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June 29, 2014

Last Saturday I was in the confessional continuing the ministry of Peter “to bind and to lose,” suddenly I saw a “Catholic” mouse that was waiting for his turn to do confession.  I didn’t want my female customer get a heart-attack.  I patiently waited for her to finish her very long confession, then I locked the door chasing that mouse around for 5 minutes and couldn’t get it.  I called for help.  Finally two of us gave it a “final recommendation and a burial!”  If you have to open a church door, please don’t let any “Catholic” mice in again.  Thanks. 

The final years of Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome are shrouded in uncertainties.  The last historical scriptural reference to Peter has him at the Council of Jerusalem advocating Paul’s mission to the Gentiles (Acts 15).  The last mention to Paul puts him in Rome awaiting trial before the emperor (Acts 28).

Both men perished there, probably in the Neronian persecution. This belief is accepted by most historians.  Church tradition, considerably strengthened by twentieth century archaeology, identifies the places where each died and where each was buried.  In addition to that, however, is a wealth of legend and mythology, most of it appearing 150 years after the apostles died.

A third century work records that when the Neronian persecution began, Peter was leaving the city rather than facing crucifixion with other Christians.  As he fled south, he encountered Jesus walking toward the city.  “Quo vadis, Domine?  He asked.  “Where are you going, Lord?  Jesus, in what became Quo Vadis Legend, replied, “To Rome, to be crucified again.”  Peter, once again humiliated, thought further, turned, and went back to Rome where, at his own request, he was crucified upside down, feeling himself unworthy of being crucified in the same way as his Master.

Even within the realm of the historical, the documentation of facts is sparse.  The specific mention of Paul’s fate comes in a letter from a Roman priest named Gaius, written late in the second century.  It places the tomb of St. Paul near Ostian Gate of the city and that of Peter on Vatican Hill.  Monuments were erected by Christians at both sites in the time of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, about A.D. 160.  Another document written at the same time, gives the site of Paul’s martyrdom as three miles down the Tiber from Rome.

Peter is assumed to have been crucified at a place on Vatican Hill and buried nearby.  The connection of Peter and Paul to the Church of Rome is the basic reason that the Catholic Church made the Vatican as the capital of the Church.  Jesus built his Church on Peter’s faith so where Peter is, the Church is.  The Church does not die with Peter, but continues on in his successors, the Popes.  Throughout centuries, the Church has been persecuted in many ways, but the Church survives and is continuously growing because the promise of Jesus is still with the Church: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”