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   St. Peter: Childlike, weak, human, leader of Christ's church

An image of St. Peter, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ according to the Bible, will be among the frescoes on display during the Vatican Museums Exhibition from June 2 through Sept. 15, 2002, at the Museum of Texas Tech.

The 5.4-foot by 2.5-foot fresco bearing St. Peter's portrait was removed from a wall in the Church of St. Agnese in Rome approximately 700 years ago, and found its way into the Vatican Museums in the mid-1800s.

Peter, originally named Simon, was renamed Cephas by Christ. Cephas, an Aramaic name, means "rock," according to "All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time," a book by Robert Ellsberg. The Greek form of Cephas translates to Peter.

As leader and spokesman for the apostles, Peter was far from ideal.

The Gospels stress his weakness, fear and failures, and those Biblical writings highlight his impulsive personality, his tendency to speak or act first and think later.

According to ancient tradition Peter became the first bishop of Rome and was martyred during the reign of Nero (circa 54-68). Historical documents record that Peter was crucified. Believing himself unworthy of emulating his master, Peter requested that he be hung upside down, a request that was granted.

According to the Book of Acts, Peter continued serving as leader of the early church of Jerusalem, performed the first healing after Christ's death, and authorized the extension of the Christian mission to the gentiles.

He was arrested and imprisoned several times, only to "be delivered by miraculous means," Ellsberg writes.

The Gospel of St. John ends by defining Peter's ministry as one, not of preeminence in authority or power, but of preeminence in love, expressed in service and self-sacrifice, Ellsberg states.

Though Peter, by denying three times his relationship with Christ, betrayed his master when the Roman soldiers came to arrest him, it was, nonetheless, to Peter that Christ proclaimed, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church."

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