How to elect a Pope: Step 1- dig the foundations for a church.

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Pope_John_Paul_I copy“If someone had told me I would be Pope one day, I would have studied harder” Pope John Paul I

Okay, where was I? I’m sure you all want to know where I was almost as much as I do, if there is anyone still out there.  First up a big apology.

I’m Sorry, truly sorry for hanging you up this long. 

I got wrapped up in a lot of things, none of which really matter and are simply excuses for neglecting this blog abominably. Okay, technically speaking I did an excellent job of neglecting it but you know what I’m trying to say.

Now then, at the end of our last post I promised a bit of a retrospective on conclaves. I may go into the actual election process in another post but, really, it’s fairly cut and dried. As cut and dried as any political process can be, that is.

Up until 1075 the conclave as we now know it did not exist. The leadership of the church evolved over the first few centuries as the structure of the church developed. The records are quite fragmented for early years because Christians were initially a group within the Jewish tradition. The Apostles preached in synagogues and followed ancient city of Jerusalem copythe laws of the Old Testament.

The early days were tumultuous ones and the Christians, like any family, found themselves up against the Hellenists (greek) under the temple roof.

One of the major disagreements was that Christians openly welcomed Gentiles to hear them teach and to join the church. An ardent opponents of these Christian heretics was one Saul of Tarsus.

Place_of_the_stoning_of_St._Stephen_in_Jerusalem copyIt is said he was present in Jerusalem at the stoning death of Saint Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian church. 

There are many maps that trace the movements of the Apostles as they spread throughout the Roman empire. They established churches wherever they went and consecrated priests to teaching the word of Christ. It is important to remember that even at this time, the church Michelangelo_Merisi_da_Caravaggio_-_The_Conversion_on_the_Way_to_Damascus_(detail)_-_WGA04134 copywas considered an off shoot of Judaism. Even after Saul saw the light, changed his name to Paul and developed a strong following among the Gentiles, the business of the church was still conducted under the roof of the synagogue. 

Saint Peter did make his way to Rome where, along with St. Paul, he established a solid Christian presence. It was during his final years of life, here in Rome, he was became what we think of as the Bishop of Rome. He did not designate successors but he did consecrate priests who went on, following Saint Peter’s  Martyrdom, to lead the church in Rome. It is from this beginning the papacy eventually, centuries later, came into existence. Rome_basilica_st_peter_013 copy

Rather than say something outrageously wrong or misleading, I’m going to sidestep the whole thing until late into the 11th century. At this point there is a church of Rome, it is a viable, living and encoded organization and there are a few definitive timelines I can refer to while writing this.

For an excellent presentation of this tumultuous early history, I heartily recommend you subscribe to the wonderful catholic under the hood iconFather Seraphim Beshoner’s podcast, Catholic: Under the Hood. Follow the link to his website to pick up the iTunes subscription link. He has a lot of information on the site, too, which will make most of this hash into something resembling sense.

Anyway, I will endeavour to return to you in a couple of weeks with the next chapter on papal elections. 

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