Eastern Orthodox Churches also attests to the Catholic Church’s authenticity and authority. However, they do not regard the Catholic Church’s authority as preeminent.
Other Early Church Fathers and historical figures who wrote about Roman Church’s preeminent authority include St. Cyprian of Carthage (A.D. 251), Firmilian of Caesarea (A.D. 255), Eusebius of Caesarea (A.D. 312), Pope St. Julius I (A.D. 341), Council of Sardica (A.D. 342), St. Optatus of Milevis (A.D. 367), St. Jerome (A.D. 376), Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381), St. Augustine (A.D. 411) and many others.