The Papacy: The Ministry of St. Peter in the New Testament (2 of 3)


Students will understand that St. Peter was given a special pastoral ministry by Jesus Christ: that of “Rock” and “Shepherd” of the early Church.

Scripture References: Acts 2:42; Gal. 1:18; Jn. 1:35-42; Mt. 16:13-23; Jn. 21:1-19; Jn.10:14-16.

Review last lesson:


I. The early Church pattern:

Virtually all Christians (Orthodox, Protestant as well as Catholic) agree: the Church in every generation should try to live according to the example set by Jesus' own apostles.

A. The early Church pattern: Read to the class Acts 2:42 (the apostle's "teaching," "fellowship," "breaking of the bread," "the prayers".)

What do these expressions mean? Remind the class that each of these aspects of the life of the early Christian community came originally from Jesus Himself.

Did the early Church as a whole have a chief shepherd or pastor? A hint can be found in Gal. 1:11-24: St. Paul, the greatest missionary of the early Church, went to Jerusalem, where all the apostles lived, to make sure he was teaching authentic doctrine – but who did he go to see above all? "Cephas?" (The Rock). A man named "Rock" was the leader or chief pastor of the early Church!

B. Our pattern now: includes each local church or parish having a pastor, or chief shepherd.

II. The significance of Peter's name:

A. How Peter received his name: (Read with the class Jn.1:35-42.)

B. Peter's special role of Rock – foundation and support o the early Church – is shown by another fact:

III. The ministry Jesus intended for Peter

A. Peter the Rock: (Read with the class Mt. 16:13-23)

Peter acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus praises Peter in response, and outlines the special ministry He will give to him (in the future; it is all future tense)

In short, Jesus promised to make Peter His key bearer – His chief deputy in the community of His disciples – and this would be so for every generation, with the support of heaven. In this way Peter's ministry would be the "Rock" of the Church.

B. Peter the Shepherd: (Read with the class Jn. 21: 1-19)

Jesus had promised to make Peter His chief-deputy in the future – here He fulfills that promise.

But how does He?

IV. The Petrine ministry today

A. Where can we find in the Church today a ministry like the one exercised by St. Peter?

Catholics claim it can only be in the "See" of St. Peter, Rome, from which the successors of St. Peter have always shepherded and strengthened the Church.


  1. Read the Catechism, sections 880-882. How does the Catechism base the ministry of the Pope on the role of St. Peter in the New Testament?
  2. Read Karl Keating Catechism and Fundamentalism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), Chapter 17: "Peter and the Papacy," p. 198-214. How does Mr. Keating answer the chief Protestant objections to the New Testament basis for the papacy?
  3. Find three pictures of statues or paintings of St. Peter. What do these artworks try to express about Peter and his ministry?
    Watch the video "Saving Grace" starring Tom Conti. Discuss the distinction in the film between the Pope as a human being, struggling for spiritual growth and understanding, and the nature and burdens of his office.

    The Papacy

    The Papacy: An Introduction (1 of 3)
    The Papacy: The Ministry of St. Peter in the New Testament (2 of 3)
    The Papacy: The Petrine Ministry in the Early Church (3 of 3)



Robert Stackpole, S.T.D. "The Papacy: The Ministry of St. Peter in the New Testament (2 of 3)." Catholic Education Resource Center.

This lesson plan may be reproduced and distributed by any means as long as credit is given to the original author and to the Catholic Education Resource Center.


Robert Stackpole is an Associate Professor at Redeemer Pacific College in Langley, British Columbia where he also seres as Academic Coordinator. An American by birth, Robert Stackpole earned a B.A. in History from Williams College in Massachusetts, and a Masters degree in Theology from Oxford University in England. Robert was an ordained Anglican pastor before becoming a Catholic in 1994. After his conversion, he married a Catholic Canadian, and they went to Rome together, where Robert obtained a Doctorate in Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum). Upon returning to North America, in 1997 he began work as the Research Director, and later Director, of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy based in Stockbridge Massachusetts, a position that he still holds. In that capacity, he has been a speaker at many conferences, and the author of numerous journal articles and books on the Divine Mercy message and devotion, including Jesus, Mercy, Mercy Incarnate (Marian Press, 2000) and Divine Mercy, A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press, 2008), as well as St. Peter Lives in Rome: An Anglican Discovers in the Ministry of the Pope (Marian Press, 2005), as well as the editor of Pillars of Fire in my Soul: The Spirituatlity of St. Faustina (Marian Press, 2003). At present he is the author of the Divine Mercy Q&A course that regularly appears on the principal divine Mercy website every Wednesday at

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