St Peter and Paul

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St Peter was in many ways the most impetuous of the apostles. A fisherman in Galilee when he met Jesus for the first time, he was told he would become a fisherman of men. His name originally was Simon. Jesus changed it to Kephas, an Aramaic word meaning rock.

When Jesus asked who the disciples thought who he was Peter said immediately: "You are the Christ. The Son of the Living God." Jesus replied: "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death will not prevail against it."

He continued: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Only later was this power extended to the rest of the apostles.

Peter was sometimes weak and let Jesus down - three times he denied having ever met him. But he was the first Apostle to see Jesus after the Resurrection and was given the responsibility of feeding the flock of Christ's followers.

St Peter was martyred in Rome under the Emperor Nero. Tradition says he was crucified upside down.

St Paul was also martyred in Rome, though as a Roman citizen he was beheaded instead of being crucified.

As a young man he was fanatically anti-Christian. He encouraged the crowd to stone St Stephen to death and was probably responsible for the capture and death of many more Christians before his sudden conversion on the road to Damascus. From that day he preached his new faith tirelessly and led the mission to non-Jews. He was flogged, beaten, starved and shipwrecked but never lost his faith. The most important gift he said was love. "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels and have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I deliver my body to be burnt but have not love, I gain nothing."

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