On September 22-27 Pope Francis visited America. He is the fourth pope in American history to visit the United States and the first to address a joint session of congress. His visit attracted much media attention in the days leading up to his arrival and throughout his time here. Those not familiar with the teachings Catholicism may wonder why the visit of this particular church leader is such a big deal.
The Pope is much more than just another church leader. As the leader of the Catholic church he holds spiritual authority over 1 billion Catholics. Catholicism is the largest branch of Christianity with more members than all other Christian groups combined. As a result the Pope is seen by many to be the leader of the Christian world in the same way that the President of the United States was seen as the leader of the free world. Though the president did not actually have power in every democratic nation in the world, his position as leader of the greatest free superpower in the world gave him much influence around the world. Though the Pope does not have any official power in most of the Christian denominations his position as the head of the Catholic church gives him great influence. When the Pope speaks, he is heard by many as speaking for Christianity at large.
His importance is greater than his influence as the head of the largest Christian denomination. The Pope holds real authority over the Catholic church. His position is that of the earthly representative of Christ, the spiritual successor of Peter and the bishop over the entire Catholic church. He is believed to have authority directly from God over the entire Roman Catholic church. His words always carry the weight of authority, but when he uses his authority as Pope to define a matter of doctrine or morals he is believed to speak infallibly. His declaration is viewed as free from error and as new revelation from God that is fully binding on all Christians. The Pope is an extremely important figure because he has great power and influence 1/7th of the world’s population.
Though Catholic doctrine declares the Pope to be the head of the church and the mouthpiece of Christ with the ability to speak infallible words of God, their doctrines stand in clear contradiction to the Word of God. The single head of the church is Jesus. He has not and will not give that position to any. The Word of God is the final authority for all men. No edict from any church leader replaces, usurps or adds to God’s Word. 2 Peter 1 declares we have in God’s Word “all things that pertain unto life and Godliness.” All that is needed to live a Godly life is found in the Bible. The Bible teaches fully all that man needs to know for salvation and Christian living.
If you would like to hear more on this topic, tune in October 4 for a fuller answer. You can hear the Everlasting Truths radio show on 92.7 WRPP at noon.