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RAMIFICATIONS OF THE PAPACY’S POWER IN ROME

Church History 301
April 20, 2014

Ramifications of the Papacy’s Power in Rome

The papacy – the office held by the pope as head of the Catholic Church - gained great power from the sixth through eighth centuries, and there are several reasons for this surge in influence. Starting around 590, Pope Gregory I sought to convert Teutonic invaders to Christianity. Islam was also in play, as it had taken over most of Asia and Africa. According to Earl Cairns, by trying to win Teutonic tribes to Christianity, the medieval church “…further centralized its organization under papal supremacy and developed the sacramental-hierarchical system characteristic of the Roman Catholic Church.”
In addition, the church had started with Christ, who made Peter the first Pope in Rome. Hence, it was evident that this would be fitting for the location of the papacy. Jesus had given Peter the keys to the kingdom, asserting that Peter was the rock on which he would build his church (Matthew 16:18-19). Basing the Church in Rome enabled close coordination of political and ecclesiastical leadership, especially since it was still under Roman rule.
Another factor, which gave the Roman church its authority, was Damascus I (366-384), who called the church in Rome the apostolic see and named himself pontifex maximus, a name once held by the emperor of Rome. This elevated the authority of the church in the minds of Christians, and it elevated the political power of the church, making the pope the elect representative of God, similar to an emperor. This behavior of self-importance would later be repeated with King Charlemagne.
When Christianity became the official religion in 451, the Church became very popular. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 determined the five dioceses. This declared the bishop of Constantinople to be second in…...

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