Catholicism has always observed the penultimate leader of its entire church in one man termed as the Pope. Many religious art pieces of the Renaissance seek to encapsulate the aura of the papacy. The Pope is often seen as Christ’s representative on earth and he is therefore charged with leading the flock into glory. The Vicar of Christ is God’s mouthpiece on earth; as such persons tend to give heavy consideration to his words, actions and policies. Given the size of the modern church which now numbers in the billions, that gives the selected person an enormous platform to reach and connect with millions simply by stepping out on the Basilica (Main Roman Catholic building/Church in the Vatican)
The sheer enormity of this church begs one question how can one man run it all, and what are his specific duties in today’s church?
The Vatican is considered as an independent state with the Pope Head of State; the Vatican, therefore, maintains over 100 diplomatic ties to countries around the world. During the reign of Pope Paul VI, the church became more of an outwardly diplomatic force rather than a stationary and neutral religious body. In practical terms, this means a similar schedule to his corporate and political counterparts.
On a given day, The Holy Father will find himself meeting with diplomats, cardinals, and bishops all over the world and this often times is only one -half of his day. The other half of his day is packed with creating formal communications or responses, writing epistles, canonizing text, submitting persons for sainthood as well as his most important role, praying on the behalf of his flock. It is in this area the Pope really begins to differentiate himself.
Every day begins the same; this is leading a small mass for the household staff. After breakfast, depending on the time of the Liturgical Year, he may find himself ministering to the faithful directly via short messages and speeches. As a holy site, The Vatican is host to thousands of pilgrims annually. As many as 200,000 pilgrims will travel to Rome to just attend a General Audience with the Holy Father.
An International Man of Prayer
Having over two billion believers means the realization of one simple fact- there is no one place on earth that can hold them all simultaneously. In addition to that, not many will be able to take the trip to Rome whether for health, financial or other reasons. In order to continue the global reach of the Church while keeping it visible and relevant, The Roman Pontiff must then travel as much as possible to meet with his far- flung flock. His itinerary while traveling is understandably full because while he is mobile, the duties of the church still continue. The same process of prayer, meetings, drafting responses and cannoning believers must be done as if he never left Rome. In practical terms, this means starting the day at five and not ending until eleven or midnight.
To be continued.