The pivotal roles of Saints Peter and Paul

The pivotal roles of Saints Peter and Paul

Michael Gilchrist

The Feast Day of Saints Peter and Paul on 29 June is a timely reminder of the pivotal roles - different but complementary - which each played in setting the foundations of the Church as we know it today.

The all-too-human Saint Peter ensured Christianity's roots were anchored firmly in the Jewish Old Testament tradition. His choice by Jesus as the Rock on which he would build the Church established a fresh tradition that has extended to the present Vicar of Christ in John Paul II.

St Paul ensured that the early Church, while built on Jewish foundations, would be extended to the Gentiles worldwide, as Christ had commanded His Apostles - "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ...".

The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles.

Paul had been the most Pharisaic of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Yet suddenly he appeared to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate.

Paul's central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort - even the most scrupulous observance of law - can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus.

Paul's experience of the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was the driving force that made him one of the most zealous, dynamic and courageous ambassadors of Christ the Church has ever had.

Michael Gilchrist - Editor (email:; website:

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