The term ‘pope’ comes from the Greek word pappas (the Latin papa) which means father. It was originally used by children in ancient Greece to refer to their fathers, with affection and respect.

The Romans co-opted it to serve as a non-familial honorific. It thus came to be a term that was commonly used to refer to any priest or bishop in much the same was as today’s priests are called ‘father.’

Even today, parish priests of the Orthodox Churches in Greece, Russia and Serbia are called ‘pope’ by the locals.

In the West, starting in the 3rd century, the usage of the term ‘pope’ was restricted to senior clerics — typically bishops.

Please refer to the “First Pope” article for more details about the change in usage of the term ‘pope.’

Written by: Anura Guruge