Bringing you the "Good News" of Jesus Christ and His Church While PROMOTING CATHOLIC Apologetic Support groups loyal to the Holy Father and Church's magisterium
Home About
What's New? Resources The Church Family Life Mass and
Ask A Catholic
Knowledge base
AskACatholic Disclaimer
Search the
AskACatholic Database
Donate and
Support our work
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
New Questions
Cool Catholic Videos
About Saints
Disciplines & Practices for distinct Church seasons
Purgatory and Indulgences
About the Holy Mass
About Mary
Searching and Confused
Contemplating becoming a Catholic or Coming home
Homosexual and Gender Issues
Life and Family
No Salvation Outside the Church
Sacred Scripture
non-Catholic Cults
Justification and Salvation
The Pope and Papacy
The Sacraments
Relationships and Marriage situations
Specific people, organizations and events
Doctrine and Teachings
Specific Practices
Church Internals
Church History

Ellen Harmer wrote:

Hi, guys —

My name is Ellen Harmer and I am attending Stella Maris College in Manly, Sydney, Australia.
I am currently in year twelve, completing my final year at school. I am taking a Religion II unit
and am currently doing a research project on Pope John Paul II.

I mainly chose this topic, because I was interested in how he came from being a Catholic,
to becoming the Pope and playing such a vital role in the Catholic Church.

  • I was just wondering if you have any interesting facts on Pope John Paul II?
  • Also, could you explain how a person becomes the Pope or a bishop and what roles they actually have?

Any information would be greatly appreciated.


Ellen Harmer

  { How does someone like John Paul II become the Pope or a bishop and what roles do they have? }

Mike replied:

Hi Ellen,

Thanks for the question.

You said:

  • I was just wondering if you have any interesting facts on Pope John Paul II?

The best biography of Pope John Paul II, can probably be found on the Vatican web site:

You said:

  • Also, could you explain how a person becomes the Pope or a bishop and what roles they actually have?

We should probably say something about the priesthood first. The priesthood is a calling; a calling from Our Lord Jesus Himself, through the Church. A man is called to the priesthood. No man has a right to be a ministerial priest. This discernment involves seminary prayer and study for a period of time. Through this period of prayer and study, some men find a calling, while others don't. Take me, for an example: I didn't feel called to the priesthood, but I feel very called to being a lay Catholic Apologist for the Church.

Important Side note: No woman can be a priest, because Jesus was a man and priests act in the place of Jesus, the man.

Priests are collaborators with the bishop. Priests help bishops carry out their responsibilities in the local diocese. Bishops are successors of the Apostles. They have the highest order of the threefold ministry with the fullness of Christ's priesthood, with the power and authority to administer all the Sacraments, including Ordination. They are responsible for preaching, teaching, sanctifying and governing the local Catholic Church in their diocese.

The Pope is also a bishop who is responsible, not only for the Universal (Catholic) Church, but, for the diocese of Rome as well.

Because of the large population of Catholics in some dioceses, some bishops need extra helpers to manage the diocese fruitfully. The bishop appoints priests with a solid spiritual and theological formation, as well as financial experience and maturity, to serve him as auxiliary bishops.

The Pope appoints either a bishop or an auxiliary bishop to be a bishop for a specific diocese.
And again, within that diocese, the newly appointed bishop can appoint other auxiliary bishops,
if he believes he needs the extra help. A bishop in one diocese cannot tell another bishop in another diocese which auxiliary bishops to appoint. He can make a recommendation, but only the local diocesan bishop:

  • does the appointing, and
  • is solely responsible for the Catholics in the diocese that the Lord has given him.

Note: In a similar manner that auxiliary bishops are helpers to the diocesan bishop, the deacon is a helper to the pastor of a local Catholic parish. The deacon, though, is not a priest. He can:

  • baptize
  • assist in distributing Holy Communion
  • preach the Gospel
  • give the homily, and
  • witness marriages, but he can't:
    • hear Confessions or
    • celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

A cardinal is the highest-ranking prelate below the Papacy itself. The cardinal assists the Pope as a member of the College of Cardinals. They are usually appointed by the Pope to serve in dioceses that have large Catholic populations. Their garments are a distinctive red color. The color red symbolizes their wiliness to shed their own blood for the Catholic Christian faith.

It is from the College of Cardinals that the Holy Spirit chooses the next Pope for the Church.

Thanks for e-mailing.

I hope this answered most of your question.


John replied:

Hi, Ellen —

I just wanted to add to what Mike has said.

Mike has described the normal manner in which one is elevated to the Papacy. However, a Pope acting as Supreme Pontiff can appoint his successor. In the early Church, that is how it was done. St. Peter appointed his successor directly.

Also, with regards to cardinals, the elevation to cardinal does not change the nature of his ordination to bishop. In fact, once you're a bishop, you have received the fullness of Holy Orders.

A cardinal is unique because it makes a cardinal-bishop, priest, or deacon, the latter two are no longer used, but could be, a part of the local Church of Rome. Each of these cardinals actually has a parish in Rome, which is technically theirs, as well as their own diocese which they administer. Therefore, as part of the Roman clergy, they elect the Bishop of Rome, i.e. the Pope who is the Pope, by virtue of being the bishop of Rome aka — St. Peter's successor.


Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
© 2012 Panoramic Sites
The Early Church Fathers Church Fathers on the Primacy of Peter. The Early Church Fathers on the Catholic Church and the term Catholic. The Early Church Fathers on the importance of the Roman Catholic Church centered in Rome.