The Pope

The word 'pope' means 'father'. In ancient Greek it was a child's term of affection but was borrowed by later Latin as an honorific. Both Greek- speaking Eastern and Latin-speaking Western Christians then applied it to priest and bishops and patriarchs ('head of the family'); and still today priest of the Orthodox Churches of Greece, Russia and Serbia call their parish priest 'pope'. Gradually, however, Latin started to restrict its usage. At the beginning of the 3rd century, papa was a term of respect for churchmen in high positions; by the 5th century, it was applied particularly to the Bishop of Rome; and after the 8th, as far the West was concerned, the title was exclusively his.

As the Council of Florence affirmed in 1439, defined as a matter of faith by the First Vatican Council in 1870, and endorsed by the Second Vatican Council in 1964, Jesus Christ conferred the position of primacy in the church upon Peter alone. In solemnly defining the Petrine primacy, the First Vatican Council cited the three classical New Testament texts long associated with it: John 1:42, John 21:15 ff., and, above all, Matthew 16:18 ff. The council understood these texts, along with Luke 22:32, to signify that Christ himself constituted Saint Peter as prince of the apostles and visible head of the church, possessed of a primacy of jurisdiction that was to pass down in perpetuity to his papal successors, along with the authority to pronounce infallibly on matters of faith or morals.
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