Monday, July 19, 2010

Why is the Pope called the "Holy Father"?

The word "pope" is a derivative of the Greek word "pappas" ("papa" in Italian) which means "father" or "daddy". The Pope is called the "Holy Father" not because he is necessarily holier than anyone else, but because his role is a mission of spiritual fatherhood over the Church.

Protestants object to the title as they believe they we should "call no man father" (Matthew 23:9) as we read in scripture. But we find in other instances in scripture that there is nothing wrong with calling someone "father". What Christ referred to in Matthew 23:9 was the hypocrisy of the Pharisees for their pride in not looking humbly to God as the source of authority, fatherhood and teaching, but instead setting themselves up as ultimate authorities, father figures and teachers. Jesus used the "call no man father" hyperbole to highlight this. If we were to take his word on face value, then we could not even call our biological and earthly fathers "father", and there's no sense in that!

Matthew 3:9 - Jesus calls Abraham "father"
Acts 7:2 - St. Stephen calls Jewish leaders "fathers"
Acts 21:40, 22:1 - St. Paul calls Jerusalem Jews "fathers"
Romans 4:16-17 - Abraham called "the father of us all"
1 Corinthians 4:14-15 - "I become your father in Christ through the gospel..."
1 Timothy 1:2 - St. Paul refers to Timothy as his son (that would make St. Paul a father figure of sorts)
Hebrews 12:7-9 - we have earthly fathers to discipline us
1 John 2:13, 14 - "I write to you, fathers, because you know him..."


  1. So why would Jesus say Matt.23:9 don't call anyone on earth your father,for One is your FATHER in heaven.Who said that Apostle Peter was the first pope,for He died as an Apostle,we have one Holy Father which is in heaven,the pope should be called the Bishope of Rome.

    1. Read the blog entry again because I don't think you paid it any attention at all; the "issue" of Matt. 23:9 is addressed there.

      Pax tecum.

  2. With great respect to you,Stephen,Holy Father is used for God only,for the pope is a human,a sinner like the rest of us,He is the leader of the catholic religion,I read 1Cor.4:14-15,"I become your father in Jesus Christ through the Gospel...I think Holy Father title belongs only to God.

    1. EJK, with all due respect, what you think does not preclude anyone from being referred to by a particular title. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. Perhaps we should agree to disagree?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.