'Pope head of the Church'

I’ve noticed how the Pope is often referred to as the ‘head of the Church’.

However, it seems like this is a Protestant phrase. They believe that ‘Christ is the head of the Church’ (which strangely, we believe too).

Apart from speaking of him as the vicar of Christ (His representative on earth) what are other if any correct phrases we can use when referring to the Pope?

Also if you have any phrases regarding the Pope you have come across that are wrong, please share :slight_smile:

As always,
God bless

I’ve never heard a Catholic refer to a Pope as the head of the Church (and it would be improper, as you say). I’ve seen this in news stories and such written by poorly informed reporters who have poorly informed editors.

JP2’s favorite title was Servant Of The Servants Of God (or Christ);

Of course, you can also call him simply The Pope

One of the more common titles: His Holiness

Others off the top of my head (there are probably dozens):

*]Successor of St. Peter (Popes often refer to themselves this way when teaching)
*]Archbishop of Rome (or just Bishop of Rome)
*]Metropolitan of Rome
*]Patriarch of The West
*]Sovereign (or Monarch) of Vatican City
*]The dude in white robes

I like the dude in white robes name.

But I am a little perplexed about the head of the Church statement. Can we not say that the Pope is the head of the earthly Church or the “militant” church, or the “church in waiting” ? I guess I know where you are coming from in that the Church is the body of Christ and He of course is the “Head”. But Holy Orders gives a priest some headship if I can use that term to be of authority in directing the actions of the Church. Can he be seen as the overseer as in Isaiah 22 and Peter receiving the keys ??

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Exactly right. The Pope is Jesus “prime minister” – identifiable because he has “the keys”. Once there was a king in the Old Testament the way to tell which of all the king’s ministers was the “head” was because he had the keys. So the Pope, as Peter’s successor, is the “head” in that he is Christ’s visible representative on Earth.

The New Catholic Dictionary entry for “Pope” reads as follows:

Pope: Title of the visible head of the Catholic Church. He is called Pope (Greed pappas, a child’s word for father) because his authority is supreme and because it is to be exercised in a paternal way, after the example of Christ.

Hope this helps.

So we CAN refer to the Pope as the head of the Church? If so it’s just very perplexing.

Isn’t Christ the head of our Church (not the Pope) or was that definition written in a strange way? Does the statement imply that the Pope is the VISIBLE head of the Church which would make Christ the INVISIBLE? :shrug: I’m confused.

And LOL dude in white robes. Is that what some non-Catholics call him? First time I’ve heard it haha.

Not without adding additional wording. The Pope is the “visible” (or “earthly”) head of the Church on earth. That’s not the same thing as saying the Pope is the head of the Church (which would, presumably, also include the Church Expectant (purgatory) and the Church Triumphant (heaven)).

Jesus is the head of the Church (including the Church Militant). The Pope acts as his vicar (representative) on earth. He is not a king - he is a steward only.

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I believe that the title “Patriarch of the West” has been suppressed. It was left out of the list of titles of the Pope in 2006, and called “theologically imprecise and historically obsolete.”

The current list of Papal titles apparently is:

  • His Holiness The Pope;

  • Vicar Of Jesus Christ;

  • Bishop Of Rome;

  • Successor Of St. Peter, Prince Of The Apostles;

  • Supreme Pontiff Of The Universal Church;

  • Servant Of The Servants Of God;

  • Archbishop And Metropolitan Of The Roman Province;

  • Sovereign Of Vatican City State;

Pope Pius XII explains it in Mystici Corporis Christi:

  1. Because Christ is so exalted, He alone by every right rules and governs the Church; and herein is yet another reason why He must be likened to a head. …]

  2. But we must not think that He rules only in a hidden or extraordinary manner. On the contrary, our Redeemer also governs His Mystical Body in a visible and normal way through His Vicar on earth. …] Since He was all wise He could not leave the body of the Church He had founded as a human society without a visible head. Nor against this may one argue that the primacy of jurisdiction established in the Church gives such a Mystical Body two heads. For Peter in view of his primacy is only Christ’s Vicar; so that there is only one chief Head of this Body, namely Christ, who never ceases Himself to guide the Church invisibly, though at the same time He rules it visibly, through him who is His representative on earth.

Actually, Jesus Christ is the Head of The Church (which is His body). The Pope is the chief pastor of the Church that Jesus Christ founded.

While studying Catholicism this is how I came to understand it (anyone correct me if I am wrong)

(Christ and holy spirit of course are the same being just a different manifestation)

Christ->Holy Spirit Sent->Pope->Local Rev/bishop/pastor whatever you call the the leader of the local church and then any other lower authoritative persons

Of course Christ is the head of the Church But, those who are trained need to help teach others and there needs to be order in the church… the order in the church is the responsibility of the Pope. He still as to refer to Christ and answer to Him.

No. That’s modalism - one God with three different modes or manifestations. It is not what we believe.

God is three separate and distinct persons - coeternal and consubstantial. One God - three persons. Not one God who manifests himself differently at different times to different people.


Exactly right.

God does not put on one of three costumes for our benefit.

It would be much easier to understand the Trinity with this analogy, but God is not easy to understand, and modalism is not correct.

That, as others have said, is modalism, or close to it: Christ and the Holy Spirit are of one being or substance, but are different persons. “Manifestation” makes them sound like the only difference among Father, Son and Spirit are how we sense them–while the difference goes deeper than that.

Again, “Christ->Holy Spirit Sent->Pope->Local Rev/bishop/pastor” is not quite right either. It is true that Christ sent the Holy Spirit, but Christ also established the Apostles under their leader, Peter, a college that continues in the college of Bishops together with their head, the Pope. (And the local pastors of parishes do get their authority from the bishop–each diocese has a college of Priests together with their head, the Bishop–and the bishop is the one who appoints the pastors.) But we cannot say that the Holy Spirit is the only person of God involved in the organization of this college of Bishops–it was established by Jesus Christ and continues to be guided by Jesus through the Holy Spirit–it’s not like only the Spirit is involved in it now.

But while the Pope does appoint the bishops and authorize their ordination, the Pope is not “above” them in sacramental terms. The Pope is a bishop, like all the other bishops. His authority is derived from being Bishop of Rome and successor of Peter, not from having a different ordination.

:slight_smile: ok well either I am understanding the trinity wrong or I didn’t explain myself clear enough so I will try another way and see what response I get.

One God, 3 manifestations. Three separate beings … but one Spirit. Correct?
Like, God divided in three
Or is it just a blended mess I wrote?

Thanks for your information. Pretty much ignorant in Catholics ways but willing to learn! (er… trying anyway) haha

Ummm, One being and one substance (the Greek word is hypostasis), but three distinct persons. The classic definition of person is that given by Boethius in “De persona et duabus naturis”, c. ii: Naturæ rationalis individua substantia (an individual substance of a rational nature). We might add to this that a person is oriented towards God, so that, strictly speaking, the devil is not a person–having definitively rejected and turned away from God.

(And here I myself tread on dangerous grounds–this is me fumbling towards a clearer understanding, and hoping I don’t tread into error.)

How this idea of person applies to God is not so easy to see–it is a mystery, after all–but somehow the persons of God are individual and in communion without being separate substances or beings. Their rationality and their capacity for love are not one “pool” of reason or love that they all share together, so that the Father’s love of the Son is distinct from the Son’s love of the Father. And we might add, if Boethius is right, the thoughts and intelligence of the Son is not the thoughts and intelligence of the Father–which is why perhaps the Son “knows neither the day or the hour” that only the Father knows (Mark 13:32).

I guess I still have a problem with “manifestation”–it makes it sound like the differences are just from where they happen to appear, and how we sense them. “Person” speaks of a deeper, more real difference.

Here is a section of the Catechism that indicates that this is not correct.

[quote=CCC]The dogma of the Holy Trinity

253 The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”.83 The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: "The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God."84 In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), "Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature."85
254 The divine persons are really distinct from one another. "God is one but not solitary."86 “Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: "He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son."87 They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: "It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds."88 The divine Unity is Triune.
255 The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: "In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance."89 Indeed "everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship."90 "Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son."91


That is a good point about the Father and Jesus having different thoughts.
Manifestations I was referring to form but I suppose that would be an irrelevant term with your point you made.

Thanks peoples:thumbsup:

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