Title attributed to the Bishop of Rome and
head of the Catholic church. The title
comes from the Greek word páppas (infantile
term to describe the father), and was used at first in the East for
bishops. Even though since the beginning of the 1st
century, the Roman headquarters enjoys great prestige, the doctrine
of Papal supremacy established itself in degrees (the first
theoretic formulation dates back to Leon I, 440-446), both in
relationship to historic-political situations (struggle against the
Byzantium’s interference, creation of the sacred Roman
Empire), as well as for the influence of Roman Law and of the
figure of the Emperor.
The Avignon captivity (1305 - 1378) and then the Western Schism (1378 - 1417) with the simultaneous presence of three Popes and with the affirmation of the conciliatory theory, according to which the Ecumenical Council constitutes the supreme body of the church, weakened the Papacy’s prestige.
The Council of Trent, convened by Pope Paul III Farnese, who even though it did not define the jurisdiction supremacy and the infallibility of the Pope, implicitly recognized the prominent function of it on the bishops. The Vatican I Council (1868-1870), solemnly proclaimed the infallibility of the Pope and his jurisdiction supremacy. The Vatican II Council placed the exercise of the Papal supremacy inside the Episcopal collective character.
In the first centuries the Pope was chosen by the clergy and by the Roman people, but in order to avoid the interference of the political power, Nicholas II, in 1059, attributed the election to the cardinals. Alexander III established that in order to be elected, a two-thirds majority plus one vote was necessary. Paul VI excluded cardinals more than 80 years of age from the active electorate. The election awards full powers immediately.
The dignity of the Pope, that is being Peter’s successor in the governing of the diocese of Rome and the universal church, as the vicar of Christ on Earth, results in the person chosen by nomination: but the content of the charge is given to him directly from God. The Pope is also due the status of Metropolitan of Latium, Archbishop of Italy and Patriarch of the West.