Who is a Pope and What are His Responsibilities?

Who is a Pope and What are His Responsibilities?
A pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the Bishop of Rome, and the traditional successor of Saint Peter. He is the most important person in the Catholic faith. SpiritualRay gives a brief insight on who is a pope and what are his responsibilities.
SpiritualRay Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Did You Know?
The current pope, Pope Francis, is the first non-European pope in over a thousand years.
A pope is the most important figure in the Catholic Church. Traditionally, he is the successor of Saint Peter, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, to whom He gave the keys of heaven, as mentioned in the Bible, in the Gospel of Matthew, 16:19: "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."

The word 'Pope' is derived from the Greek word 'πάππας' which means 'Father'. The Latin word 'Papa' is also very similar to the word pope. The word 'Papa' is also prefixed in the Latin name the pope, for example, Pope Francis would be 'Papa Franciscus'. Saint Peter is considered as the first pope in history, and the current pope is the 266th pope after him.
What Are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Pope?
Pope standing on stage
He is the father figure, a living image of Saint Peter, the wise guide to show the right way to all Catholic followers worldwide. The pope is the head of the Catholic Church. As Saint Peter was appointed as the head of the church by Jesus Christ himself, similarly, a pope leads the church by administering it in the Biblical manner. The following points highlight in a brief manner as to what a pope does and what comes under his responsibilities.
Unify People in God's Name
The world is divided into different beliefs, and every faith has a different denomination within itself. Speaking of Christianity, there are sub-denominations that divide the believers. It is therefore the responsibility of the pope, as he is the holder of the 'keys to heaven' a descendant of Saint Peter, to ensure that he does his best to unify the world in the name of God, in a peaceful, understanding, and compassionate manner. He should not hesitate when it comes to listening to the other side of the bridge, and through effective methodical approach, bridge the gap between the Catholic Church and other religious leaders.
Define and Clarify Issues Related to Faith
Faith can get confusing, especially when the world has a many other distractions to confuse believers all the more. Therefore, it is the duty of the pope to help clarify matters related to faith and belief. He must use Biblical references to elaborate on the need to follow God's words, especially in reference to complicated and debatable matters in society today. For instance, abortion, same-sex marriages, birth control, and the like.
Represent the Church to the World
The pope is symbolic of the Catholic Church, in other words, he is the face of the church. It is his duty to publicly represent matters related to their work, faith, and belief out to the world. This he may do by interacting with the masses through media, press conferences, public announcements. It is one of his important duties to preach Catholicism to the world, and this plays a crucial role in how the world looks at this faith and its followers.
Administer the Entire Body of Catholic Church
The pope is not only the Bishop of Rome but also the Supreme among all other Catholic priest, hence, he is the one who has to look after and administer the entire denomination worldwide. Other than that, he also heads the world's largest nonprofit organization which needs various subordinates to handle its mission and goals efficaciously. All the prime planning and execution needs to be done by the pope.
Appoint Bishops and Cardinals
The bishop is responsible for managing the affairs of the Church of a particular diocese, a territory that includes many churches. The power to appoint bishops and cardinals lies in the hands of the pope. Both these roles are highly crucial for the rightful conduct of the Catholic Church, and therefore, the appointment of the same must be done by the head of the church.
Conduct Liturgies
Another crucial role of the pope is to formulate and deliver liturgies, especially during important dates and holidays in the Catholic faith. This is mostly done in St. Peter's Cathedral and other places in Rome. The responsibilities of this Supreme Pastor may also require him to travel, and conduct masses for those outside Rome.
Create Dioceses
A diocese is the term used in the Church, that defines the area that comes under the administration of a bishop. It is the pope who is responsible for defining and creating different dioceses that come under the administration of the Catholic Church. The decision of the addition or splitting up of a diocese depends upon the number of members in the church. The pope needs to analyze all these parameters and decide accordingly.
Approve the Sainthood of a Candidate
The Church has an extensive set of parameters that have to be met by the person considered for sainthood. Mother Teresa wasn't recognized as one because she required a second miracle to her intercession. Being the head of the Catholic Church, it is not without the analysis and approval of the pope that the recognition of a saint can be given to any recommended candidate. He has the power to deny or approve the matter.
Stand as the Prime Witness to Faith
The Pope is considered as the descendant of one of the most important disciples of Christ. Standing true to his designation, he must be a living example of the love of Christ. This he must do by not only preaching and reaching out to both believers and the non-believers, but also by communicating with the believers, explaining and clarifying the word of God, the message of Christ, and its need in today's situation.
Fondly called "papa", the pope is an indispensable part of the Catholic Church, a living image of Christ's disciple, and someone whom all believers look up to, for matters related to the Catholic faith. The aforementioned list is just a birds-eye view of what it takes to play the part of a pope. The pope is the Supreme Pastor, without whom the Papacy (the office of the pope) cannot function. Although the cardinals handle the affairs in the absence of the pope, substantial decisions cannot be taken. The appointed pope remains in office until his death, or if he chooses to resign from the role, as was the case with Pope Benedict XIV, the predecessor of our current pope. While we all spend time praying for our own personal needs, let us also include him and his fellow priests in our prayers so that God may provide them with the strength and wisdom that will help them manage the Church worldwide in a peaceful and unified manner. Amen.