'Who is the Pope?
The Pope is a follower of Jesus Christ and although he is coming to the UK as a Head of State (The Holy See – the Vatican), the primary purpose of his visit is to share the Good News that God loves us unconditionally and is merciful. It’s this reality – of God’s love and mercy – that is his primary message and is one that lies at the heart of the Catholic Faith. Visit our section on Pope Benedict XVI.
What is a Catholic?
Catholics are Christians, this means that they are followers of Jesus Christ. They believe Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, the Son of God, their friend, liberator, Lord and Saviour. Catholics believe that Jesus Christ set up the Church (Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 16, verse 18) to pass on the fullness of his teaching, his life, and to carry on his work.'
So, to anyone interested in the Papal Visit, be they Catholic or not, let's just run through that once more. According to the visit website, the Pope is a Catholic, a follower of Jesus Christ and he is a Head of State. A Catholic is a follower of Jesus Christ who is not a Head of State? Hmm...I think there is more to being Pope than merely being a 'Head of State', though I'm sure being a 'Head of State' is a marvellous thing.
Already, we've got to the section about 'The Catholic Faith' on the visit website and there seems to be some confusion being spread over the role of the Pope. It is almost as if the author is not sure of the Holy Father's role. You could be forgiven for thinking he the Pope is just like any other Catholic. So, let's just deal with this. The Pope is the Successor of St Peter, to whom Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "Peter, you are the Rock and upon this Rock I shall build my Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." The Pope is not a functionary. Neither is his role titular. That is absolutely crucial here. He is not there, nor is he even coming here purely as a 'Head of State'. He might be meeting the Queen as a Head of State, but that is not his capacity when he's going to Hyde Park, Cofton Park or Bellahouston.
The Pope is the Guardian of all Catholics, Chief Shepherd to all Catholics and Guardian of the Deposit of Faith - the Faith handed down by Christ to His Apostles and those Bishops who succeed them. He is today what St Peter was when 'not flesh and blood' revealed Christ's Divinity to him, but His 'Father in Heaven' - the Prince of the Apostles. This was the first infallibale Papal statement and, as far as we know, he wasn't even sitting on the Papal Throne when he said it. The Successor of St Peter, Pope Benedict XVI is still the Rock - a very sturdy Rock at that - and by virtue of his Apostolic Succession as Prince of the Apostles, he is due great reverence, loyalty, deference and obedience. He may be a 'Head of State', but even if he were stripped of this title entirely, he would still hold the Highest Office in the entire World because he is the Pope - the Vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth.
Now, let's move on to...
Jesus taught that we should love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark’s Gospel, chapter 12, verse 31). Catholics try to put this into practice and find it to be a life-giving and fulfilling way to live. They are involved in a wide variety of charitable works such as running hostels for the homeless and caring for the elderly.
Some of the core parts of Jesus’ teaching are:
• God loves us
• Believing in him is the way to true freedom, peace and happiness
• We should love God and one another, especially the poor and needy
• Our messes, mistakes and wrongs can be put right - we can be forgiven and know peace
• We can be healed from deep wounds and hurts by calling on the name of Jesus
• If we believe in Jesus we will inherit eternal life and live with him in heaven'
Yes, the Teachings of Our Blessed Saviour are a marvel in our sight. God does indeed love us with an infinite love and following Jesus Christ will indeed bring us true freedom and happiness if we persevere to the end. However, what a wonderful opportunity, in discussing the Teachings of Our Lord, we, and those in charge of the Papal Visit have here, to remember just what He said about His Church and the role of the Pope, Bishops and indeed, Priests:
To St Peter, Our Lord said, "Feed My lambs, feed My sheep." In other words, Our Blessed Saviour entrusted to Peter, the Rock, the duty to provide spiritual nourishment not just for all Christians, but for the Apostles themselves. It goes without saying that as Prince of the Apostles, the Apostles will have deferred to St Peter as much 2,000 years ago as they most certainly should today. Peter, who denied Our Lord thrice, was told by Christ that when he had 'recovered' he should 'strenghten the brethren' and confirm them in the One True Faith.
The absolutely glaring error of seeing the Pope or Cardinals and Bishops or Priests as functionaries, is in believing that Ordination has not changed them in any spiritual way. It has and dramatically so! A layman cannot, as much as he may even try, by mouthing the words of consecration over bread and wine at an Altar, change in substance the species into the Precious Body and Blood of Christ. Neither can a layman possibly absolve a penitent. He does not have the power from on High to do so! Even if a layman were the greatest Saint on Earth, he could not do that since he has not the Authority from God to do so! Neither for that matter can a Priest ordain Bishops or make Cardinals. Nor, as Pope John Paul II said, can the Pope change the Church's position on 'wimmin' priests'. Sorry gals! It isn't personal!
Our Lord did not teach His Truths in isolation - dividing His Holy Gospel from His Church in any way. The Church is the Ark of His Gospel, our Mother, just as His Blessed Mother was the Ark of the New and Everlasting Covenant - the Eternal Word, Himself. On Earth, He did not leave any room for separation or confusion between His Truth and His Church, built on His Apostles. He did not teach the Apostles one Gospel for them as Shepherds and another for the rest of the Church. Nor did He teach the Apostles the Faith only for them to teach that the Truth would be found outside of the Church.
Neither the Pope, the Successor of St Peter, nor Bishops, nor Priests are functionaries, administrators, or house-sitters, neither are they social workers, political activists or any secular vocation you can imagine. They are Alter Christus - other Christs. Christ has called these men to be Christs to the World, Christs who proclaims God's Kingdom to men, Christs who save souls, Christs who are instruments of His Absolution and Salvation, Christs who teach the whole Church and the World, His Truth boldly and without fear knowing that it is the Truth that sets the hearts of men and women free. The great fear of many Catholics, is that many Bishops and Priests seemingly neither know the Catholic Faith, nor do they teach it.
Who is the Pope? He is the Vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth. Where Peter is, there is the Church. Where the Church is, there is Eternal Life. That is one quote which should really be on the Papal Visit website, but sadly, I fear the organisers of this Papal Visit simply do not understand the One True Faith which they are charged with the duty to transmit.