Since its conception and evolution, some sixteen hundred years ago or so, as the head of today’s Catholic church, Roman Catholicism has successfully evolved into a political, financial and very lucrative religious organisation; for there is no system on earth like it.
Some people forget, however, that the pope is a not only a religious leader but is also a head of state. Vatican City is an independent country within Italy and is recognised by the United Nations and the European Union.
The Holy See has diplomatic relations will over fifty nations. She is also exempt from paying taxes for both its citizens and properties (they are infamously known, in Italy, as the biggest tax-evaders in post-war Italy); she also receives full diplomatic immunity and has her own laws and even a police force. Yet it falls to the Italian police, each night, to cordon off Vatican square and erect crash barriers. This is all done so that the pontiff can sleep at night.
Because the pope is head of state, whenever his helicopter or aeroplane departs from the local airport, his detachment of Swiss guards, will go down on one knee and remain in that position until the copper is up and away (not even US Presidents or the Queen of England enjoy this level of reverence.)
Popes, historically, have enjoyed the ear of world leaders. Never before has this church been so rich and influential in many parts of the world. However, it wasn’t always so.
The early and true Christian Church was for years financially poor but spiritually rich (Acts 4:34-37.) Nowadays, this fact is totally reversed within Roman Catholicism.
Today’s pope bows down to images (pagan kings and queens would kiss popes feet), whilst Peter’s Jewish ancestral faith would have caused him deep offence and even need of repentance, had he done so: the contrast couldn’t be further (Ex. 23:24.)
Jesus was a poor humble carpenter and Peter was a poor fisherman, yet popes have been quite happy to live in luxury (John Paul II had a rather expensive swimming pool made for him at his beautiful summer residence, at Castlegandolfo.)
Popes also like to be called ‘Lord of the World,’ yet Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36.)
When the pagan Roman Empire collapsed, the Emperor became the Pope. The Senate became the College of Cardinals. The Imperial Governor became the Patriarch or Archbishop. The Provincial Governor became the Metropolitan or Bishop. The Civitas became Priests. Finally, and last on the list, the laity replaced the peasants (Lars Qualben, A History of the Christian Church, 1933, pg. 99.)
Statues of Peter, James, Mary, John and Joseph replaced pagan Roman statues of Venus, Apollos, Jupiter and Aphrodite; heathen incense was also replaced by Christian incense, candles were also initiated by the new priesthood (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII, pg. 500-570.)
Later on, Augustine and pope Gregory I would ultimately help to amalgamate this new office of Emperor and “high priest” into one.
(Benjamin Warfield, in his book, Studies in Tertullian and Augustine, states that Augustine was the founder of the Roman Church, (pgs. 114-116; 121-126.)
Christian leaders were given pagan temples and pagan vestments with which to now worship God. This was something that the early church would never have done.
The papacy’s power was enhanced beyond its wildest dreams (Jeffery Richards, The Popes and the Papacy in the Middle Ages.)
One of the lavish titles that the pagan Roman emperors used was Pontifex Maximus, which means, “highest priest.” Only Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 3:1.)
It should come as no surprise that all popes from the fifth century on adopted this title for themselves and still do.
Unfortunately for Rome, none of the early church fathers recognised this worldly title and more importantly neither does Scripture.
The Lord Jesus said to His disciples:
“And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve” (Luke 22:25,26.)
James, the Lord’s half-brother, not only co-led the Jerusalem church but was the apostle who issued the Jerusalem decree to the Gentiles, after consulting each apostle and allowing them their say (Acts 15.)
One church father, Hesychius (400AD) believed that James, not Peter, was the Churches, main leader:
[James]: “Is the chief captain of the new Jerusalem, the chief of the priests, the prince of the apostles, the leader amongst the heads, the one who surpasses in splendour the lights, who is superior among the stars” (Jacobum Fratrem Dom. Viii, pg. 93:1480.)
One should also appreciate that the apostles worked together, and with each other, to fulfil their divine calling, given to them from the Lord Himself.
This continued for nearly four hundred years until Sylvester (the first real Catholic pope) was inaugurated as supreme pontiff; this caused many problems within the local and wider church.
It would not be until some centuries later, that laity and clergy would be forced to acknowledge the Pontifex Maximus title and office seriously.
Tertullian interestingly once said:
“The Emperor can never be a Christian, nor can a Christian ever be the Emperor.”
His words, it seems, fell on deaf ears!
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