What is a Pope? The Pope or bishop of the city of Rome is the highest ranking religious authority in the Roman Catholic Church and its worldwide leader. The word pope originates from the Latin word for father- Papa. It was first used in a religious meaning at the 3rd Century AD. Papa is the word that a child uses to call his father. In this way the Pope is conceived to be the father on earth and Shepard of all his flock – the believers in the Roman Catholic faith, and of the entire world. The Pope represents god as a good father who is charged with passing on the truth of the revelation. The revelation which Jesus first passed on to the Apostles. In Italian the pope's name is identical to the Latin- he is named "Il Papa". The office of the Pope is called "The Papacy". The Pope is also known as the "Supreme Pontiff " and "Vicar of Christ". Officially, he is referred to as "His Holiness".
Traditionally, St. Peter the apostle was the first bishop of Rome. According to the Catholic dogma Jesus declared that St. Peter was the rock upon which the Church stands:
"I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"
(Matthew, Chapter 16, Verse 18)
According to Catholic tradition, St. Peter was martyred in Rome in the first century AD. In The Statue depicting St. Peter him in St Peter's square you can notice that he is holding a set of keys- the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The keys to the kingdom of heaven have become the emblem of the Holy See (the Vatican). In the Roman Catholic Church it is believed that salvation and heaven are only possible through the one true Church- the Roman Catholic Church. With a billion members all over the world, the Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination.
The Pope resides in the Apostolic Palace inside the Vatican. The Vatican has been the seat of the Papacy since the 14th Century. The Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome is the pope's cathedral.
The Pontifical Swiss Guard is responsible for the personal safety of the Pope and the security of the Apostolic Palace. In past centuries the pope was also a sovereign of the Papal States with temporal power. Today the Pope is the sovereign of the Vatican City State and his authority is recognized mainly as a religious and spiritual one.
The current Pope is Pope Francis, elected on the 13th of March 2013, is the 266th successor of St. Peter. Pope Francis is the first Jesuit Pope and the first Pope from South America. He was born in Buenos Aires as Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He is known for his humanitarian work and his humility.