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The Role of Pope in Western Christian Church Research Paper


There is no use denying the fact that religion is an integral part of human society. It has appeared with the first signs of civilization when people were not able to explain some phenomena and attributed them some divine nature. It was made in order to help them to understand this world better and, at the same time, to reduce the fear of the unknown. Attributing divine qualities to some objects, people protected themselves as faith was a powerful remedy which could also help society to develop.

That is why, religion has been evolving along with society, obtaining new features and becoming more and more complicated. Finally, humanity managed to come to the idea of monotheism which replaced the pagandom and became the leading one. Since that time blistering development of various monotheist religions have started. Christianity was among them.

It has appeared in the I century in Palestine as the evolution of Old Testament Judaism. However, at its beginning it was not more than a local religion acknowledged by a low number of people. However, it developed and even during the rule of Nero it was known in a great number of Roman provinces (Lunn-Rockliffe para. 7). However, it was just the beginning of its spread and in several decades religions influence became so significant that Roman Emperors, who tried to destroy it at the beginning of its development, had to accept Christianity as the national religion. This step meant that the greater part of the population of Empire, which sized all civilized world, acknowledged this religion. Since that time, Christianity had passed a long way to become one of the most powerful world religions.

However, having a great number of people who considered Christianity to be their religion, the church, which appeared as the religious community of people who believed in Jesus Christ, had to create a certain infrastructure in order to rule and coordinate all these people and show them the way in which they should serve God. Moreover, it was obvious that like any organization, it had to have some people who would be able to manage its development and choose directions in which to move. According to the Catholic Churchs teachings, Jesus Christ personally appointed apostle Peter as the leader of the Church, who had to protect it and manage its functioning and development (“History of the Papacy” para. 5).

The thing is that Peter was the head of apostles, and, according to this pattern, bishops, who were taken as their successors, should be headed by the Pope, who was taken as Peters successor. This way of the organization of the church became the basis for its further development. Nowadays, the Pope is the head of the Church (“The Pope’s Role in the Church” para. 5). However, no one appoints him, as it is chosen among all bishops by their collective decision.

Besides, having created its structure, Christian Church managed to become very efficient and promote its further development. It should be said that at various periods of time the role of the Church varied and it is possible to analyze this very process.

It is obvious, that during the Roman period the Church, and the Pope as its head, did not have great influence on the social life and were not able to interfere in the policy which the governor of the empire performed. However, with the development of religion and society, more and more power became concentrated in the hands of Popes. It should be said that at the time of the collapse of Roman Empire, Christianity became its state and the most influential religion in the world. Still, it was not the peak of its power, as the barbarian invasion and events that followed it did not promote the development of the church and its rise. At this period of time the Pope did not have much power.

Moreover, it was even dangerous to obtain this post because various barbaric kings could use religion for their purposes, and the Pope, as the head of the Church, was the first to help these kings. However, the church managed to survive, and, moreover, save its power and influence and even make it stronger. The thing is that barbarian leaders understood that to remain the king for a long period of time they needed some reason which could create the basis for their rule. That is why, Clovis I was the first barbarian leader who converted to Catholicism in order to obtain its support. Since that event a great number of other barbaric tribes had abandoned their religion in favor to Christianity and this fact guaranteed spread of the influence of this phenomenon.

Thus, it should be said that there were two main ways in which Christianity developed. The thing is, that being the state religion of the Roman Empire it could not but react to its division which resulted in the appearance of Eastern and Western Roman Empires. The Pope became the leader of Western Church, while Patriarch of Constantinople headed the Eastern one. Nevertheless, they were not able to make a compromise as they had different vision of some main procedures connected with the peculiarities of divine service and some other aspects of religion.

Additionally, no one wanted to lose power and even the attempt to use the false document known as the Donation of Constantine as the evidence of the right of the Western Church to be the leading one was made (Trueman para. 5). Due to all these facts, in 1054 the East-West Schism took place. As the result of this event Western and Eastern Churches became finally divided and Catholic and Orthodox ones, which started their development in various ways, appeared (Miller para. 6). The Pope lost his influence in Eastern Regions of the empire and in a great number of countries which appeared after its collapse.

However, it should be admitted that as against the Patriarch of Constantinople, the head of the Orthodox Church, the Pope managed to promote the spread of his personal influence and the rise of his significance in the world policy. In the middle ages the Church became a powerful institution which interfered in the policy of all European states, blessing or forbidding some actions, supporting kings or, on the contrary, dethroning them. There were many events in the history of all European countries when the influence or interference of the Church changed the way in which a certain country moved. Crusades, that had a significant impact on the world history and led to the spread of Christianity and appearance of its opposition with another world religion, were organized by the Pope, who blessed campaigns against disbelievers (Trueman para. 11).

Besides, it should be said that the peak of the power of the Church and the Pope accounts for the period from XI till XIII century, however, even during some next centuries religion influenced the life of people greatly (Trueman para. 3). The Church obtained a great power and, that is why, society of that period of time could be called theocratic as the official power belonged to the clergy and the Pope. Cardinals, or the princes of the Church, had the influence compared with the authority of the rulers of states. Additionally, the Investiture Controversy, the conflict between the Church and Holy Roman Empire, resulted in the acquisition of secular authorities by the Pope (Abels para. 24). Church obtained the remedy to influence the policy of all European countries which had been used for a long period of time.

It should be said that with the development of society, philosophic thought, science and humanism, the role of the Church had been becoming less and less significant, however, it was still able to interfere in the functioning of states. Only at the beginning of XX century the final separation of the Church and a state happened in the majority of states. That is why, nowadays, church does not have such a great influence on the world policy, though it remains an important phenomenon which has a great impact on people all over the world.

In conclusion, it should be said that throughout the history of its development the Western Christian Church and the Pope had a great number of events which determined their development. Being the most powerful institution in medieval Europe, the Church, though, lost its influence and was separated from the state. Nowadays, it is an important social institution which helps people to ride the storm and save spirituality.

Works Cited

Abels, Richard. The Gregorian Reform and the Growth of Papal Supremacy, 1049-1159. n.d. Web.

. n.d. Web.

Lunn-Rockliffe, Sophie. . 2012. Web.

Miller, Paul. The Great Schism that Divided East and West. n.d. Web.

. n.d. Web.

Trueman, Nick. . n.d. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, July 1). The Role of Pope in Western Christian Church. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-role-of-pope-in-western-christian-church/

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"The Role of Pope in Western Christian Church." IvyPanda, 1 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-role-of-pope-in-western-christian-church/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Role of Pope in Western Christian Church." July 1, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-role-of-pope-in-western-christian-church/.


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IvyPanda. "The Role of Pope in Western Christian Church." July 1, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-role-of-pope-in-western-christian-church/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Role of Pope in Western Christian Church." July 1, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-role-of-pope-in-western-christian-church/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Role of Pope in Western Christian Church'. 1 July.

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