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The Struggle For The Papacy

The term pope was originally used for all of the many bishops of the western leg of the Roman church. Although the Vatican's official list of popes now begins in the first century AD, in reality it was about 400 years later that the term was used exclusively for the bishop of Rome i.e. from only about 500 AD did that particular bishop begin to assume authority over the entire Church of Rome. The "primacy of the bishop of Rome" doctrine was hotly contested among Catholics for centuries.

Roman Cathedral The office of the bishop of Rome was itself often challenged. In the history of the Roman Church, the term antipope is used for a man who usurped or contended for the position of bishop of Rome, and who succeeded, to some degree, for some length of time. There were periods in the history of the Roman papacy that two, and sometimes three, men claimed to be the pope at the same time, each with a substantial religious and political following.

Antipopes came to power under diverse circumstances. Some examples:

  • Political Exile
    When the Arian-believing emperor Constantius II found the orthodox beliefs of Pope Liberius unacceptable, the emperor installed an archdeacon as Pope Felix II (355-365).

  • Doctrinal Challenge
    The growth of Monarchianism caused a priest, Hippolytus (217-235), to claim the papacy against Pope Calixtus I.

  • Double Elections
    In 418, competing camps elected their own popes, Eulalius, an archdeacon, and Boniface I, a priest.

  • Triple Elections
    In the 7th century, both Paschal and Theodore were elected pope by their respective supporters. When neither of them could gain the upper hand for control over the other, Sergius I was elected pope by another group.

  • Election Changes
    In 1059 a change was instituted in the way popes were elected. Pope Nicholas decreed that the German emperors would no longer have a leading role in the selection of popes. This resulted in 2 popes being elected, one by the old rules, one by the new: Honorius II and Alexander II.

  • The Great Western Schism
    In the 14th century the papal residence was moved to Avignon, France. This resulted in 3 elected popes at the same time: a papacy in Rome, a papacy in Avignon, and later a third papacy in Pisa.

Fact Finder: What was the papacy's role in the political history of Europe?
See Emperors and Popes


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This Week's Bible Quiz

1. Who was older, Moses or Aaron?

2. Was King David the oldest or youngest son in his family?

3. Ephraim and Manasseh became the progenitors of two Tribes Of Israel just like Jacob's actual sons. Were they nephews or grandsons of Jacob?

4. Was the Egyptian woman who raised Moses the sister or daughter of Pharaoh?

5. Was Lot the brother or nephew of Abraham?

6. Who was the firstborn son of Jacob/Israel, whose mother was Leah?

7. Who was the youngest son of Jacob/Israel, whose mother was Rachel?

8. Who was the only daughter of Jacob/Israel?

9. Who was older of the brothers, Isaac or Ishmael?

10. Who was older of the brothers, Jacob or Esau?

For the answers to this May 28 2002 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page


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Bible Quiz Daily Bible Study Library
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