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The Catholic Church has a pope because the papacy was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ (see Mt. 16:18, Jn. 21:15-17). The pope is the visible head of the Church and has supreme authority to preserve doctrine, to teach, and to sanctify. The pope protects dogma and keeps Catholics united in faith. If not for the papal infallibility, there would be no certainty in matters of faith; we would have no means of knowing what is true and what is not. We could have no finality of doctrine and each person would be left to believe whatever he or she "felt" was right. As a result, there would be error, disunity, rejection of truths, adoption of errors, etc. We wouldn't even have a Bible since there would be no infallible authority to determine the canon of Scripture. We could never be sure that our beliefs corresponded with truth, and we could never be sure we were on a true path leading to salvation. Furthermore, without the pope, there would be no preserver of doctrine, no center of unity, and no supreme authority visible on earth. The Church was literally founded by our Lord on the "rock" of St. Peter, and without this foundation, the entire structure would fall.


The term pope derives from the Greek "pappas" (father). Originally, this title was applied to bishops, but it later became common to reserve the title exclusively to the Bishop of Rome, the Supreme Pontiff.


The Pope's authority comes directly from Christ. The papacy was instituted by Our Lord (see Mt. 16:18), and has been preserved in an unbroken line of succession since St. Peter.


The Papacy began when Our Lord made St. Peter the first pope. Christ promised the papacy to St. Peter in Mt. 16:18 and after His Resurrection confirmed St. Peter as the Supreme Pastor of His flock (see Jn. 21:15-17). Note that St. Peter, originally called Simon, was one of the earliest followers of Jesus. Upon seeing Simon, Jesus renamed him "Peter" (see Jn. 1:42), which means "rock". The name change was significant, since St. Peter would become the "rock" upon which Jesus would build his Church. Also note that St. Peter immediately exercised his Papal office on Pentecost after receiving the Holy Spirit. Note that the terms papacy and pope – along with the term 'Holy Trinity' – did not exist in Scripture, but the reality behind the terms clearly did.


The papacy is indestructible / perpetual and will last until the end of time. As Our Lord has said, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against [his Church]" (see Mt. 16:18).


Popes have changed their names upon elevation to the papacy for about a thousand years. It may signify the "new life" they will lead as pope as well as their willingness to renounce self. They may choose a name of a previous pope or saint (or another name). The first name change connected with the papacy occurred when Christ changed Simon's name to Peter (meaning "rock") [Note that name changes occurring in Scripture were significant (e.g. Simon became Peter, Saul became Paul, Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel)]. In the 6th century, Pope John II changed his name from Mercurius (Mercury) due to its pagan association and Pope John XIV changed his name in the 10th century in honor of the first pope (his given name was Peter). Since the end of the 10th century, it became common to change one's name upon elevation to the papacy.


Once elected, a Pope reigns until his death (in some cases, however, popes have either abdicated or been overthrown/deposed).


The Pope is the visible head of the Church on earth. He is the vicar of Christ and supreme pastor. He rules and governs both the faithful and their pastors. He pronounces on matters of faith and morals, legislates for the Church, creates/modifies dioceses, confirms the election of bishops, canonizes saints, absolves from certain sins, administers Church property, renders judicial decisions, and conducts other important Church matters. He may delegate some of his responsibilities to others, but his infallibility is not transferable.


No. The Pope is not to change doctrines to suit his personal liking, but must instead hand down the same doctrines that have been handed down to him.


The Church is not a democracy. Instead, it is headed by the pope who is responsible for passing on and protecting doctrine without alteration. The pope cannot change doctrine to please people since the doctrines are not matters of debate, but revealed truths. Truth is not subject to change, even if it is unpopular.


It would be wrong to disagree with the perennial teaching of the popes in matters of faith and morals. We are not required, however, to agree with every decision of every pope (e.g. prudential judgments, those involving disciplinary matters, etc.). It would be wrong, however, to dispute the pope's right to make decisions in the Church or to fail to properly honor his supreme authority. Also, if a pope were to sin or not to live up to the teachings of the Church, it would be necessary to respectfully disapprove (as did St. Paul concerning St. Peter, cf. Gal. 2:11).


Unfortunately, there have been some bad popes. Thanks to the gift of infallibility, however, they never formally taught error.


Yes, Popes have erred, but not in matters touching on infallibility.


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The Pope (Topic Page)

Infallibility (Topic Page)

 

  

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