The term pontiff is used to designate the greatest representative of the Catholic Church, the Pope. However, the word has a previous origin from the time of the Roman Empire that was known especially in the political field and in magistrates.
Etymology of the term and analysis
To better understand what a pontiff is, we must analyze the etymology of the word. Pontiff is a term that comes from Latin, which means “one who builds bridges” by the union of pons (bridge) and the suffix –ífice meaning “he who builds”.
In ancient Rome, the pontiff was one of the most magistrates that he had a certain task to fulfill. As his name implies, the pontiff was responsible for the construction of bridges (a central element in the urban design of the empire) as well as their supervision. At present, the pontifical concept has this original and metaphorical meaning that transforms it into one “that builds bridges between the earthly world and the divine world”, that is, the task of fulfilling the maximum representation of the Church.
The pontiff as a figure associated with religion
According to historians and specialists in the functioning of religious institutions, it was in the Roman Empire that the role of the pontiff changed and transformed aspects related to religion. Thus, the College of Pontiffs was created, an institution that no longer exists, but whose objective was to bring together priests and those responsible for the most important religion in the entire Roman territory .
They administered and made decisions that had to do with the functioning of cults and religions. It is from here that this word begins to approach its current meaning and that we refer to the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church or Pope.
Characteristics of the Supreme Pontiff today
After the death of Jesus came the Pope or Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, from there his functions and the reach of his figure became extremely important.
Although the main activity of those in this position is managing the religion, its importance has varied considering that today the Church has a presence in almost the entire planet and that the issues to be resolved affect many people.
Above all, the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church must ensure the well-being of the population , proclaiming peace, respect and tolerance among peoples, a task for which his work with the pontiffs of other churches or creeds is of extreme importance .