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Note: The term 'Catholic Church' is used in this article to refer to the community of churches in full communion with one another and with the Pope. For other meanings of the term, see Catholicism.

The Pope is the Catholic bishop and patriarch of Rome, and ex officio supreme spiritual leader of the Catholic Church (viz., the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches). In addition to this spiritual rôle, the Pope is also quasi-absolute monarch of the independent, sovereign State of the City of the Vatican, a literal city-state entirely circumvallated by Rome. Prior to 1870, the Pope's temporal authority extended over a large area of central Italy, a territory formally known as the Patrimony of St. Peter. The office of the Pope is informally called the Papacy and formally called the Pontificate; his ecclesiastical jurisdiction is called the Holy See (Sancta Sede).

An antipope is a person who claims the Pontificate without being canonically and properly elected to it. The existence of an antipope is usually due either to doctrinal controversy within the Church, or to confusion as to who is the legitimate Pope at the time (see Great Schism).

See also: History of the Papacy

Table of contents
1 Derivation of "Pope"
2 Office and Nature
3 Regalia and Insignia
4 Status and Authority
5 Political Rôle
6 Death and Election
7 Objections to the Papacy
8 External Links

Derivation of "Pope"

"Pope" is derived from the Greek word pappas, "father", and was originally used in an affectionate sense of any priest or bishop (in the exact same way that modern priests are addressed as "Father"). In the IV and V Centuries, pappas (Latinised as papa, a form still preserved in Spanish) was still frequently used of any bishop in the West, although it gradually came to be increasingly restricted to its modern, exclusive use by the Bishop of Rome. In the East, especially in Greece and Russia, priests are still referred to as pappas, and it still forms part of the historical title of the Patriarchate of Alexandria (both the Coptic Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Patriarchs of this See use the style "Pope and Patriarch").

See also: Eastern Orthodoxy

Office and Nature

The title "Pope" is an informal one; the formal title of the Pope is "Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God", although this is rarely seen or used in full. In canon law he is referred to as the "Roman Pontiff" (Pontifex Romanus). The Pope is styled "Your Holiness" (Sanctitas Vestra) and is frequently referred to as "the Holy Father".

The Pope's signature is usually in the format "NN. PP. x" (e.g., Pope Paul VI signed his name as "Paulus PP. VI"), and his name is frequently accompanied in inscriptions by the abbreviation "Pont. Max." or "P.M." (abbreviation of the ancient title Pontifex Maximus, literally "Greatest Bridge-maker", but usually translated "Supreme Pontiff"). The signature of Papal bulls is customarily NN. Episcopus Ecclesia Catholicae ("NN. Bishop of the Catholic Church"), while the heading is NN. Episcopus Servus Servorum Dei ("NN. Bishop and Servant of the Servants of God"), the latter title dating to the time of St. Gregorius PP. I, the Great. Other titles used in some official capacity include Summus Pontifex ("Highest Pontiff"), Sanctissimus Pater and Beatissimus Pater ("Most Holy Father" and "Most Blessed Father"), Sanctissimus Dominus Noster ("Our Most Holy Lord"), and, in the Mediaeval period, Dominus Apostolicus ("Apostolic Lord").

The Pope's official residence is the Palace of the Vatican, and he also possesses a summer palace at Castel Gandolfo (believed to be situated on the site of the ancient city-state Alba Longa). Historically the official residence of the Pope was the Lateran Palace, donated by the Roman Emperor Constantinus I; the Lateran Palace and Castel Gandolfo are integral parts of Vatican City. The former Papal summer palace, the Quirinal Palace, has subsequently been the official residence of the Kings of Italy and Presidents of the Italian Republic. Contrary to popular belief, it is the Pope's ecclesiastical jurisdiction (the Holy See) and not his secular jurisdiction (Vatican City) which conducts international relations; for hundreds of years, the Pope's court (the Roman Curia) has functioned as the government of the Catholic Church.

The name "Holy See" (also "Apostolic See") is in ecclesiastical terminology the ordinary jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome (including the Roman Curia); the Pope's various honours, powers, and privileges within the Catholic Church and the international community derive from his Episcopate of Rome in lineal succession from the Apostle St. Peter (see Apostolic Succession). Consequently Rome has traditionally occupied a central position in the Catholic Church, although this is not necessarily so. The Pope derives his Pontificate from being Bishop of Rome but is not obligated to reside in Rome; according to the Latin formula ubi Papa, ibi Curia, wherever the Pope resides is the central government of the Church, provided that the Pope is Bishop of Rome. As such, between 1309 and 1378 the Popes resided not in Rome but in Avignon, a period often called the Babylonian Captivity in allusion to the Biblical exile of Israel (see Avignon Papacy).

Catholic tradition maintains that the institution of the Pontificate can be found in the Bible, and cites certain key passages in support of this contention. Chief among these passages is Matthew xvi: 18 – 19, wherein Jesus Christ says to St. Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in Heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven". Other important passages include Luke xx: 31 – 32, John i: 42, and John xi: 15 – 17.

See also: List of Popes, List of 10 longest-reigning Popes, List of 10 shortest-reigning Popes

Regalia and Insignia

The most famous symbol of the Papacy is almost certainly the triregnum (a thrice-crowned hat), also called the "tiara" or "triple crown"; recent Popes have not, however, worn the triregnum and have instead chosen to wear the episcopal mitre (an erect cloth hat). Unlike ordinary bishops, the Pope does not bear a crozier (a bent pastoral staff), but rather bears an erect cross or crucifix, a custom established before the XIII Century. The Pope also uses the pallium (a circular band of fabric about two inches wide, worn over the chasuble about the neck, breast and shoulders and having two twelve-inch-long pendants hanging down in front and behind, ornamented with six small, black crosses distributed about the breast, back, shoulders, and pendants) at all ecclesiastical functions but not subject to the restrictions imposed upon archbishops upon whom the Pope has conferred the right to use the pallium.

Equally famous and perhaps more important a symbol of the Papacy is the image of two keys, one gold and one silver, in saltire (i.e., crossed over one another so as to form an X), with a red cord tying them together. This represents the "Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew xvi: 19; cf. Isaiah xxii: 22) and is in many ways the quintessential symbol of the Papacy as an institution and of its central rôle within the Catholic Church. Jesus's definition of Petrine authority ("whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven") established two jurisdictions (viz., Heaven and Earth); the silver and gold keys are said to represent these two jurisdictions. The silver key symbolises the power to bind and loose on Earth, and the gold key the power to bind and loose in Heaven.

Another famous part of the Papal regalia is the Fisherman's Ring, a gold ring decorated with a depiction of St. Peter in a boat casting his net, with the name of the reigning Pope around it. The Fisherman's Ring was first mentioned in a letter of Clemens PP. IV to his nephew in 1265 wherein he mentions that Popes were accustomed to sealing public documents with leaden "bullss" attached, and private letters with "the seal of the Fisherman" (by the XV Century, the Fisherman's Ring was used to seal Papal briefs). The Fisherman's Ring is placed on the newly-elected Pope's finger by the Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church; on the Pope's death, the Cardinal Chamberlain smashes the Fisherman's Ring with a hammer, symbolising the end of the late Pope's authority.

The umbracullum (better known in the Italian form ombrellino) is a canopy or umbrella (consisting of alternating red and gold stripes) whose original function was quite simply to provide shade. As it was traditionally a royal prerogative to walk beneath a canopy, Alexander PP. VI began using the umbracullum to symbolise the temporal powers of the Papacy; it was formerly carried by a man standing behind the Pope, and features in the heraldic arms of the Cardinal Chamberlain (who governs the Church during a Sede Vacante, a Papal interregnum) and the former arms of the Papal States. The practice of walking with the umbracullum has been discontinued, although it continues to feature in heraldry and remains the insigne of a basilica, usually displayed to the right of the main altar.

In heraldry, the Pope's arms are surmounted by the aforementioned two keys in saltire behind the escutcheon (one key silver and one key gold, tied with a red cord), and above them a silver triregnum with three gold crowns and red infulae, or the red ("two keys in saltire or and argent, interlacing in the rings or, beneath a tiara argent, crowned or"). The flag most frequently associated with the Pope is the yellow and white flag of Vatican City, with the arms of the Holy See ("Gules, two keys in saltire or and argent, interlacing in the rings or, beneath a tiara argent, crowned or") on the right hand side in the white half of the flag. This flag was first adopted in 1808, whereas the previous flag had been red and gold, the traditional colours of the Pontificate.

One of the most familiar (and now discontinued) trappings of the Papacy was the sedia gestatoria, a mobile throne or armchair carried by twelve footmen (palafrenieri) in red uniforms. Traditionally, the sedia gestatoria was used in certain solemn occasions of Pontifical ceremony, most especially the procession held shortly after the Pope's election from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter's Basilica where the Pope held his coronation ceremony; the Pope was carried in great pomp and circumstance, accompanied by two attendants bearing large (and largely ceremonial) fans made of white ostrich-feathers (flabella). While being carried in the sedia gestatoria the Pope frequently wore a long cloak or mantle (called a cope) which flowed from his shoulders over the sides of the throne. The use of the sedia gestatoria and of the flabella has been discontinued by Ioannes Paulus PP. II, with the former being replaced by the so-called Popemobile.

See also: vestment

Status and Authority

The status and authority of the Pope in the Catholic Church was dogmatically defined by the First Vatican Council in its Dogmatic Constitution of the Church of Christ (July 18, 1870). The first chapter of this document is entitled "On the institution of the apostolic primacy in blessed Peter", and states that (s.1) "according to the Gospel evidence, a primacy of jurisdiction over the whole church of God was immediately and directly promised to the blessed apostle Peter and conferred on him by Christ the lord" and that (s.6) "if anyone says that blessed Peter the apostle was not appointed by Christ the lord as prince of all the apostles and visible head of the whole church militant; or that it was a primacy of honour only and not one of true and proper jurisdiction that he directly and immediately received from our lord Jesus Christ Himself: let him be anathema".

The Dogmatic Constitution's second chapter, "On the permanence of the primacy of blessed Peter in the Roman pontiffs", states that (s.1) "that which our lord Jesus Christ [...] established in the blessed apostle Peter [...] must of necessity remain forever, by Christ's authority, in the church which, founded as it is upon a rock, will stand firm until the end of time", that (s.3) "whoever succeeds to the chair of Peter obtains by the institution of Christ Himself, the primacy of Peter over the whole church", and that (s.5) "if anyone says that it is not by the institution of Christ the lord Himself (that is to say, by divine law) that blessed Peter should have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole church; or that the Roman pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy: let him be anathema".

The Dogmatic Constitution's third chapter, "On the power and character of the primacy of the Roman pontiff", states that (s.1) "the definition of the ecumenical council of Florence, which must be believed by all faithful Christianss, namely that the apostolic see and the Roman pontiff hold a world-wide primacy, and that the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles, true vicar of Christ, head of the whole church and father and teacher of all Christian people", that (s.2) "by divine ordinance, the Roman church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other church, and that the jurisdictional power of the Roman pontiff is both episcopal and immediate" and that "clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the church throughout the world".

The powers of the Pope are defined by the Dogmatic Constitution (ch.3, s.8) such that "he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgement" and that "the sentence of the apostolic see (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgement thereupon" (can. 331 defines the power of the Pope as "supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, and he can always freely exercise this power"). It also dogmatically defined (ch.4, s.9) the doctrine of Papal infallibility, sc. such that

when the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed His church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.

See also: Immaculate Conception, Assumption, Ecumenical Council, College of Bishops

Political Rôle

With the Christianisation of the Roman Empire in the IV Century, the Popes received civil authority within the state as well as spiritual authority within the Church; by the late VI Century, the Pope was the senior Imperial civilian official in Rome. This status as a secular and civil leader was substantially increased in 754, when the Frankish ruler Pepin the Short donated to the Pope a strip of territory which formed the core of the so-called Papal States (properly the Patrimony of St. Peter). In 800, Leo PP. III crowned the Frankish ruler Charlemagne as Roman Emperor, a major step toward establishing what later became known as the Holy Roman Empire; from that date it became the Pope's prerogative to crown the Emperor, a tradition which continued until Emperor Charles V, the last Holy Roman Emperor to be crowned by the Pope (subsequent Emperors never received coronation), and which was partially revived by Napoléon Bonaparte. As has been hitherto mentioned, the Pope's sovereignty over the Papal States ended in 1870 with their annexation by Italy.

In addition to the Pope's position as a territorial ruler (especially prominent with the Renaissance Popes like Alexander PP. VI and Iulius PP. II, a formidable general and statesman) and as the spiritual head of the Holy Roman Empire (especially prominent during periods of contention with the Emperors, such as during the Pontificates of Gregorius PP. VII and Alexander PP. III), the Pope also possessed a degree of political and temporal authority in his capacity as Supreme Pontiff. Some of the most striking examples of Papal political authority are the Bull Laudabiliter et Fructuose in 1155 (authorising Henry II of England to invade Ireland), the Bull Inter Caeteras in 1493 (leading to the Treaty of Torsedillas in 1494, which divided the world into areas of Spanish and Portuguese rule) the Bull Regnans in Excelsis in 1570 (excommunicating Elizabeth I of England and releasing all her subjects from their allegiance to her), the Bull Inter Gravissimas in 1582 (establishing the Gregorian Calendar).

See also: caesaropapism, Investiture Controversy

Death and Election

Under present canon law, on the death of the Pope the government of the Catholic Church passes to the Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church, a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church appointed by the Pope during his lifetime; however, canon law specifically forbids the Cardinal Chamberlain from introducing any innovation in the government of the Church during the vacancy of the Holy See (sede vacante).

Theoretically, the Pope's death is officially determined by the Cardinal Chamberlain by gently tapping the late Pope's head thrice with a golden hammer and calling his name (it is not clear when this ceremony ceased to be observed, as it does not appear to have been practised in the XX Century at all). The Cardinal Chamberlain then removes the Fisherman's Ring from the Pope's right hand and smashes it (theoretically with the same hammer used to determine the Pope's death), and the body then lay in state for a number of days before being interred in the crypt of a leading church or cathedral; the Popes of the XX Century have all been interred in St. Peter's Basilica, but it is expected that the reigning Pope, Ioannes Paulus PP. II, will be interred in his native Poland. A nine-day period of mourning (novem dialis) follows after the interment of the late Pope.

The Pope was originally chosen by those senior clergymen resident in and near Rome. In 1059, the electorate was restricted to the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, and the individual votes of all Cardinal Electors were made equal in 1179. The Pope is usually a member of the College of Cardinals, but any male Catholic (including a layman) may be elected; Urbanus PP. VI was the last Pope who was not already a cardinal at the time of his election. Canon law requires that if a layman or non-bishop is elected, he receives episcopal consecration from the Dean of the College of Cardinals before assuming the Pontificate. Under present canon law, the Pope is elected by the cardinal electors, viz., those cardinals who are under the age of 80.

The Second Council of Lyons was convened on May 7, 1274, to regulate the election of the Pope. This Council decreed that the cardinal electors must meet within ten days of the Pope's death, and that they must remain in seclusion until a Pope has been elected; this was prompted by the three-year Sede Vacante following the death of Clemens PP. IV in 1268. By the mid-XVI Century, the electoral process had more or less evolved into its present form, allowing for alteration in the time between the death of the Pope and the meeting of the cardinal electors.

Traditionally the vote was conducted by acclamation, by selection by committee, or by plenary vote. Acclamation was the simplest procedure, consisting entirely of a voice vote, and was last used in 1621. The reigning Pope, Ioannes Paulus PP. II, has abolished vote by acclamation and by selection by committee, and henceforth all Popes will be elected by full vote of the Sacred College of Cardinals by ballot.

The election of the Pope almost always takes place in the Sistine Chapel, in a meeting called a "conclave" (so called because after twenty days after the Pope's death, the present cardinal electors are theoretically locked in, cum clavi, until they elect a new Pope). Three cardinals are chosen by lot to collect the votes of absent cardinal electors (by reason of illness), three are chosen by lot to count the votes, and three are chosen by lot to review the count of the votes. The ballots are distributed and each cardinal elector writes the name of his choice on it and pledges aloud that he is voting for "one whom under God I think ought to be elected" before depositing his vote. Balloting continues until a Pope is elected by two-third majority (since the promulgation of Universi Dominici Gregis in 1996 the rules allow for a simple majority after a deadlock of twelve days).

One of the most famous parts of the conclave is the means by which the results of a ballot are announced to the world. Once the ballots are counted, they are burned, and the smoke indicates the results: black smoke (sfumata), created using straw with the ballots, announces that the vote was not decisive, and white smoke announces the election of a new Pope. The Dean of the College of Cardinals asks the Pope-elect to confirm his acceptance, and then announces the name he has chosen for himself (starting in 535, the Pope has customarily chosen a new name for himself during his Pontificate). The senior cardinal deacon then announces from a balcony over St. Peter's Square the following proclamation: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum! Habemus Papam! ("I announce to you a great joy! We have a Pope!")

Until 1978, the Pope's election was followed in a few days by a procession in great pomp and circumstance from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter's Basilica, with the newly-elected Pope borne in the sedia gestatoria. There the Pope was crowned with the triregnum and he gave his first blessing as Pope, the famous Urbi et Orbi ("to the City [Rome] and to the World"). Another famed part of the coronation was the lighting of a torch which would flare brightly and promptly extinguish, with the admonition Sic transit gloria mundi ("Thus fades worldly glory").

As has been hitherto noted, the Latin term Sede Vacante ("vacant seat") refers to a Papal interregnum, or the period between the death of the Pope and the election of his successor. From this term is derived the name Sedevacantist, which designates a category of dissident, schismatic Catholics who maintain that there is no canonically and legitimately elected Pope, and that there is therefore a Sede Vacante; one of the most common reasons for holding this belief is the idea that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and especially the replacement of the Tridentine Mass with the Novus Ordo Missae are heretical, and that, per the dogma of Papal infallibility (see above), it is impossible for a valid Pope to have done these things.

Objections to the Papacy

The Pope's position as Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church is dogmatic and therefore not open to debate or dispute within the Catholic Church; the First Vatican Council anathematised all who dispute the Pope's primacy of honour and of jurisdiction (it is lawful to discuss the precise nature of that primacy, provided that such discussion does not violate the terms of the Council's Dogmatic Constitution). However, the Pope's authority is not undisputed outside the Catholic Church; these objections differ from denomination to denomination, but can roughly be outlined as (1.) objections to the extent of the primacy of the Pope; and (2.) objections to the institution of the Papacy itself.

Some non-Catholic Christian denominations, such as the Assyrian Church of the East, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion, accept the doctrine of Apostolic Succession, and therefore accept (to varying extents) the claim that the Pope as successor to St. Peter is heir to Petrine primacy of honour. These churches deny, however, the claim that the Pope is also heir to Petrine primacy of jurisdiction. Because none of these denominations recognise the First Vatican Council as ecumenical, they regard its definitions of Papal jurisdiction and infallibility (and anathematisation of those who do not accept them) as non-binding.

Other non-Catholic Christian denominations do not accept the doctrine of Apostolic Succession, or do not understand it in hierarchical terms, and therefore do not accept the claim that the Pope is heir either to Petrine primacy of honour or to Petrine primacy of jurisdiction. These denominations vary from simply not accepting the Pope's authority as legitimate and valid, to believing that the Pope is the Antichrist or one of the beasts spoken of in the Book of Revelation. These denominations tend to be more heterogeneous amongst themselves than the aforementioned hierarchical churches, and their views regarding the Papacy and its institutional legitimacy (or lack thereof) vary considerably.

External Links

Links Relating to the Catholic Pope

Links Relating to Non-Catholic Popes