Why do we call the Pope "Holy Father"?

A devout protestant co-worker asked me why we call the pope the Holy Father. I said because he was the head of the church as successor to St. Peter and Christ’s representative on earth. Titles of father and mother used in the church reflect a greater spiritual reality of God and His plan.

Was this okay? I know my friend has trouble with papal authority and I would appreciate a better explanation should this come up again (and it might).

The title “Holy Father” is taken from the Latin Beatissimus Pater, “Most Blessed Father”, which refers to his office as the supreme spiritual Father of the whole Church …(*Lumen Gentium * #22).

To help your friend better understand this term, show her examples in the bible where it speaks of the apostles as spiritual fathers (1 Cor 4:17, 1 Tim 1:2, 2 Tim 1:2, 2 Tim 2:1, Phi 2:22, Titus 1:4, Philem. 10).

Then help her to understand the humility of spiritual fatherhood:

“Let them, as fathers in Christ, take care of the faithful whom they have begotten by baptism and their teaching. Becoming from the heart a pattern to the flock, let them so lead and serve their local community that it may worthily be called by that name, by which the one and entire people of God is signed, namely, the Church of God.”(Lumen Gentium #28)

Further reading:
Call No Man Father

Lumen Gentium

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.