AT THE CENTER
RELATED RESOURCES: POPE
The pope is the title given to the Bishop of Rome, who serves as the head of the Roman Catholic Church. According to Catholic tradition, Jesus made Peter, one of his disciples, the leader of his church and Peter later served as the first Bishop of Rome. Popes, as Peter's successors as Bishop of Rome, are the leaders of the church. Elected for life by senior bishops (the College of Cardinals), the pope exercises strong central authority. The doctrine of papal infallibility is the clearest expression of papal primacy, although it has only been invoked twice since its official definition in 1870. The pope is an object of shared identification for Catholics - a sign of the unity and universality of the Church around the world - as well as a focal point for criticism inside and outside the church. The papacy is currently held by Pope Francis, who succeeded Pope Benedict XVI in 2013.