Why are Catholic Priests Called Priests?


Why are Catholic Priests called Priests and Pastors called Pastors? Can someone explain this to me?


The word “priest” in English is from the Old English “preost,” which came from the Germanic “prestar,” from the Vulgar Latin “prester,” from the Latin “presbyter,” from the Greek “presbyteros,” which is the word used in the Greek New Testament to describe the new Christian leaders. In other words, the word “priest” is the guy St. Paul talks about in his letters, who was appointed by the Apostles to lead the local community in the New Way of Christ.

The word “pastor” in English is from the Old French “pastur” (herdsman, shepherd), from the Latin “pastorem” (shepherd).

So, why do we use these terms? To identify their roles.

A priest is a person who has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. He may or may not be a bishop, cardinal, or pope; he may or may not be a pastor.

A pastor is a priest who has been placed in charge of a local parish in accordance with canon law. He is a priest, but he has certain administrative responsibilities that other priests do not have.

(I wasn’t quite sure what you were asking; I hope this helps).


A priest is someone who offers sacrifice. Protestants find the idea that there could be any Christian priests to be blasphemous, because, they allege that because Jesus Christ is the one true High Priest, that we have no need of earthly priests, certainly not to offer sacrifices, for Jesus Christ already offered a one, perfect and complete sacrifice, namely, the Cross.

Catholic priests, are, of course, truly priests, because they offer the sacrifice of the Mass, which is a re-presentation of the sacrifice on Calvary.

For this reason, Protestants usually don’t call their ministers “priests.”



DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.