Why Do Catholics Have a Pope?

Why Do Catholics Have a Pope?
 

The short answer: because Jesus wanted his Church to have a leader! 

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus praises Simon for his faith and gives him a new name: "Blessed are you, Simon... I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth will be unbound in heaven." (Matthew 16:17-19) 

In the Bible, God often gives people a new name to reflect their new mission in life.  Jesus changes Simon's name to Peter, meaning "rock," to signify that he has been given a new role as the foundation of the Church. The Lord's words were chosen carefully to evoke parallels with the stewards in the royal households, who acted with authority on behalf of the king (see Isaiah 22).  Peter is promised Christ's authority to act on his behalf, leading the family of faith once the Lord has returned to heaven. 

As we discussed last month, the Lord intended for his apostles and their successors to continue his ministry until the end of time.  Jesus knew that whenever a group of human beings get together, they need a leader in order to stay united and get anything accomplished.  He appointed Peter to lead the apostles and settle differences when they arise.  We find examples of such leadership in the Acts of the Apostles. 

Just as our nation continued to need a president after George Washington's retirement, the Church's need for a visible leader did not end when Peter died.  Jesus intended for the office he gave to Peter to be passed down through the centuries.  Peter eventually became the bishop of the Christians in Rome, and the authority given by Christ has been passed down for the last two thousand years through his successors in that office. 

Pope Francis is the 266th successor of Peter as bishop of Rome and earthly leader of the Church.  The word “Pope” is a nickname from the Greek word meaning "papa."  Catholics do not believe that the popes are sinless; after all, Peter was a weak man who denied Jesus!  But we do believe that Jesus continues to guide us through the pope and his brother bishops, helping us to apply and live out the timeless truths of the Gospel in our world today. 

For more Scriptural and historical examples about Peter and the papacy, visit CatholicBridge.com.  And if you are Catholic and have been away for a while, we want to welcome you back!  

 

 

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