The name “pope” comes from a Latin and Greek word meaning “father.”
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church is widely known as the pope. But what does the name “pope” mean?According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the word’s origin is “ecclesiastical Latin papa from Greek papas, a variant of pappas, [meaning] father.”
Originally the title was used much more broadly in early Christianity, since at the time it simply meant, “father,” and was similar to the way Catholics call priests “Father” in the present day.
Over time language changed, and archaic words were transformed into official titles. Yet, this original meaning is still preserved in the official title of “Holy Father,” as the pope remains a spiritual father for millions of Catholics worldwide. Make sure to visit the slideshow below to discover 10 official titles of Pope Francis, and their meaning.
10 official titles of Pope Francis and their meaning
From the Italian word ‘papa’, it has been used since the 6th century to describe the ‘father’ of the Church. For this reason he is also known as the “Holy Father”.
This title is derived from the Latin word ‘pons’, meaning “bridge”, and the adjective ‘maximus’, which means “great”. It reflects his role as a “bridge builder.”
Originally a name used for Roman leaders, it means the pope is the “highest priest” in the Catholic Church.
Derived from ‘pontifex’, pontiff was another Roman term that referred to the ‘highest priest’. The pope is often referred to as the ‘supreme pontiff’ or the ‘Roman pontiff.’
SERVANT OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD:
Adopted by St. Gregory the Great in 602, the title reflects the pope’s role as a ‘servant’ to the people of God in imitation of Jesus Christ.
VICAR OF CHRIST
Added by St. Leo the Great in the 5th century, it reminds the faithful of the pope’s role as an ‘earthly representative whom Jesus appoints to shepherd his flock.’ The word ‘vicar’ means “one who rules or leads in the place of another.”
SOVEREIGN OF THE VATICAN CITY STATE
A recent title of the pope, it recognises his role as leader of the Vatican City State.
BISHOP OF ROME
Ever since St. Peter, the pope has been known for his role as the local bishop of the city of Rome.
PRIMATE OF ITALY
Historically each region of the Church has a “primate”, which refers to the first or primary leader of the Church in that specific area.
This title is most commonly used when addressing the pope, but is also used for other religious leaders in the English language.