- Vicar of Christ
Vicar of Christ (Latin "Vicarius Christi") has been used since
Pope Gelasius I(served 492 - 496), alongside a few rarer 'vicarial' titles, as one of the titles of the Bishop of Rome —the Pope— as head of the Universal Church (see Papal primacy). A "vicar" is, roughly, a representative. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in addition to the pope, each bishop is referred to as the "Christ's Vicar"(§1560) to their diocese, and the conscience is called "the aboriginal Vicar of Christ."(§1778)
Previously the term referred to the
Holy Spirit, and the Bishop of Rome was referred to as the Vicar of Saint Peter.
This title of the pope implies his supreme and universal
primacy, both of honour and of jurisdiction, over the Catholic Church. Roman Catholics find justification for this in the words of Jesus Christ to St. Peter - "Feed my lambs ... Feed my sheep" (John 21:16-17). The Catholic Church believes Jesus made St. Peter the leader of the Apostles, hence, Prince of the Apostles, and constituted him as the guardian of His entire flock (the Church) in His own place, thus making him His Vicarand fulfilling the promise He made in Matthew 16:18-19.
The title "Vicar of Christ" came into use in the fifth and sixth centuries. The Christian Church prior to Constantine reserved the titles, "Vicar of Christ" and "Vicar of the Lord" exclusively for the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent to His Apostles to complete their training (John 16:12-15). Tertullian demonstrates this fact in the following quotes:
In the course of the ages other vicarial designations have been used for the pope, such as Vicar of St. Peter,
Vicar of the Prince of the Apostles(again referring to St. Peter, the first Pope) and even Vicar of the Apostolic See (Pope Gelasius, I, Ep. vi), but the title Vicar of Christ is more expressive of his supreme headship of the Catholic Church on earth, which people believe he bears by virtue of the commission of Christ and with vicarial power derived from Him. Thus, Pope Innocent IIIremoved bishops by appealing to his power as Vicar of Christ (cap. "Inter corporalia", 2, "De trans. ep."). He declared that Christ had given such power only to His vicar, Peter and his successors (cap. "Quanto", 3, ibid.) and stated that the Roman Pontiffis "the successor of Peter and the Vicar of Jesus Christ" (cap. "Licet", 4, ibid.).
The title Vicar of God used for the pope by
Nicholas III(c. "Fundamenta ejus", 17, "De elect.", in 6) is employed as an equivalent for Vicar of Christ.
The word "vicar" means one who serves or acts in place of someone as a representative, and is derived from the word "
Catholic Churchis not unique in calling Peter the "vicar of Christ" this title has also been used by Nestorians who believe in a Petrine Primacy similar to that of the Catholic Church.
Vicarius Filii Dei
*CathEncy|wstitle=Vicar of Christ
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