A “Chair” Man in Service of Unity
Many people think a cathedral is just a really big or beautiful church. Actually, any church could be a cathedral. A cathedral gets its name from the Latin word cathedra which means “chair.” Each diocese has a church which houses a special chair reserved for the bishop. This chair represents his governing and teaching authority over the diocese. A Bishop’s church which contains his chair, his cathedra, is therefore called a cathedral.
Today we celebrate the dedication of the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The bishop of Rome is of course also the Pope and thus, if you go to the Lateran basilica you will find a chair upon which Pope Benedict sits which represents his authority over the diocese of Rome and indeed over the entire universal Church. Today’s feast is thus a commemoration of the historical event in 324 when the physical building was first dedicated, but it also serves as a spiritual reminder. The Pope and his successors teach with authority given to them by Jesus. It is only through this ongoing presence of Jesus to His Church that unity is achieved.
Pope Benedict may well be remembered as the “Pope of Christian Unity” one day. His recent welcoming of many Anglicans back into union with the Church is just one example. Jesus promised that he would not allow the Pope to lead His Church into error in matters of faith and morals. This is a divinely protected gift that works often in spite of the sinfulness of the man himself. We thank God for the example of our present Holy Father today and pray for the continued unity of all Christians.