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When Peter (first pope) was told by Jesus to feed his sheep, and was given the power to bind and to loose, that was a delegated power given to Peter to work on behalf of but through Jesus himself. Jesus therefore appointed Peter to act on his behalf while He returned to the Father. Peter was made the earthly head of the Church, i.e., on this rock I will build my church. CCC 882: "The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful."402 'For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.'"403
CCC 875 "...The one sent by the Lord does not speak and act on his own authority, but by virtue of Christ's authority; not as a member of the community, but speaking to it in the name of Christ. No one can bestow grace on himself; it must be given and offered."

But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head.(27*) This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. For our Lord placed Simon alone as the rock and the bearer of the keys of the Church,(156) and made him shepherd of the whole flock;(157) it is evident, however, that the power of binding and loosing, which was given to Peter,(158) was granted also to the college of apostles, joined with their head.

The Vicar of Christ

When I was an Anglican priest in England, I held the title of vicar of the parish. The term derives from the fact that the vicar is a priest appointed to do a job in the stead of the official parish priest. One priest might oversee various parishes, and so he appoints vicars to do the job when he can’t be there.

Many non-Catholic Christians object to the pope being called the Vicar of Christ. But the word vicar simply stands for one who vicariously stands in for another person. A vicar is someone to whom a job is delegated. The three strands of biblical imagery—rock, steward, and shepherd—show in three different ways that Jesus intended Peter to exercise his ministry and authority here on earth—in other words, to act as his vicar.

The fact that there are three images is important because the authors of Scripture believed the number three to be one of the perfect numbers. A statement was most authoritative when it was expressed three times in three different ways.

We see this in the passage in John 21. Jesus gives his pastoral authority to Peter with three solemn commands: "Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep." Here Jesus delegates his authority three times in three different ways, using imagery found throughout the Old Testament. In so doing he clearly reveals his delegation of authority to Peter.

History shows that from the earliest days Christians considered Peter to be the very rock, steward, and shepherd that Jesus proclaimed him to be. Furthermore, from the earliest days they considered his successor to be the Bishop of Rome, and that Bishop of Rome endures today as rock, steward, and shepherd—just a few hundred yards from the site of Peter’s death and burial.

Does the Catholic Church build the claims to papal authority on one verse taken out of context? Hardly. The three strands of rock, steward, and shepherd are woven in and through the whole of Scripture, coming into focus in the life of Jesus Christ who is the true Rock, the King of the Kingdom and Good Shepherd, and who hands his authority on earth to Peter until he comes again.

When Jesus gave the apostles (bishops) the priestly power to forgive sins (sacrament of reconciliation), the priests are acting in persona Christi. (In the person of Christ)
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