Is He “Pope” or “Bishop of Rome”?

As Vatican Insider points out,

until now, Bergoglio has not once called himself Pope or Supreme Pontiff, in any of his speeches and actions, but always referred to himself as the Bishop of Rome. This choice contains a clear message, regarding both the sense of episcopal collegiality and of ecumenism.

Let’s see how long it is before Francis does call himself “pope.”


  1. Well, if we trade the idea of “Pope of the Catholic Church” (which is erroneous) with that of “Pope of Rome,” Francis should find no more difficulty in embracing the word than does the Pope of Alexandria. Like the Patriarch of Alexandria, the Patriarch of Rome is called “pope”. It’s a style more than it is a title. “Bishop of Rome” is a title. “Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province” is a title. “Pope” is just what we traditionally call the man who holds those titles.

    1. @Peter Rehwaldt – comment #2:
      The pope is not managing his own Twitter account, just like the president of the United States doesn’t manage his own Twitter account.

      If someone bought him an iPhone and he started posting from it, “GAME OVER.” He’d be one of the most popular Twitter handles on the planet.

  2. If you look at his speeches ( he does make references to himself as Pope, (perhaps a bit obliquely). To the cardinals, he made a reference to “la preghiera del Popolo cristiano per il nuovo Papa”, to the media he spoke of “[il] ruolo del Papa e del suo ministero” and the cardinals’ reaction “perché è stato eletto il Papa” and yesterday he said “anche il Papa per esercitare il potere deve entrare sempre più in quel servizio”. It’s true that when speaking of his ministry yesterday, he chose to use the phrase “Bishop of Rome and Successor to Peter” but so did Benedict XVI in his Inauguration homily (and, for that matter, in his resignation as well).

  3. Similarly, in the news stories about his placing a call to the Jesuit Superior, the young guy who took the call reported that the pope said “This is Pope Francis calling” or words to that effect.

  4. 1. He is very conscious of “coming from the end’s of the earth” to be bishop of Rome, that Rome has not had an Italian bishop for decades, and that some of them were hoping for one now. That is why he is also using a lot of Italian.

    2. He is modeling what a Bishop (and cardinal) should be and do as much as what a Pope should be and do. He had a successful model going for him in Argentina, and is recommending it by example to his brother bishops and cardinals, i.e. to focus on popular external things, especially the poor, peace, the environment.

    3. He knows he is the Pope and that he has to change some things about how the Papacy and the Curia do things. However that will take time, strategies, and most importantly committed collaborators. In the meantime if he did a lot of traditional Papal head of state stuff, people would just criticize him for not changing things.

    He is using all the things that he has been successful in doing in Argentina to give people a positive image of the Pope as bishop without dealing with the really difficult issues proper to the Papacy itself.

    I suspect like JP2 this Pope is going to be a strong Pope on the international scene but he is going to have to have collaborators organized to carry that off. He will focus on the poor, peace and the environment at the international level but in the meantime I think he will give bishops a lot of examples as how they can do that in there own dioceses by doing it in Rome.

  5. I suspect he will fill some posts, perhaps the more important ones, with people who are diocesan bishops, like Schoenborn, for example.

  6. Here in Japan titles, honorifics and respect language are a veritable minefield. Further over the almost 40 years I’ve been here there has been a certain amount of change and shift in the way they are used both in secular and Church circles. Some are not happy with the change, and occasionally some confusion.
    I’ve also noted a shift in the way ecclesial titles are used across different cultures. We don’t have any Monsignors, Canons or Deans here in Japan, but in some Asian countries they are still used.
    A younger colleague, who spent part of his formation in Argentina and later worked there as a missionary, seems to vary the self-descriptors he uses depending on whether he is writing in Japanese or Spanish, or who he is adressing.
    I suspect we shall see some variation in the way “Padre Jorge” – Cardinal Bergoglio – Francis, Bishop of Rome names himself and is addressed.
    As an aside, Sandro Magister of Chiesa.Espresso depending on whether he had positive or negative remarks to make respecting both John Paul II and Benedict XVI would either refer to Pope John Paul/Benedict or the rather irregular Pope Woytyla or Pope Ratzinger. So if we see Pope Bergoglio in his blog, the comment will be at least barbed if not negative.

  7. My heart is warmed that Bergoglio seems to be taking the duty of being the Bishop of Rome seriously. It’s got to be tough as a diocese to have a bishop who is in such demand from people outside the diocese, country, continent, or hemisphere! As important as his pastoral ministry to the universal Church is, his local flock needs his attention and care.

    One wonders if there is any merely human shepherd who can ever imitate the Good Shepherd — who leaves the 99 (local) to recover the 1 (remote) — without making the 99 feel insignificant!

  8. I think that in stressing that he is the Bishop of Rome, Francis is signalling that he does not imagine himself to be the Bishop of Earth.

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