Benedict XVI is the latest to hold the ancient office of Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a title inherited from St. Peter, who established the Church in Rome nearly 2000 years ago, and whom the church recognizes as the first pope. The pope serves a critical purpose of head of the Church, as demonstrated by his numerous roles and duties.

Administrative Head

The pope is the administrative head of the Church as well as its symbolic head. The pope has the power to appoint, transfer or dismiss the bishops of the Catholic Church. A bishop is the head of the church in a region, called a diocese, and is in charge of the clergy within this area. The pope is also in charge of the administrative division of the Catholic realm and has the power to establish new dioceses or merge existing dioceses.

Missions

The pope is in charge of the direction taken by Catholic missions around the world, what special considerations may be taken in one region and what the goals should be. An important part of Catholic missions is the propagation of the Catholic faith.

Judge of the Faithful

The pope can also hear appeals made by the Catholic clergy. Those within the Catholic Church who wish to appeal above the authority of the local diocese may appeal to the pope. The pope has the power to judge in these cases, if he so wishes. The pope also has the power to excommunicate members of the clergy for breaking the laws of the Church.

Teacher

The pope has the last word regarding the Catholic interpretation of the Christian faith and of the Bible. It is within the pope’s power to legislate what messages and teachings are to be stressed in Catholic churches and schools, and which are not.