1. What is the Chair of Peter?
It depends on what you mean – we look at both the physical object and the spiritual reality it represents.
2. What is the physical Chair of St. Peter?
This object–known as the Cathedra Petri (Latin, “Chair of Peter”)–is located in the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica. It is in the back of the chamber, behind the famous altar, on the far, back wall, below the the well-known, stained glass image depicting the Holy Spirit as a dove (see above).
This display contains an ancient chair that has been repaired and ornamented over time.
3. How has the chair changed over time?
Various modifications have been made to the chair, to repair and ornament it.
4. Did St. Peter really sit in this chair?
Pope Benedict XVI placed less emphasis on the archaeological authenticity of the chair than on its spiritual significance.
5. What is the spiritual significance of the feast the Church celebrates today?
Celebrating the “Chair” of Peter means attributing a strong spiritual significance to it and recognizing it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the eternal Good Shepherd, who wanted to gather his whole Church and lead her on the path of salvation [General Audience, Feb. 22, 2006].
6. What does the first Scripture reading of the day have to teach us?
The first reading for the day is 1 Peter 5:1–4, which reads:
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory.
7. What does the responsorial Psalm of the day have to teach us?
The responsorial Psalm is taken from Psalm 23:1-6. It also echoes the theme of shepherding.
In this case the Lord is identified for the individual believer as “my shepherd,” with the result that “I shall not want” (that is, I shall not lack anything).
8. What does the gospel reading of the day have to teach us?
The gospel reading for the day is Matthew 16:13-19, in which Jesus declares Peter the rock on which he will build his Church.
9. Does the pope have to sit in the physical Chair of Peter be infallible?
No. Although the pope’s infallible pronouncements are called ex cathedra (Latin, “from the chair”) statements, he does not have to be sitting in the physical chair (which is rather high off the ground in any case).
In fact, he doesn’t have to be seated at all.
He simply has to use the fullness of his authority as the successor of Peter to definitively teaching a particular matter pertaining to faith or morals.
This use of the full extent of his teaching authority is referred to figuratively, as him speaking “from the chair” of St. Peter.
It’s a figurative expression, not a reference to the physical object.