The Holy Father

“The Lord made St Peter the visible foundation of His Church. He entrusted the keys of the Church to him. The bishop of the Church of Rome, successor to St Peter, is ‘head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth’. The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, ‘supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls’.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 936-937)

Communion with the Holy Father and obedience to him were essential for both St Francis and St Clare. Soon after the community started to form around him, St Francis realised that he should not go further without the approval and guidance of the Pope, at that time Innocent III. So, with his companions, he set out for Rome, where the Holy Father recognised in him one who would uphold and renew the Church. St Clare too remained close to the Holy Father. She eagerly awaited the approval of her Rule by Pope Innocent IV and died happy in the knowledge that he had given it the seal of his Apostolic authority.

In her Rule, St Clare promises obedience to the Pope and his successors, and concludes with her wish that “always submissive and subject at the feet of that Holy Church and steadfast in the Catholic Faith, we may observe forever the poverty and humility of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of His most holy Mother and the holy Gospel which we have firmly promised. Amen.” (Rule of St Clare, Chapter XII)

So also today, our General Constitutions state, “All the sisters shall show daughterly love and a steadfast loyalty to the Supreme Pontiff, for as religious, we are bound to him by reason of the vow of obedience.” (General Constitutions of the Order of Poor Sisters of St Clare, Chapter Two, Title 3, 43.2)

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