pope

Derivation

  • Greek: papas, form of pappas, father

Article

Title of the Supreme Head of the Church founded by Christ. The institution of a Supreme Head is clear from Matthew 16, and from John 21; from the relation of the Apostles to Peter, treating him as their chief and not merely as ranking first among equals; from the fact that he fixed his see at Rome all the head of the Church. Claim of the see to headship has always been acknowledged as defined in the Vatican Council I: to Peter was given a primacy of true and proper jurisdiction, and the Roman pontiff is the successor of Peter in this primacy. The jurisdiction of the pope is universal and immediate, extending to the entire Church, and without intermediary, to the faithful individually and collectively. Similarly, every member of the Church may have recourse to him, as in appeals in ecclesiastical cases, without prohibitive charges or other hindrance. This implies control of every department of the life of the Church: of the faith and the formulas thereof, or Creeds; of the means and methods of imparting religious instruction by books or in schools; of Catholic missions; the foundation of universities and of special institutes and colleges; the condemnation of heresies; the interpretation of the moral law; the prohibition of books injurious to faith or morals. Worship too comes under papal control, the regulation of liturgical services, designation of feasts, canonizations, indulgences, all that concerns the sacredness of the marriage bond, special powers to priests, on occasion, to confirm, or bless holy oils. He can legislate for the entire Church, summon general councils, grant dispensation from any ecclesiastical law, interpret, alter, abrogate any law made by himself or his predecessors. He constitutes new sees, alters the boundaries of those in existence, appoints bishops, approves religious orders and exempts them when need be from diocesan control. All this is done by aid of devout and experienced assistants and advisers, the various tasks being distributed among various congregations or committees, eleven in number, each superintended by one or several cardinals assisted by secretaries, auditors, advocates, and notaries. Besides those who dwell in Rome, many of them chosen from various countries, he has also the cardinals and bishops of the entire Catholic world, of whose suggestions and experience he constantly avails himself.

In no way, therefore, is the pope’s exercise of power absolutist or arbitrary. Besides the check of his own conscience, he is guided by the spirit, practise, and tradition of the Church, its ancient statutes, customs, and precedents, its council; in a word, by strict consistency with its past and by a pious regard for its pastors and the faithful. The pope has also primacy of honor. He is entitled Vicar of Christ, Head of the Church, Father of all the Faithful, Supreme or Sovereign Pontiff, His Holiness, Servant of the Servants of God, the Fisherman, after the calling of the Apostles and their designation by Christ as fishers of men. He wears the tiara, or triple crown. He ranks as first of Christian princes, and his ambassadors have precedence over other members of the diplomatic body. The office of the pope brings him into contact with civil rulers and legislatures insomuch as they may regulate temporal affairs affecting religion. He must superintend the administration of the Vatican State, as formerly his predecessors had to administer the States of the Church. He is constantly sought also by men of affairs, scholars, sociologists. His bishops visit him at regular intervals, visits ad limina, as they are called; priests engaged in special missions must have access to him; no head of a state is more accessible by audiences which are granted to men and women of all faiths, and of every rank. The pope is elected by votes of the College of Cardinals in a session known as the Conclave, two-thirds of those voting being the necessary majority. There was a time when any male Catholic might be elected, but the choice now falls to one of the cardinals.

Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “pope”. New Catholic Dictionary. Saints.SQPN.com. 23 March 2010. Web. 17 April 2014. <http://saints.sqpn.com/pope/>