Throughout the early centuries of the church’s existence, the Roman government suppressed the spread of Christianity. Many emperors did their absolute best to try to stop the Christian populace from spreading with none succeeding (demonstrated by the fact that Christianity is still in existence today). It was not until 322 A.D. when Constantine united all of Europe under his throne that Christianity could be spread without threat of persecution. Under Constantine, Christianity, in terms of numerically, thrived. Councils were held, doctrine developed, and great strides were taken in order to have Christianity be one catholic church. However, in the next couple centuries, the church would grow apart and rulers would fall resulting in mass turmoil throughout the Western Empire. The Roman Catholic Church (as it would later be called) used these events to secure its grip over the entire western empire.
In the western half of the once great Roman Empire, Rome, along with the surrounding territories, fell to barbarians. The barbarians, primarily from Germanic tribes, had no system of government by which the people should live. In other words, each village and people-group were left to fend for themselves in terms of both rule as well as protection; however, the church never faltered or fell away while the barbarians took control. In light of this fact, the church began to grow in power and stability. With people flocking to the churches and monasteries for help and protection, the power began being transferred to the bishop rather than to a king/political ruler. This bishop was the Archbishop of Rome.
In the universal church, there were primarily five bishops in each of the primary Christian cities in the empire: Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Rome. Four of these cities are found in the eastern realm of the empire, whereas one (Rome) is found on the western side of the empire. Throughout the years, Rome in the west and Constantinople in the east became the more prominent of the two cities and discussion over which city is the true center of the church life. The eastern half of the empire believed that the center of the church should be located in Constantinople with the emperor, but the western half believed that Rome should be the center of church life. Rome believed that the church center should be located there because, according to the bishops of Rome, Peter is claimed to have been the first bishop of Rome. Therefore, since Peter, who was given the keys to the church by Jesus, was the first bishop of Rome, the Roman Bishop was over the other bishops and was the head of the church at large. Under this “truth,” various bishops have risen to power with eventually taking on the title of “Pope.”
The first Roman Bishop to claim direct Apostolic succession from Peter was
Damasus I. Damasus went to great lengths to attempt to convince the other churches and cities of this so-called truth but to no avail. However, his work...