By MICHAEL GAFFNEY
The title pope comes from early Italian, meaning papa or father figure.
Some scholars believe the title was first used in A.D. 535 by Pope St. John I of Tuscany to identify the bishop of Rome. However, other scholars claim that St. Leo I (A.D. 440-461) was first to use the title.
The title Pontifex Maximus (the Greatest Pontiff) was not adopted by the Catholic Church until 1464 by Pope Paul II -- for himself and his successors.
The origin of the title was first applied to each member of a "sacred" society in ancient Rome, known as the College of Pontiffs.
The head of this college was given the title Pontifex Maximus, and he held the title for life. The Pontifex Maximus, once elected, was never permitted to leave Rome. The Pope still is referred to as the Pontifex Maximus in some official church documents.
Emperor Constantine the Great ceded the Lateran Palace and its large land holdings and revenues to Pope Milchiades in A.D. 312.
The emperor granted the palace to the pope, along with the title Prince of the Lateran Palace, which was the first noble title of sovereign status for the bishops of Rome.
Pope Innocent I in A.D. 414 began adopting the linguistic practice reserved for sovereigns known as the "royal we," thereby affirming the royal title of pope. This practice of speaking formally in the plural to denote personal, as well as jurisdictional authority, continued until the end of the pontificate of Pope Paul VI in 1978, 1,300 years later.
The Treaty of the Lateran made between the pope and his church and King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy on Feb. 11, 1929, effectively declared Vatican City to be a sovereign city-state. The treaty was incorporated in the constitution of the new Italian republic after World War II.
Including St. Peter, also known as Simon of Bethsaida (Galilee), who died in A.D. 64, the Catholic Church has had 263 popes.
Pope John Paul II, born Karol Wojtyla on May 18,1920, was elected Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome on Oct. 16, 1978, and continues to lead the church.
(Source: Noonan, James-Charles Jr. The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Roman Catholic Church. Viking Penguin, 1996.)