The power of the Pope extends over every single church, every single bishop and pastor, every one of the faithful for he is descended from Saint Peter the first Pope who Jesus Christ entrusted with the keys of the Kingdom: "And I say to thee, thou art Peter and upon this rock, I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven" (Matthew 16: 18-19).
Through this charge he may bind on earth and loose on earth appoint and depose bishops, call councils, make and unmake laws, send missionaries, confer distinctions, privileges, and dispensations, and reserve sins to his own tribunal.
The Pope is the supreme judge - the "Supreme or Sovereign Pontiff;" to him belongs the last appeal in all cases.
The Pope is the “teacher of all Christians”, the “chief shepherd of the shepherds and their flocks”. “Peter, standing up with the Eleven, lifted up his voice and spoke out to them…” (Acts 2:14). The word “Pope” is derived from the Latin term papa, which means “Father.”
The Pope is independent of every temporal sovereign and of every spiritual power. He is
responsible only to God. The temporal power of the Pope is his power to rule an independent state as sovereign, free and independent from other earthly sovereigns.
The vastness of the Church and the greatness of its responsibilities towards its millions of members require that it should be able to communicate with them unhampered by any national government, free of foreign interference.
When Constantine the Great was converted at the beginning of the fourth century, he gave large grants of money and lands to the Church. Emperors who succeeded him added to the grants.
In the year 327 Constantine moved the seat of his Empire to Constantinople. Rome was abandoned to itself, and became the prey of successive hordes of barbarians. The Roman people came to look up to the Popes as their only governors and protectors. In fact it was Pope Saint Leo the Great who saved Rome from Attila the “Scourge of God”, and from Genseric the Vandal. Thus abandoned by the emperors, little by little the people of central Italy became bound more strongly to the Popes.
In 754 the Lombards invaded Italy and threatened Rome. The Pope appealed urgently to the Emperor in Constantinople, but he was indifferent, neglectful, and did nothing.
In this emergency, the Pope crossed the Alps and appealed to Pepin, the Frankish king, to protect the people in Italy from the Lombards. Upon defeating the Lombards, King Pepin granted the conquered provinces to the Pope. In 774 Charlemagne, the son and successor of Pepin, confirmed the grant, and donated additional provinces to the Pope. These possessions, called the States of the Churrch, the Popes held until 1859.
In 1859 all the States of the Church, except Rome, were seized by the armies of Victor Emmanuel II, leader of the movement for the unification of Italy. In 1870 Rome itself was taken, and made capital of Italy, and the Pope - Pope Pius IX at that time - became virtually a prisoner in his own palace.
In 1929 the Lateran Treaty signed between the Holy See and the crown of Italy recognized the Pope’s temporal power and his sovereignty over the City of the Vatican, by a formal concordat between the Pope and the crown of Italy.
The City of the Vatican is the smallest sovereign state in the world. At the time of the signing of the Lateran Treaty, it had a population of 532, only 250 of whom were resident. It is almost entirely enclosed by high walls, and comprises 110 acres.
The Bishop of Rome enjoys the following exclusive privileges:
1. He has precedence of jurisdiction and honor over all other bishops.
The Bishop of Rome’s jurisdiction extends over all Christendom. He is first in both authority and honor.
2. He enjoys the exclusive titles of: Pope, Sovereign Pontiff, Roman Pontiff, Holy Father, His Holiness, Vicar of Christ, Father of Christendom. But he calls himself the “Servant of the Servants of God.”
Because of the words of Our Lord to Peter: “Blessed art thou,” we address the Pope Beatissime Pater (Most Holy Father). The office is called the See of Peter, Holy See, or the Apostolic See, or the Chair of Peter. The Pope is called from his see, the Pope of Rome, and the Catholic Church under him is often called the Roman Catholic Church.
The Pope assumes a new name upon his election, as St. Peter was given a new name by Our Lord. From the tenth century, it has been the custom to choose the name from those of previous Popes, St. Peter’s being excepted out of reverence. Pope John Paul II has taken his name from his predecessor, Cardinal Albino Luciani whose pontificate as Pope John Paul I lasted only 33 days. The latter chose the name in honor of his two immediate predecessors Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI.
Up through Pope Pius XII the Pope wore the tiara, a triple crown, the symbol of his preeminence in the threefold office of Teacher, Priest, and Pastor. That custom was discontinued by John XXIII in an effort to emphasize his role as "Servant of the Servants of God." The Pope still wears a cassock of white silk, uses white silk shoes, and a crosier mounted by a cross and bears a gold and white standard. He appoints and sends ambassadors to all nations and confers knighthood.
He confers vatious titles, orders, decorations, and other honors on certain persons, usually lay people, who in some special manner have distinguished themselves in fusrthering the well-being of humanity and of the Church. Most of these honors can be bestowed on both Catholics and outstanding non-Catholics. The most important ones in order of importance are the Supreme Order of Christ or Supreme Pontifical Order of Knighthood begun in 1319 by Pope John XXII, the Order of the Golden Spur limited to 100 living Knights, the Order of Pius IX comprising four classes, the Order of St. Gregory the Great founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1821, the Order of St. Sylvester instituted in 1841 also by Gregory XVI, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre the oldest of pontifical honors, the "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" medal established by Pope Leo XIII in 1888, and the Benemerenti medal first bestowed by Gregory XVI in 1832 in recognition of outstanding daring and courage.