Pope (word)

Pope is a title traditionally accorded to the Bishop of Rome, the Coptic and Greek Orthodox Bishop of Alexandria, and some autocratic leaders of other ecclesial communities. Popes may also claim the title Patriarch. Both terms come from a word for father.


The word pope is derived ultimately from the Greek πάππας[1] (páppas[2]) originally an affectionate term meaning "father", later referring to a bishop or patriarch.[3] The earliest record of the use of this title is in regard to the Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Heraclas of Alexandria (232–248)[4][5] in a letter written by his successor, Pope Dionysius of Alexandria, to Philemon, a Roman presbyter:

τοῦτον ἐγὼ τὸν κανόνα καὶ τὸν τύπον παρὰ τοῦ μακαρίου πάπα ἡμῶν Ἡρακλᾶ παρέλαβον.[6]

Which translates into:

I received this rule and ordinance from our blessed father/pope, Heraclas.[7][8]

From the early 3rd century the title was applied generically to all bishops.[9][10] The earliest extant record of the word papa being used in reference to a Bishop of Rome dates to late 3rd century, when it was applied to Pope Marcellinus.[11]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest recorded use of the title "pope" in English is in an Old English translation (c. 950) of Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People:

Þa wæs in þa tid Uitalius papa þæs apostolican seðles aldorbiscop.[12]

In Modern English:

At that time, Pope Vitalian was chief bishop of the apostolic see.

Later history and contemporary useEdit

The title pope continues to be used by Alexandrian bishops; both the Coptic Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Patriarchs of Alexandria are known as the "Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria".[13][14]

In the Western Christian world "pope" is chiefly associated with the Bishops of Rome — from the 5th or 6th century it became, in the West, a title reserved exclusively for these bishops.[15][16] Despite its earlier use to refer to any bishop, in 998 an Archbishop of Milan was rebuked for having called himself "pope",[17] and in 1073 it was formally decided by Pope Gregory VII that no other bishop of the Catholic Church would hold the title.[18][19]

In the Slavic languages of many Eastern Orthodox countries the term "pope"[20] (поп, піп; pop) means "priest"; these include Russian,[21] Ukrainian,[22] Serbian,[23] and Bulgarian.[24] The Romanian popă has the same meaning.[25] When context is clear, "pope" may also be used in English to mean "Eastern Orthodox priest".[26][27][28]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Liddell and Scott
  2. ^ American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Pope, Etymonline. Retrieved 07-15-2012
  4. ^ "Get to Know Popes of East & West". Amazon. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  5. ^ History of the Coptic Church, Iris Habib Elmasry.
  6. ^ Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica Book VII, chapter 7.7
  7. ^ "I received this rule and ordinance from our blessed father, Heraclas". Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History (translation by Arthur Cushman McGiffert).
  8. ^ "This rule and form I have received from our father (παπα) the blessed Heraclas". Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History (translation by Christian Frederic Cursé).
  9. ^ "Pope", Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3
  10. ^ O'Malley, John W. (2009). A History of the Popes: From Peter to the Present. Sheed & Ward. p. 15. ISBN 978-1580512275
  11. ^ Walsh, Michael J. (1998). Lives of the popes: Illustrated Biographies of Every Pope From St Peter to the Present. p. 34. ISBN 978-0861019601
  12. ^ "pope, n.1". OED Online. September 2011. Oxford University Press. 21 November 2011
  13. ^ Meinardus, Otto F. (2003). Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity. The American University in Cairo Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-9774247576
  14. ^ Bailey, Betty Jane, Bailey, Martin J. (2003). Who Are The Christians In The Middle East?. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 64. ISBN 978-0802810205
  15. ^ Greer, Thomas H, Lewis, Gavin (2004). A Brief History of the Western World. Cengage Learning. p. 172. ISBN 9780534642365)
  16. ^ Mazza, Enrico (2004). The Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite. Liturgical Press. p. 63. ISBN 9780814660782
  17. ^ Addis, William E., Arnold, Thomas (2004). A Catholic Dictionary Containing Some Account of the Doctrine, Discipline, Rites, Ceremonies, Councils and Religious Orders of the Catholic Church: Part Two. Kessinger Publishing. p. 667. ISBN 978-0766193802
  18. ^ Gerhart, Mary, Udoh, Fabian E. (2007). The Christianity Reader. University of Chicago Press. p. 494. ISBN 978-0226289595
  19. ^ Kiminas, Demetrius (2009). The Ecumenical Patriarchate. Wildside Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-1434458766
  20. ^ Stankiewicz, E. (1993). The Accentual Patterns of the Slavic Languages. Stanford University Press. p. 122. 978-0804720298
  21. ^ Ioann Shusherin et al (2007). From Peasant to Patriarch: Account of the Birth, Upbringing, and Life of His Holiness Nikon, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. Lexington Books. p. 182. ISBN 978-0739115794
  22. ^ Subtelny, Orest (2008). Ukraine: A History. Univ. Toronto Press. p. 215. ISBN 978-0802083906
  23. ^ Magner, F. Thomas (1995). Introduction to the Croatian and Serbian Language. Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 201. ISBN 978-0271015361
  24. ^ Tomic, Olga Miseska (2004). Balkan Syntax and Semantics. John Benjamins Pub Co. p. 108. ISBN 978-1588115027
  25. ^ Ethnologica. Association d'histoire comparative des institutions et du droit de la République socialiste Roumanie, 1982.
  26. ^ "pope, n.1". OED Online. Oxford University Press.
  27. ^ pope, noun, 5b. Reference.com.
  28. ^ Von Haxthausen, Baron (1968). The Russian Empire: Its People, Institutions and Resources. Routledge. p. 74. ISBN 978-0415410625