What Is the Role of the Pope?

The pope is the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome. He presides over a congregation of over a billion people around the globe.

He is also the chief administrator of the Catholic Church and the final arbiter for both doctrinal and administrative disputes. While doctrinal issues are typically resolved by an ecumenical council, the pope has to confirm any decision the council makes, before it is made official. The pope directs faithful Catholics around the globe via mandates to bishops who preside over administrative territories called dioceses.

He also promotes bishops to cardinals as he sees fit. The pope has both religious and political duties. He maintains diplomatic relationships and meets with the heads of state of several countries. During his travels, he appoints new bishops and conducts liturgies. He is also the head of Vatican City.

The title of pope is derived from the Greek word papas, which translates to father. The pope is also called the pontiff, the Vicar of Christ or the Holy Father. Saint Peter is believed to be the first pope; he led the apostles after the death of Christ. The papacy and the Catholic Church were closely tied to Roman politics, during their first centuries of existence.