Why does the Pope live in luxury? What's with the pomp? Where is the humility?
We got an email that said:
"It seems that the Pope (bishops and other Catholic clergy) wears really fancy and expensive clothes, lives like royalty, and has people bow to him, kiss his ring - are those traditions from Peter?"
Pope Francis impressed many when he turned down the papal apartment to live in a more humble room, and adopted an inexpensive papal ring and cross, paid his hotel bill the morning after his election, etc. He also removed a lot of fomality and pomp from the office of the pope
What about all the rest of the popes
The Pope is not only the Bishop of Rome and the head of the Church but he is the leader of a country, the Vatican. We take good care of the Pope. He's over 80 years old! We feed him well, dress him well, give him a good doctor, give him a comfortable bed so he sleeps well and stays healthy, give him a bullet proof vehicle so crazy people don't kill him. He is working long hours, and has dedicated his life to the Church. It's a lot of work to elect a new Pope, and we don't want them always dying on us, unnecessarily. We must remember that the early Church did not want people to run out and try to get themselves killed for the faith. They said "avoid becoming a martyr if you can, but don't compromise your faith." And that is the spirit with which we are taking care of our Pope. The early apostles such as Peter, received a great deal of respect from the faithful.
The Pope actually lives a life that is more frugal than almost any leader in the world. He lives in the papal apartments, smaller than most TV evangelist's homes. He doesn't have his own airplane, transportation is chartered by commercial carriers, he doesn't wear a crown or anything like that. His vestments are no more expensive than James Dobson's suits. Of course they are well pressed and well washed. He has a big cross around his neck to show that Jesus is the focus.
At over 80 years old, he works over 50 hours a week. We don't know how he does it. So of course we want to make him as comfortable as possible. There are almost no other world leaders who would work 50 hours a week at over 80 years old. They are living in mansions, and are in happy retirement. Our Pope will likely work until the day he dies, like most of the other Popes throughout history.
Every year the Pope washes the feet of the priests in an act of humility and at the command of our Lord Jesus at the Last Supper (see video):
He gets on both knees and kisses the ground, every time he enters a Church in acknowledgment of the Lord who is Lord of all. Pope John Paul II kissed the ground of every country he visited.
Why did Popes become heads of states?
Basically, the biggest reason that the Pope was head of his own country is that it is important that the Church not be interfered with by any other political leaders and if the head of the Church was in a country governed by a political leader it would be vulnerable to outside interference. In the Eastern Orthodox Church there were big troubles because of political interference from the heads of states in countries where the Church was situated. This system of a Pope being a political head of state is certainly not perfect because ancient Popes sometimes became overly ambitious politically. However, history shows us that God had a way of knocking them on their butts when they did, as in the 1527 sack of Rome by the Germans. God did the same kind of thing to the ancient Jewish kings when they became too aggressively ambitious. Today, the Vatican is a tiny little state that is only about 2 square miles, and is occupied only by a couple of thousand people who work in the Vatican. This is probably a good balance. There is an article about why Popes became heads of states is here.
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- Visible vs. invisible church
- Pope Francis' turbulent papacy
- When did Bishop of Rome become Pope
- Early Eastern Church fathers re: Pope
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- Is Peter the Rock of Matthew 16:18?
- Why did the Pope have a Kingdom?