What does the pope do?

What does the pope do?     

The pope’s task as ‘chief of all the shepherds on earth’ is to build the holy Catholic Church, defend our faith, teach us about our faith and help guide us to heaven, so that we can spend eternity with God, our creator and our heavenly Father.



July 14, 2013. General pope facts. Leave a comment.

Has there always been a pope?

Ever since the time of Jesus, there has been a pope. In fact, Pope Francis is the 266th pope.

During mass, the priest invites us as Christians to profess our faith, but it was Simon Peter who was the first to confess that Jesus is ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Mt. 16:16).

This was a very important moment, as we can tell from Jesus’ answer to Simon Peter: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”(Mt. 16:17).

So, Simon Peter was the first to profess his faith in Jesus as the Christ, God’s anointed one.  And immediately after this profession, Jesus renames Simon Peter as Cephas, (Peter) meaning rock, and puts him in charge of  His new church. Jesus says to him: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church…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.” (Mt. 16: 18-20)

And so we see that Jesus makes Peter the first pope and he was the first bishop of Rome. Subsequent popes continue Peter’s office of building the Church and also become the bishop of Rome, and this is why “Tu es Petrus” (you are Peter) is sung and chanted when a new pope is chosen. The lineage of bishops of Rome (i.e. popes) is referred to as the Apostolic Succession.

St Peter was martyred on the outskirts of Rome, at Nero’s Circus and buried there. A huge basilica was built there by Emperor Constantine which stood for 1000 years. It was rebuilt in the Renaissance period on the same spot, the basilica we know today as St Peter’s,  and excavations show that it is actually built on the tomb of St Peter! So,  the Church actually is built on the rock that is St Peter!

Peter keys

July 14, 2013. General pope facts. Leave a comment.

How’s a new pope chosen?

When a pope dies, all the cardinals come together in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican to form the Papal Conclave. They are not allowed to speak to anyone during the time they are gathered together to choose the next pope: no telephone, no mobile, no internet, nothing!

They pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance on whom to choose. When a new pope has been chosen, and after he has accepted, ”Habemus Papam” (we have a new pope) is announced from the balcony of the Vatican. Out steps the new supreme pontiff for the whole world to see!

Check out this brilliant infographic for more info

(or for more written stuff, go to Catholic Pages)

pope francis election

July 14, 2013. General pope facts. Leave a comment.

What’s the popemobile?

What’s the popemobile?

 The pope makes visits to many different places. Wherever he goes, huge numbers of people gather to try to catch a glimpse of this special person. So that everyone can see him, he travels around in the popemobile, which has lots of glass so people can get a better view.

There are several popemobiles: some go fast (160 mph), some are open air, some allow the pope to stand, others to sit, and some have bullet proof glass.  You might think that this would be unnecessary; who would want to harm the pope? But in 1981 Pope John Paul II was shot in an assassination attempt by a man called Ali Agca and seriously wounded.

Pope Francis I has refused to use the bullet proof popemobile during his visit to Rio for World Youth Day! He wants to be near the crowd and also show that, even though an attack could happen, we should not fear!

But what did the pope use before cars were invented? He travelled in a glorified sedan chair called sedia gestatoria.


July 14, 2013. General pope facts. Leave a comment.

Where does the pope live and work?

Where does the pope work and live?            

The pope lives and works in the Vatican, in Rome, Italy. The Vatican covers an area of around 110 acres on the outskirts of Rome and is a walled enclave. It is actually a city state  – the smallest internationally recognised state in the world – ruled by the Bishop of Rome, otherwise known as the pope.

Popes have lived in the Vatican since the popes returned from Avignon in 1377, and usually the pope lives in the Apostolic Palace, which is very ornate and luxurious. However, Pope Francis I chooses not to live here, preferring instead the simpler Santa Marta Vatican residence.

The pope also has a summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, which is in the hills overlooking  lake Albano, southeast of Rome.

On most Sundays, the pope gives a special message and blessing to pilgrims who gather on St Peter’s Square, and to people throughout the whole world.


July 14, 2013. General pope facts. Leave a comment.

What does the word ‘pope’ mean and when did it start to be used?


What does the word ‘pope’ mean?

The word comes from the  Latin ‘papa’ and means ‘father’. This is why we refer to the pope as ‘holy father’.

When did the title start to be used?

In the early history of the Catholic Church, any bishop might have used the title ‘papa’, but gradually the title became used only by the bishop of Rome. It was in the 11th century that it became the official title of the bishop of Rome, that is to say, the pope!

The earliest example of an inscription referring to the bishops of Rome with the title of pope is to be found in the catacombs of St Callixtus (or Callisto) on the outskirts of Rome. The catacombs are named after St Callixtus, who lived in the third century after Jesus Christ. St Callixtus was appointed by the then pope Zephyrinus to look after the catacombs, and inside the miles of  galleries of tombs that have been carved into the ground, many early martyrs are buried, including St Cecilia, who was venerated there for five centuries until her body was moved to a basilica built in honour of her. This underground cemetery was also the official burial place of the popes, with nine popes buried there, dating back to the third century.


July 14, 2013. General pope facts. Leave a comment.

Know how the pope’s elected? Find out here!


Thanks go to the Catholic News Agency  www.catholicnewsagency.com for this brilliant infographic. Double click to make it bigger or download to view it more clearly.

March 10, 2013. General pope facts. Leave a comment.