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Rock of the Church, Papal Authority, Foundation of the Church, St. Peter

“But what is his error . . . who does not remain on the foundation of the one Church which was founded upon the rock by Christ [Matt. 16:18], can be learned from this, which Christ said to Peter alone: ‘Whatever things you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:19]” (collected in Cyprian’s Letters 74[75]:16 [A.D. 253]).

“[Pope] Stephen … boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church were laid [Matt. 16:18]. … Stephen [the 23rd pope] … announces that he holds by succession the throne of Peter” (collected in Cyprian’s Letters 74[75]:17 [A.D. 253]).

“Such a departure Stephen has now dared to make by breaking the peace against you which his predecessors always kept with you in mutual love and honour. In this way he defames the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, declaring that they had handed down this custom, who in fact execrated heretics in their letters, and warned us to avoid them. From this it is apparent that this tradition [of Stephen] is human, for it supports the heretics and asserts that they have the baptism which belongs to the Church alone.

“. . . For as a heretic may not lawfully ordain or lay on hands, neither may he baptize or perform any holy or spiritual act, since he is alien to spiritual and godly holiness. Some time ago we confirmed that all this should be held fast and maintained against the heretics. We were assembled with those from Galatia, Cilicia, and other nearby regions at a place in Phrygia called Iconium, because some people were doubtful about these things.

“ In view of this, I am rightly indignant at the folly of Stephen so open and conspicuous. He who so boasts about the place of his bishopric and insists that he holds his succession from Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church were laid, is introducing many other rocks and is building many new churches, as long as he supports their baptism with his authority. . . . Stephen, who declares that he has the chair of Peter by succession, is roused by no zeal against the heretics.

“Of no one more than of thee [Stephen] do the divine scriptures say "An angry man stirreth up strife, and a wrathful man heapeth up sins". For what great strifes and dissensions hast thou stirred up throughout the churches of the whole world ! And how great a sin hast thou heaped up, when thou cuttest thyself off from so many flocks ! For thou didst cut thyself off; be not deceived; for he who has made himself an apostate from the communion of the united Church is truly the schismatic. For while thou thinkest that all may be excommunicated by thee, thou hast excommunicated thyself alone from all.” (Ibid).

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