Bringing you the "Good News" of Jesus Christ and His Church While PROMOTING CATHOLIC Apologetic Support groups loyal to the Holy Father and Church's magisterium
Home About
What's New? Resources The Church Family Life Mass and
Ask A Catholic
Knowledge base
AskACatholic Disclaimer
Search the
AskACatholic Database
Donate and
Support our work
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
New Questions
Cool Catholic Videos
About Saints
Disciplines & Practices for distinct Church seasons
Purgatory and Indulgences
About the Holy Mass
About Mary
Searching and Confused
Contemplating becoming a Catholic or Coming home
Homosexual and Gender Issues
Life and Family
No Salvation Outside the Church
Sacred Scripture
non-Catholic Cults
Justification and Salvation
The Pope and Papacy
The Sacraments
Relationships and Marriage situations
Specific people, organizations and events
Doctrine and Teachings
Specific Practices
Church Internals
Church History

Austin Dalyai wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have been studying the Church for a while now, and I am considering joining, however, there is one issue that I can't seem to find the answer for, and it weighs heavily on my decision.

When Peter was given the Keys to Heaven, he was given them directly by Jesus.

  • However, in modern times, the successor Pope isn't known prior to the current Pope's death, so, when the Pope passes on, what happens to the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven?
  • Are they transferred to the Cardinals until a new Pope is chosen?
  • How does it work in keeping Apostolic Succession going?


  { When the Pope passes on, what happens to the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Austin —

The keys to the kingdom of Heaven aren't like a kind of mystical hot potato or magical ring that someone has to possess. For that matter, they aren't literal keys. The term is a Hebrew idiom that refers to authority and governance. Today we speak of some well-respected person being given the keys to the city. This doesn't refer to anything that unlocks a door; it's a symbol meaning that they are welcomed and honored by the citizens of the city.

So, when a pope dies, no one has the keys — no one exercises papal authority and governance — until a new pope is elected. (The Camerlengo takes physical custody of Holy See when a pope dies.) The keys represent an office, and when the office is filled, the new pope ipso facto takes possession of them.


Mike replied:

Hey Eric,

  • Don't they do something with the Pope's ring? 

I forgot the reasoning and purpose.


I used to run a free program that sent Catechisms to seeking Protestants and non-Christians but no longer have the financial or operational means to do this anymore. Nevertheless, if you wish to go deeper, consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn everything we believe as Catholics.


Eric replied:

Hi, Mike —

They destroy it when the pope dies, and forge a unique one for the new pope.

The ring, itself, is merely a symbol of his office. It may serve as a seal as well (though I have no clue if they still use wax seals).


Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
© 2012 Panoramic Sites
The Early Church Fathers Church Fathers on the Primacy of Peter. The Early Church Fathers on the Catholic Church and the term Catholic. The Early Church Fathers on the importance of the Roman Catholic Church centered in Rome.