The pope is the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church. He inherits this power from St. Peter, whom Jesus anointed as the head of his church. Elected by an assembly of cardinals, the pope holds his position for life or until he resigns. Upon the death or resignation of a pope, the assembly elects a new pope, who must fulfill the same set of duties as his predecessor.
Define Faith Issues
The pope defines all issues related to morality and faith. This requires that he interpret biblical passages and other religious texts using his authority to teach the faithful. The pope may offer his interpretation of clerical issues, such as procedures related to the celebration of Mass, or of more political subjects, such as birth control and abortion.
Administer the Church
The Catholic Church is one of the world's largest nonprofit organizations, employing thousands of people and controlling billions of dollars worth of investments and property. The pope could be considered the Catholic Church's president, making strategic decisions about its goals and administration and appointing subordinates to manage its day-to-day affairs.
The bishop, a figure subordinate to the pope in the church hierarchy, administers all church functions within a particular geographic area. Only the pope can appoint bishops as the heads of these locations.
The territory administered by a bishop is referred to as a diocese. In addition to appointing bishops, the pope can also create new dioceses or split up old ones. A new diocese is created or separated most often to accommodate the gain or loss of church members.
Some senior members of the church hierarchy are granted the title cardinal. They provide advice to the pope when he requests it and, upon his death, they elect his successor. Only the pope may name a member of the clergy as a cardinal.
The process of promoting a deceased member of the church to sainthood is long and arduous. The one under consideration must have satisfied an extensive list of requirements during her lifetime, including the performance of multiple miracles. Once the person's backers have successfully demonstrated that the candidate meets these requirements, the pope must either confirm or deny the person as a genuine saint.
Represents the Church
Although the duty lacks a basis in scripture, the pope is not just the leader of the Catholic Church, but also its foremost public representative. In speaking to the media and in making public announcements, the pope helps shape how Catholicism is perceived by the rest of the world.
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