The “Overwhelming” Papal Power
By Apolinario Villalobos
As every Christian knows, the Apostles spread themselves to proclaim the teachings of Jesus Christ. Congregations were addressed by authors of Epistles in the New Testament, and these messages contained instructions. Among these congregations were those located in Rome where, Christianity was supposed to have been planted after the Pentecost. Traditionally, the congregations had elders who served as administrators, but nobody among them acted superior than the rest. The elders acted with equal authority, during which time there was no so-called “bishop” or “pope”, yet.
The development of the “monarchial” leadership was during the second century. But the title “pope” was first used by the Bishop of Rome, Callistus, during the third century. Later, the title evolved as a firm official reference to the Bishop of Rome exclusively, as insisted by Pope Leo I. He also used the pagan title “Pontifex Maximus”, which is still used until today, although, such title was also used by the pagan Roman Emperors until the end of the fourth century. Leo I based his insistence on what Jesus said about Peter as the first among the Apostles, therefore, the St. Peter’s Church in Vatican should be the premier Church among the rest of Catholic Churches. With this basis, it was made clear that while “the emperor held temporal power in Constantinople in the East, the pope exercised spiritual power from Rome in the west”. Such authority was manifested when Charlemagne was crowned by Pope Leo III as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
Governments around the world viewed the pope, as the “ruler” of a separate sovereign state – the Vatican City. In this view, the Roman Catholic Church unlike the rest of religions, has the privilege to send officials vested with diplomatic authority to duly recognized governments around the world. Among the titles of the pope are: Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor to the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Sovereign of the Vatican City. When attending official ceremonies, he is accorded with pompous honor, appropriate for the Head of a State.
Could the current pope, Francis, have realized the overwhelming papal power that he cringed with remorse, thereby, deciding to live in an “apartment” rather than the “palatial” official residence? Compassion is among his advocacies…and this can only be done if he lives among his “flock”.