Vicar of Christ
Vicar of Christ is a term used in different ways, with different theological
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 connotations throughout history. As the original notion a vicar is of "earthly representative of God or Christ" but also used in sense of "person acting as parish priest in place of a real parson" The title is now used in Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

 to refer to the bishops and more specifically to the Bishop of Rome
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 (the pope).

History and different uses

During the history of Christianity
History of Christianity
The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion, its followers and the Church with its various denominations, from the first century to the present. Christianity was founded in the 1st century by the followers of Jesus of Nazareth who they believed to be the Christ or chosen one of God...

, the title of Vicar of Christ was used in different ways, with implications for theological, pastoral or different time.

Use for the bishops

The first record of the concept of the Vicar of Christ is mentioned in the Epistle to the Magnesians of St. Ignatius
Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius of Antioch was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology...

, Bishop of Antioch, a disciple of St. John
John the Apostle
John the Apostle, John the Apostle, John the Apostle, (Aramaic Yoħanna, (c. 6 - c. 100) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of James, another of the Twelve Apostles...

, probably commanded by Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

, with a pastoral sense, written between the years 88 and 107 AD "your bishop presides in the place of God (...)". Although Ignatius did not explicitly use the term Vicar of Christ, he clearly sets out the concept. Currently the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the official text of the teachings of the Catholic Church. A provisional, "reference text" was issued by Pope John Paul II on October 11, 1992 — "the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council" — with his apostolic...

 teaches that all bishops are vicars of Christ.

Use for the Holy Spirit

The second recorded use of "Vicar of Christ is found in the epistles of Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

 in the 3rd century, with a different theological slant to refer to the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

, that is, as Christ is not physically performing miracles in the Church, Holy Spirit acts as his Vicar on his behalf, performing miracles and preventing the Church err. It is unknown whether this term was widely used in the early Church, or whether it was a personal theological observation of Tertullian.

Use for the popes

The third use of the term Vicar of Christ appears in the 5th century, in a synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

 of bishops to refer to Pope Gelasius I
Pope Gelasius I
Pope Saint Gelasius I was pope from 492 until his death in 496. He was the third and last bishop of Rome of African origin in the Catholic Church. Gelasius was a prolific writer whose style placed him on the cusp between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages...

. The theological connotations of the title got a pastoral sense, evoking the words of Christ to the Apostle Peter, regarded by the first Catholic Pope in John 21:16-17, "Feed my lambs... Feed my sheep", so Christ made Peter his vicar and pastor with the responsibility to feed his flock (ie the Church) in his own place.

However, the use of the title to refer to the popes in the early Church was unstable, and several variants of the use of Vicar were used for the Pope, as "Vicar of Peter", indicating that they were the successors of St. Peter, "Vicar of the Prince of the Apostles" or "Vicar of the Apostolic See", among other variants. This title is used by the Roman Missal
Roman Missal
The Roman Missal is the liturgical book that contains the texts and rubrics for the celebration of the Mass in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.-Situation before the Council of Trent:...

 in their prayers for a dead pope, and the oath of allegiance to St. Boniface to Pope Gregory II
Pope Gregory II
Pope Saint Gregory II was pope from May 19, 715 to his death on February 11, 731, succeeding Pope Constantine. Having, it is said, bought off the Lombards for thirty pounds of gold, Charles Martel having refused his call for aid, he used the tranquillity thus obtained for vigorous missionary...

. The appointment of the Vicar of Christ for the popes became only the regular use from the thirteenth century, due to the reforms employed by Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III was Pope from 8 January 1198 until his death. His birth name was Lotario dei Conti di Segni, sometimes anglicised to Lothar of Segni....

, often called Innocent to this title and prerogative to appoint bishops. The edition of 2009 the Annuario Pontificio
Annuario Pontificio
The Annuario Pontificio is the annual directory of the Holy See. It lists all the popes to date and all officials of the Holy See's departments...

, the "Vicar of Jesus Christ" as the third official title of the Popes.

Use in Cesaropapism

Another use of the title, with a different meaning, appeared in the Eastern Churches, in use between the century fifth and sixth, the term was used to refer to the Byzantine emperor, showing the apex of caesaropapism
Caesaropapism is the idea of combining the power of secular government with, or making it superior to, the spiritual authority of the Church; especially concerning the connection of the Church with government. The term caesaropapism was coined by Max Weber, who defined it as follows: “a secular,...

. Although the emperor did not decide the doctrine - it was the responsibility of the bishops, that their role was to maintain the proper worship of God and the spirituality of his subjects, and to preserve the orthodoxy
The word orthodox, from Greek orthos + doxa , is generally used to mean the adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion...

, so the emperor act as Vicar of Christ on issues of character and administrative time.

Conspiracy theories

The conspiracy theory
Conspiracy theory
A conspiracy theory explains an event as being the result of an alleged plot by a covert group or organization or, more broadly, the idea that important political, social or economic events are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public.-Usage:The term "conspiracy...

 of "Vicarius Filii Dei
Vicarius Filii Dei
Vicarius Filii Dei is a phrase first used in the forged medieval Donation of Constantine to refer to Saint Peter, a leader of the Early Christian Church and regarded as the first Pope by the Catholic Church...

" (Vicar of the Son of God), supposedly considered an expansion of the historic title "Vicarius Christi", is a term used in the spurious "Donation of Constantine
Donation of Constantine
The Donation of Constantine is a forged Roman imperial decree by which the emperor Constantine I supposedly transferred authority over Rome and the western part of the Roman Empire to the pope. During the Middle Ages, the document was often cited in support of the Roman Church's claims to...

" to refer to Saint Peter. From the 19th century, because the interpretation of Uriah Smith, some groups of Seventh-day Adventists argue that the sentence is identified with the "number of the beast" (666
Year 666 was a common year starting on Thursday of the Julian calendar. The denomination 666 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.- Europe :* Chertsey Abbey is founded.* Barking Abbey...

), and would be used in the papal tiara
Papal Tiara
The Papal Tiara, also known incorrectly as the Triple Tiara, or in Latin as the Triregnum, in Italian as the Triregno and as the Trirègne in French, is the three-tiered jewelled papal crown, supposedly of Byzantine and Persian origin, that is a prominent symbol of the papacy...

, calling the Pope would be the Antichrist
The term or title antichrist, in Christian theology, refers to a leader who fulfills Biblical prophecies concerning an adversary of Christ, while resembling him in a deceptive manner...

. But due to lack of images or any source of Use "Vicarius Filii Dei" the tiara or mitre, and the term was never used as an official title (as well as the fact that their founder Ellen Gould White's name also adds up to 666 by the same system), the claim was abandoned by many Seventh-day Adventists.
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