Bishop of Rome?

The orthodox believe that there are bishops but there is no “head” bishop like we Catholics have in the pope. Why is there no mentioning of one bishop as the “head” in the Bible? What historical evidence do we Catholics have that the bishop of Rome was already thought as the “head” of the Catholic Church in the first centuries after Christ including the council of Nicea?

Hi Timi Celcer,

You might find this helpful:

Also, Jimmy Akin has an excellent video on this:

Hope that helps!

From the Orthodox perspective, the only head of the Church is Jesus Christ. As it is written in the Bible, “It is He who is head of the body, the Church!”

It would be a conflict of faith for an Orthodox believer to say that any earthly man is head of the Church because then there would be two heads. It is a logical impossibility for them.

From the Catholic perspective also, the head fo the Church is Jesus Christ. The Pope is His Vicar.

The Orthodox believe in the notion of “First Amoung Equals” where the Pope would have senority but not absoult power. But this belief was born out of the split.

There is little-to-no true dogmatic beliefs keeping us from full Communion. Only dogmatic misunderstanding / syntax issues. The majority of the issues are purely human issues.

I pray that Pope Francis can help to bring about Communion.

Here is an EXCELLENT article on this subject, showing that all the Ecumenical Councils taught the Papacy, starting with Nicaea:

Plus, in Jesus’ teaching it is clear that there was a head leader, a cheif-steward, such as in the parable in Matthew 24:25-51. St Ambrose comments on this parable saying:

  1. “Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” **Not worthless is this servant: some great one ought he to be. Let us think who he may be. **

  2. It is Peter, chosen by the Lord Himself to feed His flock, who merits thrice to hear the words: “Feed My little lambs; feed My lambs; feed My sheep.” And so, by feeding well the flock of Christ with the food of faith, he effaced the sin of his former fall. For this reason is he thrice admonished to feed the flock; thrice is he asked whether he loves the Lord, in order that he may thrice confess Him, Whom he had thrice denied before His Crucifixion.
    And in the parable of the Good Samaritan, who prefigures Jesus, the hurt man is left at the hotel and Jesus leaves the hotel manager in charge of caring for the hurt man. This is Jesus leaving Peter in charge of the Church.

Actually, Catholics believe that the Pope is the Supreme Head of the Catholic Church on Earth. We see no contradiction or illogic in also believing Christ as the Head of the Body, but the Orthodox believe in one and only one Head.

A couple things.

Id say it is in the Bible. Only Peter was given the keys to the kingdom in Matt 16. Only Peter was instructed to “feed my sheep” by Christ after his resurrection. Peter clearly holds a primacy among the Apostles. This is the same as today with the Pope being Peter and all of the Bishops of the church being the Apostles.


The Orthodox acknowledge that the Bishop of Rome is Prime. They just argue and complain about what that means. Naturally if he has a primacy (even a primacy of honor) he should be able to call councils and settle doctrinal disputes among the Bishops/Church when called upon.

This is the true nature of the Papacy, and it has been blurred in the past, at times appearing more authoritarian than it truly is, and perhaps a better discussion and understanding of both sides will bring Orthodox and Catholics together in the future. It seems the orthodox are concerned about the Pope acting outside the magisterial teaching of the Bishops. I think this is a valid concerned based on their world view, but a concern that is not grounded in reality nor past historicity.

Third, you may find this quote helpful showing how the pope was authoritative in the early church:

Paschasinus, the most reverend bishop and legate of the Apostolic See, stood up in the midst with his most reverend colleagues and said: We received directions at the hands of the most blessed and apostolic bishop of the Roman city, which is the head of all the churches, which directions say that Dioscorus is not to be allowed a seat in this assembly, but that if he should attempt to take his seat he is to be cast out. This instruction we must carry out; if now your holiness so commands let him be expelled or else we leave.
The most glorious judges and the full senate said: What special charge do you prefer against the most reverend bishop Dioscorus?

Paschasinus, the most reverend bishop and legate of the Apostolic See, said: Since he has come, it is necessary that objection be made to him.

The most glorious judges and the whole senate said: In accordance with what has been said, let the charge under which he lies, be specifically made.

Lucentius, the most reverend bishop having the place of the Apostolic See, said: Let him give a reason for his judgment. For he undertook to give sentence against one over whom he had no jurisdiction. And he dared to hold a synod without the authority of the Apostolic See, a thing which had never taken place nor can take place.
Paschasinus the most reverend bishop, holding the place of the Apostolic See, said: We cannot go counter to the decrees of the most blessed and apostolic bishop [Pope for bishop in the Latin], who governs the Apostolic See, nor against the ecclesiastical canons nor the patristic traditions.

The Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon Session 1

After the reading of the foregoing epistle, the most reverend bishops cried out: This is the faith of the fathers, this is the faith of the Apostles. So we all believe, thus the orthodox believe. Anathema to him who does not thus believe. **Peter has spoken thus through Leo. So taught the Apostles. Piously and truly did Leo teach, so taught Cyril. Everlasting be the memory of Cyril. Leo and Cyril taught the same thing, anathema to him who does not so believe. This is the true faith. Those of us who are orthodox thus believe. This is the faith of the fathers. ** Why were not these things read at Ephesus *? These are the things Dioscorus hid away.

The Fourth Ecumencial Council of Chalcedon Session II *

In fact I would highly encourage you to read the entirety of the Council of Chalcedon first, since we have so much text from that council, followed by the rest of the 7 ecumenical councils the Orthodox affirm. It is beyond clear that there was a special authority in the Bishop of Rome.

I don’t believe the Orthodox have a problem with this.

Christ is the head of the church. The pope is his Vicar and “visible head of the church on earth”

The church is more than just the church on earth the. the church is all Christians past present and future, on earth, in heaven, and in purgatory. Christ is the head of the church.

The pope is the head of the church on earth.

Just as the parochial vicar of your parish is not the head priest of the parish. The Pope as Vicar is the (literally servant) of Christ heading the church on earth.

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