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Catholic Dictionary




High priest, and therefore any bishop, as successor of the Apostles. Now reserved as the title of the Pope. In pre-Christian times, the pontifices were the chief priests of Rome and were given this name either because they were "bridge builders" (pontem facere), between the gods and men, or because they offered sacrifice (puntis). (Etym. Latin pontifex, high priest; literally, bridgemaker; popular original meaning: waymaker, pathfinder.)