Some regard him as the Antichrist. Others regard him as a living symbol of bigotry and injustice. Several regard him as one of the last guardians of morality, tradition, and sensibility at a time of a great cultural crisis. Many more have different opinions about the leader of the Catholic Church, but these are not likely to carry away billions of believers who regard him as the only legitimate representative of Immanuel on earth. Below are the nine papal titles from Pontifical Yearbook, with my explanation for each of them.
1.) Bishop of Rome: This is the oldest of the papal titles, still in use since at least the end of the first century AD. Tradition states that the apostle Simon Peter became bishop of Rome in about 54 AD after he served as bishop of Antioch.
2.) Vicar of Jesus Christ: Immanuel needed somebody to continue one’s work after one returned to heaven, and one chose one’s apostle Simon Peter to do so. Simon Peter had acted as a spokesperson for other eleven apostles, and he probably continued to do so in his later years. The pope is to Immanuel what the Canadian governor-general is to the British monarch.
3.) Successor of the Prince of the Apostles: Such a title applies logically to the men who replaced Simon Peter, since the Catholic Church regards him as the “prince” of the apostles.
4.) Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church: If the first papal title is “bishop of Rome”, the main papal title is “supreme pontiff of the universal church”. In fact, the adjective pontifical is synonymous with papal. Critics of the Catholic Church use such a title to prove that the church is pagan in origin, but the role that the title describes is in fact apostolic in origin. Biblical scholar James Douglas Grant Dunn has argued that Simon Peter played a significant role in holding together a nascent Christian movement by taking an middle position between James the Just, who recommended compliance to the Law of Moses for non-Israelite believers, and Paul of Tarsus, who recommended the opposite measure. That made Simon Peter a bridge-maker or a pontifex maximus according to Dunn. Even today, the pope must find ways to handle diverse opinions within the church, so that the unity of the church would be secure.
5.) Patriarch of the West: This placed the pope as one of the five leaders of the Christian community, alongside the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Pope Benedict XVI renounced the title during his reign.
6.) Primate of Italy: This alludes to the jurisdiction of the pope over every church in Italy.
7.) Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province: This alludes to the jurisdiction of the pope over every church in the ecclesiastical province of Rome.
8.) Sovereign of the State of Vatican City: This alludes to the exclusive rule of the pope over the state of Vatican City.
9.) Servant of the Servants of God: This alludes to the role of pope as a caretaker of believers, who must make sure that all of them have faith in Jesus.