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 (páppas) originally an affectionate term meaning "father", later referring to a bishop or patriarch. The earliest record of the use of this title is in regard to the Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Heraclas of Alexandria (232–248) 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.
Which translates into:
From the early 3rd century the title was applied generically to all bishops. 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.
Þa wæs in þa tid Uitalius papa þæs apostolican seðles aldorbiscop.
In Modern English:
At that time, Pope Vitalian was chief bishop of the apostolic see.
Later history and contemporary useEdit
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. Despite its earlier use to refer to any bishop, in 998 an Archbishop of Milan was rebuked for having called himself "pope", and in 1073 it was formally decided by Pope Gregory VII that no other bishop of the Catholic Church would hold the title.
In the Slavic languages of many Eastern Orthodox countries the term "pope" (поп, піп; pop) means "priest"; these include Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, and Bulgarian. The Romanian popă has the same meaning. When context is clear, "pope" may also be used in English to mean "Eastern Orthodox priest".
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