Catholic Dictionary

Term

POWER OF THE KEYS

Definition

Ecclesiastical authority conferred by Christ on Peter and his successors. In virtue of this authority, the popes have universal and independent jurisdiction over all the churches and all the faithful. The term is derived from Christ's promise to Peter to give him the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 16:19). More commonly, however, the expression refers to the Church exercise of authority to forgive or retain sins in the sacrament of penance.