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Vicar of Christ


A title of the Roman pontiff expressing his claim to universal jurisdiction in virtue of Christ's words to St. Peter, "Feed my lambs Feed my sheep" (Jn 21.1617). It occurs in ecclesiastical writings as early as the 3d century, but until the 9th century it was used for the emperor as well as for bishops and popes. With innocent iii (11981216) it became the exclusive title of the pope and completely superseded the older titles "Vicar of St. Peter," and "Vicar of God," which had enjoyed preeminence before this time. This development, which was of particular importance in the contemporary discussion about papal jurisdiction, was effected in large part by the medieval decretalists, and grew out of their treatment of the problem of secular and spiritual power.

Bibliography: m. maccarrone, Vicarius Christi: Storia del titolo papale (Rome 1952). o. hageneder, "Studien zum Dekretale Vergentis, " Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, Kanonistische Abteilung 49 (1963) 138173. j. a. watt, "The Theory of Papal Monarchy in the Thirteenth Century," Traditio 20 (1964).

[j. j. muzas]

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