Many of our separated brothers and sisters ask where we find a “pope” in the Bible. One example is in St. Matthew 16, where Jesus says to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”1
In the ancient world, kingdoms would have a leader underneath the king who was responsible for the administration of the government—we might call them the prime ministers. We find an example of this in Isaiah 22,2 when God declares that Shebna, the Prime Minister of Israel, will be deposed for his sins and replaced by Eliakim, whom God says will be a father to Israel and will carry the key of the house of David—“what he opens none shall shut; and what he shuts none shall open.”
When Jesus gave Peter the keys in Matthew 16, the apostles already understood their significance. Peter was to be their leader, the prime minister that will shepherd Christ’s Church. “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”3
What a gift we have in Pope Benedict, who still carries the keys today.
1 – Mt. 16:19
2 – see Is. 22: 20-25
3 – Mt. 16:19