I know that Peter is the first Pope, but I do believe that he is called a bishop and is one of several including the Bishops of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and others. Who was the first Pope to call himself by that name? Was it Leo who increased Papal power or someone else?

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    wikipedia says "The earliest record of the use of this title was in regard to the by then deceased Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Heraclas of Alexandria (232–248).[24] The earliest recorded use of the title "pope" in English dates to the mid-10th century, when it was used in reference to Pope Vitalian in an Old English translation of Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum.[25]"
    – MCW
    Oct 27, 2015 at 11:56
  • Actually, Pope is just "Father", so it was "a normal title" for christian priests long time ago. Even now still there are two Popes: of Rome and of Alexandria.
    – Matt
    Oct 27, 2015 at 13:24
  • It's papa, not pater, the actual Latin word for "father." It isn't quite "daddy" either, as that was tata. It was a word used for a father, though, similar to English's own "papa" or "pop".
    – user12566
    Oct 27, 2015 at 13:59
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    This question is not clear. You need to state whether "pater" or "papa" or "il papa" is the word in question. You also need to state whether the person is ascribed to having written that himself, or whether others have written something calling him that. Oct 27, 2015 at 14:11
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    The question is perfectly intelligible as it stands.
    – user12566
    Oct 28, 2015 at 1:00

2 Answers 2


The first title to be used for "pope" properly was the Latin Pontifex Maximus, which was originally the title for the chief of the College of Priests (Collegium Pontificum), sort of religious priests of the city of Rome itself.

By the time Christianity came around, the Pontifex Maximus of Rome was the emperor. That changed with Gratian who renounced it. Later, Leo I (as you guessed) resumed the title.

Papa (Gk. πάππας, "pappas") from which comes the English pope, was applied to senior priests, but seems to have been applied to the chief of Christian bishops only with Pope Heraclas, if Wikipedia is to be believed.


There is a disagreement between different authorities. Some consider Clement to be the first legitimate successor of Peter the Apostle and the first Bishop of Rome after him. The Catholic Church itself considers Clement to be the first pope after Peter. The reason for this is that the Liber Pontificalis, the official book on the popes of the Church, specifically says that Peter chose Clement to be his successor. Other authorities consider Linus to have been the first pope after Peter..

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    According to the official Catholic list the first four popes are (1) Peter, (2) Linus, (3) Anacletus, (4) Clement.
    – fdb
    Oct 27, 2015 at 13:36
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    @TylerDurden If all the bishops of the time called themselves something like Pope, how could the power of the Pope as head of the church exist? It sounds like all the Bishops were equal. When was it established and practiced that the Bishop of Rome would be the head of all Christendom?
    – SophArch
    Oct 27, 2015 at 22:55
  • it is rather silly to ask who was the first person to used a title translated into English as pope. The question should rather be which alleged successor of St. Peter first called himself Bishop of Jerusalem and which first called himself bishop of Rome; then which alleged successor first called himself Archbishop or Metropolitan of Jerusalem & the same for Rome, the first to call himself Primate of Italy, the first to call himself Patriarch, and the first Bishop of Rome to claim to rule the whole Christian church.
    – MAGolding
    Mar 7, 2017 at 19:12

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