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Pope drops traditional titles, including ‘Vicar of Christ’

April 03, 2020

In the latest Vatican yearbook, the Annuario Pontificio, the title “Vicar of Christ” does not appear on the listing for Pope Francis.

Int he 2020 edition of the Annuario, the page devoted to Pope Francis is headed simply by his name: Jorge Maria Bergoglio. Past editions have always been headed by the titles accorded to the Pope, beginning with “Vicar of Jesus Christ.” Other titles have been “Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman province, Sovereign of the Vatican City-State.” In the 2020 edition, these titles appear at the bottom of the page devoted to Pope Francis, identified only as “historical” titles.

Such a change would undoubtedly have required the approval of the Pontiff.

In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI dropped another traditional title: “Patriarch of the West.” The Vatican explained that the elimination of this title “could prove useful to ecumenical dialogue.” The statement also noted that the significance of that title “was never very clear, and over history has become obsolete and practically unusable.”

The title “Vicar of Jesus Christ,” on the other hand, has a clear and unmistakable theological significance. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that downgrading the title was a “theological barbarism.”

To date the Vatican has not issued any explanation for the change.


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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Apr. 04, 2020 4:50 PM ET USA

    I, for one, am grateful to the Pope for finally confirming the way some of us had already come to see his Pontificate. He hasn’t been acting as a genuine Vicar of Christ for years, so it makes perfect sense to just face the truth and drop the title. Maybe in the future a better Pope will take it up again— and try much harder to be worthy of it.

  • Posted by: Northern Digger - Apr. 03, 2020 6:54 PM ET USA

    Why do we have to "stoop to conquer"? Why can"t we broaden our forgiveness skills to include a more elevated "take" on things? Perhaps we might entertain the idea that the Holy Father is under tremendous pressure right now from all directions not excluding the concept that the virus is a wake-up call. Please consider the fact- the searing reality that the world is an unbelievably sinful and culpable place. ALL OF US SHOULD BE ON OUR KNEES including those who pray and fast+those who do not.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Apr. 03, 2020 3:54 PM ET USA

    In these days of Pachamama and the New Paradigm, perhaps the title "Vicar of Jesus Christ" is deemed offensive, a draw back to fundamentalism and not inclusive enough.