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..."