The Didache, dating from A.D. 70 – 140 , , states "Appoint for yourselves therefore bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord" (§15). Saint Clement, Pope , d. A.D. 101, wrote about the order with which Jesus commanded the affairs of the Church be conducted. The liturgies are "to be celebrated, and not carelessly nor in disorder," and the selection of persons was also "by His supreme will determined" (see Letter of Clement to the Corinthians, ch. 40). Clement emphasized that the relationship between God, Jesus, the apostles, and the orders given to the apostles, are "made in an orderly way". Jurgens states that Clement cites Isaiah 60:17 which in some translations includes "I will make thy visitation peace, and thy overseers justice" (emphasis added). In chapter 43 of the cited "Letter" Clement refers to the way "rivalry ... concerning the priesthood" was resolved by or through Moses, and in chapter 44, that likewise, the apostles "gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry." St. Ignatius of Antioch , d. A.D. 107, spoke in "praise of unity" in a Letter to the Ephesians, saying "He, therefore, that does not assemble with the Church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself. For it is written, 'God resisteth the proud.' Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God" (§5). Stressing the relationship between the Church initiated by Jesus and the hierarchy set in motion by the apostles, Ignatius writes: "we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself" (§6). Ignatius stresses the hierarchical relationship between God and the bishop more strongly to the Magnesians urging them "to yield him all reverence, having respect to the power of God the Father, ... submitting to him, or rather not to him, but to the Father of Jesus Christ, the bishop of us all" (§3). In §6 he exhorts them to harmony, and in §13 urges them to "[s]tudy ... to be established in the doctrines of the Lord and the apostles, ... with your most admirable bishop...." Thus Ignatius emphasizes unity, obedience, and the hierarchical relationship among the faithful and between the bishop and God. Further elements of the hierarchical relationship are mentioned by St. Clement of Alexandria d. A.D. 217, referring to advice in the "holy books: some for presbyters, some for bishops and deacons" (Jurgens §413), and writing treatises with titles "On the Unity and Excellence of the Church" and "On the Offices of Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, and Widows." In his Stromateis Clement of Alexandria writes that "according to my opinion, the grades here in the Church, of bishops, presbyters, deacons, are imitations of the angelic glory, and of that economy which, the Scriptures say, awaits those who, following the footsteps of the apostles, have lived in perfection of righteousness according to the Gospel" (Ch. 13). Other references can be adduced to show that earliest belief held that the Church is hierarchical.
Pope St. Cornelius d. A.D. 253, gave a detailed accounting of the structure of the Church at the time he was pope, and enquired in a seemingly rhetorical way, "[He], then, did not know that there must be one bishop in the Catholic Church. Yet he was not unaware — how could he be? — that in it there are ..." and thence follows the accounting (Denziger §45, Jurgens §546a). This came about because Novatian had allegedly made himself antipope; Cornelius was emphasizing the perceived need for recognition of one bishop, one head of the Church.
St. Optatus d. A.D. 385, who opposed the Donatists, clearly believed in a "Chair of Peter", calling it a gift of the Church and saying, as summarized by Henry Wace, that "Parmenian must be aware that the episcopal chair was conferred from the beginning on Peter, the chief of the apostles, that unity might be preserved among the rest and no one apostle set up a rival." "You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head — that is why he is also called Cephas — of all the Apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained by all. Neither do other Apostles proceed individually on their own; and anyone who would set up another chair in opposition to that single chair would, by that very fact, be a schismatic and a sinner" (Jurgens §1242). Other references can be adduced to show that earliest belief held that the Church is monarchical.
For it's part the Catholic Church currently considers these the successors of Peter, whom they consider the first pope, and through whom following popes would claim authority.
As early as the second century, the bishop of Rome began to claim his supremacy over all other bishops, and some church fathers also made this claim for him.
When the doctrine originated, the extent of the authority that the bishops of Rome were claiming was unclear. Historically, the primacy of the Pope was largely accepted by all bishops of the Church, and he was at least considered to be the first in honor of all bishops. However, the supremacy of the Pope over all bishops, first declared by Pope Leo I was rejected by the bishops serving outside of Rome's jurisdiction.
Writing about Pope Leo I, church historian Ernest Trice Thompson writes, “None of the early church fathers interpreted Jesus' words to Peter to mean that to Peter and to his successors, the bishops of Rome, full authority in the church had been granted; this, however, was the claim of Leo. It was a claim that bishops in the older parts of the empire would never accept.”
The dispute about the authority of Roman bishops reached a climax in the year 1054, when Leo IX, bishop of Rome, interfered with churches that paid allegiance to Michael I Cerularius, bishop of Constantinople. The disputed ended when the two bishops exchanged letters in which the bishops excommunicated each other. This event resulted in the Church being split into two branches – the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The primacy of the Roman Pontiff was again challenged in 1517 when a priest named Martin Luther began preaching against the sale of indulgences. When Pope Leo X refused to support Luther’s position, Luther investigated the source of the pontiff’s authority, after which Luther concluded that the doctrine of papal authority had no historical basis. Luther’s rejection of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff led to the start of the Protestant Reformation, during which numerous churches broke away from the Roman Catholic Church.
In July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI revived the dispute about papal primacy when he approved of a document which states that Eastern Orthodox churches are defective because they do not recognize the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, that Protestant churches are not true churches, and that Roman Catholicism is the only true path to salvation. An Associated Press story about the document states that the document’s claim “brought swift criticism from Protestant leaders.”
In October 2007, a joint commission of Orthodox and Catholic theologians agreed that the Pope has primacy among all bishops of the Church, something which has been universally acknowledged by both churches since the First Council of Constantinople in 381, though disagreements about the extent of his authority still continue. The Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue reached the agreement in a meeting in Ravenna, Italy, where the Pope was said to have a primus inter pares role not complete authority as had been stated before.
You Are Peter: A Critical Analysis of the Orthodox View of Papal Primacy in View of an Alternative Way of Exercising Papal Primacy
Jan 01, 2010; I. Introduction Written in Latin, around the base of the big dome in the interior of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, are the...