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'Peter in Rome' is carved on the rock

· Research and discussions continue on a question that arose in the 19th century ·

The Osservatore Romano of February 11 and 13, 1872 in its column, “Citizen News” published an exhaustive and detailed account of the “Dispute between Catholic priests and Evangelical ministers” written after “clamour” in the city following a conference held on February 1st by the Evangelical minister, Francesco Sciarelli, on the provocative and sensitive theme, “On the historical impossibility of the travel of St. Peter to Rome and his episcopate.” The debate involved three Catholic priests and three Evangelical pastors and took place in the salon of the Tiberian Academy at the Palazzo of the Sabini in front of “two hundred and fifty guests, Catholic and non-Catholic, who were seated separately on the right and on the left of the presidential bench.”

The thesis, on the Protestant side, was the classic one of the silence of New Testament writings – and in particular in the Acts of the Apostles – on the presence of Peter in Rome. The Catholic position energetically opposed this view and naturally defended the tradition which had been consolidated from the last decades of the first century with the epistles of Clement and Ignatius of Antioch to the Romans. At the end of the heated and – in form – respectful debate, each side remained convinced of its own position.

The heart of the dispute of 1872 remained central in historical-literary-philosophical research, though the confessional polemic – with some exceptions – remained substantially marginalized. In this atmosphere of debate without conflict, a positive common opinion was affirmed at the end of the 19th century on the presence of Peter in Rome which can be synthesized in the words of Adolf von Harnack, Protestant theologian and indisputable maestro of the history of the ancient Church: “(denying the Roman presence of Peter) is today an error as clear as the sun for every scholar who is not willfully blind…the Roman martyrdom of Peter was contested based on tendentious prejudices, first of Protestants and then of critics.” ( Die Chronologie de altchristlichen Christentums bis Irenaeus , i, Leipzig, 1897, p.244)

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