The Decrees of the Vatican Council/Part 3/Prologue

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Promulgated in the 4th Session of the Holy Œcumenical Vatican Council
PIUS, Bishop,
Servant of the servants of God, with the approval of the Sacred Council for Perpetual Remembrance

THE Eternal Pastor and Bishop of our souls, in order to continue for all time the life-giving work of His Redemption, determined to build up the Holy Church, wherein, as in the house of the living God, all who believe might be united in the bond of one faith and one charity. Wherefore, before He entered into His glory, He prayed unto the Father, not for the Apostles only, but for those also who through their preaching should come to believe in Him, that all might be one, even as He the Son and the Father are one.[1] As then He sent the Apostles whom He had chosen to Himself from the world, as He Himself had been sent by the Father; so He willed that there should ever be pastors and teachers in His Church to the end of the world. And in order that the Episcopate also might be one and undivided, and that by means of a closely united priesthood the multitude of the faithful might be kept secure in the oneness of faith and communion, He set Blessed Peter over the rest of the Apostles, and fixed in him the abiding principle of this twofold unity and its visible foundation, in the strength of which the everlasting temple should arise, and the Church in the firmness of that faith should lift her majestic front to heaven.[2] And seeing that the gates of hell with daily increase of hatred are gathering their strength on every side to upheave the foundation laid by God's own hand, and so, if that might be, to overthrow the Church: We, therefore, for the preservation, safe keeping, and increase of the Catholic flock, with the approval of the Sacred Council, do judge it to be necessary to propose to the belief and acceptance of all the faithful, in accordance with the ancient and constant faith of the universal Church, the doctrine touching the institution, perpetuity and nature of the sacred Apostolic Primacy, in which is found the strength and solidity of the entire Church; and at the same time to proscribe and condemn the contrary errors so hurtful to the flock of Christ.

  1. John xvii, 21.
  2. From Sermon iv, chap, ii, of St Leo the Great, A.D. 440, vol. i, p. 17, of edition of Ballerini, Venice, 1753; read in the eighth lection on the feast of St Peter's Chair at Antioch, February 22.