Whatever happened to Peter?
St. Peter is featured prominently in the Gospels and Acts and then ends (at least in the narratives) with the words “he departed and went to another place” (Acts 12:17). In his first epistle Peter also sends greetings from Babylon to the Churches in Asia Minor. Ss. Ignatius, Eusebius, and Gregory the Great all suggest that “Babylon” was a code word for Corinth, Antioch, and even another place in Asia Minor. Over the last few years a couple of New Testament scholars have suggested Peter actually wrote from Babylon in Mesopotamia based on the fact that the order of the cities in Asia Minor that he addresses are listed in order if you were looking at them from the east. Another possibility that makes a lot of sense is that the Babylon Peter speaks of is a section of ancient Cairo that was called by that name because expatriate Jews from all over the world (thus making it a “Babel” of languages) dwelled there. If Peter was fleeing pressures and persecutions in Jerusalem this would a close by choice where as a stranger he would hardly stand out. That Peter eventually went to Rome and did do some apostolic ministry there has never been seriously doubted. That he went there and became the first pope as we understand it has little merit. This is reading later developments in the Church into past history which is always erroneous. That said, Peter certainly was greatly respected as an apostle and was revered as a spiritual father during his time in Rome. In that sense he was a pope which is derived from the word “papa”. There are some traditions that also would indicate that Peter made missionary forays into Britain and France as well. Some of the earliest and most reliable testimony of the early church has Peter captured in Rome during the persecution of Nero and 9 months later being killed with his wife at a horse track that was once located on Vatican hill. Whether or not his bones have been identified as was declared by the Vatican in the 1960’s, his grave under the altar of St. Peters, excavated in 1939 corresponds perfectly with the ancient records about his burial spot. That Peter would have appreciated the gigantic basilica over his grave which glorifies his memory is yet to be determined. You can ask him yourself when you meet him at the pearly gates of heaven.