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The History of Papacy Study Guide

written by: Om Thoke • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 9/11/2012

The Pope is considered to be the Head of Vatican State, which is a sovereign and independent city-state. This study guide on the history of Papacy focuses on all the activities of Popes and their spiritual roles from the day Peter arrived. Read on to learn more about the history of Papacy.

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    There isn’t any official list of Popes available to us, Annuario Pontificio is a comprehensive list that has been given out by the Vatican every year. According to the Annuario Pontificio, Benedict XVI currently holds the status of the Pope and is supposedly the 265th Pope of Rome.

    A lot of efforts have been put towards discovering the specifics of the History of Papacy, and the recent one includes a great study carried out by Catholic Church during the year 2001. Another research done during 2008 indicated the total number of popes to be 265, but total pontificates were found to be 267. This ambiguity is related to the fact that Benedict IX has held the post of Pope thrice during 1032 to 1048.

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    Timeline of History of the Papacy

    The sequential role of history of the Papacy can be segregated into three time intervals; these are the Early Church age, Middle Age, and finally the Modern Era.

    Early Church Age

    In the era of early Church, there was no temporal power given to the Pope and he simply played the role of the Bishop in the Rome’s Christian Church. But, things soon changed, during the Middle Age, after the end of 4th century.

    Middle Ages

    Coming to the second noticeable period, the Middle Age period commenced from 4th century to the period when church lands were seized by the Kingdom of Italy during 1870. During the Middle Ages, Papacy had reached its peak by unifying the churches of Western Europe. They had also expanded into territories of their own, which were known as the Papal States. Middle Ages also brought the Great Schism that marked the separation of the church, Byzantine and Catholic, East and West.

    Protestant Reformation also took place during the Middle Age, which challenged the papacy’s authority. Towards the last few years of the Middle Ages, Vatican had been deprived of the Papal States.

    The Modern Era

    The decline in the temporal power of the pope marked the commencement of the Modern Era, which is believed to have begun during the 19th century, and is prevailing to date. During this period of time, Papacy made its prime focus to work as Catholic Church’s spiritual head. The recognition of the Pope as the successor of the Saint Peter was recognized by Catholics. According to the Holy Bible, Jesus named Peter as the ‘Rock’ and ‘Shepherd’ of the church.

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    Who was the First Pope?

    Even though Peter never had the title of Pope associated with his name, Catholics regard him to be the first Pope. The study done on the New Testament did not render any sound proof about Peter being the Rome’s first bishop, but it did present many interesting facts that closely relate to infallibility and Papacy and some intervention with the foundation of Petrine function.

    Some of the historians argue that the belief that Peter was the Rome’s first bishop and founded the Christian church. According to the writings of the church’s father Irenaeus, dating back to the 180 AD, there was a strong notion that Peter had found and organized the Rome’s church, while others argued that Peter was never in Rome until the third century.

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    After Reformation

    Information pertaining to the Papacy and its origin became all the more important after the reformation, Churches of Christianity had different options; while protestant theologians stated that Peter never stayed in Rome, and the death of Peter was mentioned to be in Rone, only on political backgrounds (according to Baur).

    History of the Papacy still has many secrets to it, and currently even Hollywood movies like the Da Vinci Code, emphasize on the history of the Papacy, and try to reveal the reality to general public. This has been a great matter of controversy, and citations are needed even for pages about the history of Papacy on Wikipedia, and other such communities due to strong differences in opinion of the Catholics and Protestants.