By Hudson George
Nothing ever remains the same and it is obvious that Christianity has changed over the centuries. Presently there are two Popes in the world. There is a Roman Catholic Pope in Rome and a Coptic Orthodox Christian Pope in Egypt. And according to written history of the Christian faith, the division occurred in 1054. However, there is no written proof in the Holy Bible to prove that the head of the early Christian Church was a pope, even though there are two popes representing two different denominations of Christians and each of them are claiming that their first pope was one of Jesus’ two disciples.
Hudson George has a BA in Social Science from York University, Toronto, Canada. He has been writing since his early teenage years and now contributes letters and articles to a number of Caribbean newspapers
Whenever the topic come up for discussion why the Roman Catholic and the Coptic Orthodox Christians have their own pope as the head of the church, the Roman Catholic followers will say that Peter the apostle was the first pope and he was appointed by Jesus Christ to lead the church. On the other hand, the Coptic Orthodox Christians will say that the first pope was Mark, the apostle of Jesus Christ. And even though there is evidence in the Holy Scriptures to prove that Jesus Christ appointed Peter to lead his church, there is no written proof in the Bible that shows Peter or Mark ever held the title as pope.
According the Holy Scriptures in the Bible, the early church started in Jerusalem after the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on the third day and Jesus remained on earth for forty days before he ascended into heaven. In addition, there is biblical proof that Jesus appeared before his disciples before he ascended into heaven. And after Jesus ascended into heaven his apostles traveled to different countries as missionaries spreading the gospel of his second coming back to earth to judge both the living and the dead. And the good people will go to heaven and the bad ones will suffer in hell fire for their sins.
The most famous apostle messengers of Jesus were Peter, Paul and James the Just. While they were preaching the good news about Jesus Christ and converting people to become members of the early Christian church, they were persecuted and imprisoned by governments of some countries they visited and due to the persecution they faced; Antioch, Syria, became the centre of the early Christian faith. However, there is historical written evidence that prove Peter was instrumental in the church at Antioch because he was the closest disciple of Jesus Christ.
There is also written evidence that Peter traveled to Rome spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and he was crucified for spreading the message, after he had converted many people into Christianity and organised the church in Rome. However, if Peter was the first Pope as the Roman Catholic faith claims, then why was he persecuted and executed in Rome for spreading Christianity? If he was the first pope, he would have been living in a holy place in Antioch, Syria, as the Roman Catholic Pope lives the Vatican in Rome.
Basically, it seems as though there was a political spilt between the Romans and the early Christians who brought Christianity to Rome. And most likely that split occurred because Rome was a powerful nation, as the United Sates is presently. Therefore, the Romans were able to create their own version of Christianity slightly different from the original Christian doctrine; similar to how the United States broke away allegiance to the British Empire, even though both countries speak the same English language up to this day but with slightly different accent and spellings of some words.
However, with the influence Rome had on other countries as a coloniser during that era, it was very easy for the Roman Empire to spread its version of Christianity throughout Europe. And after the Roman Empire declined, other European countries with majority Roman Catholic believers became colonisers. Countries such as France, Spain, Holland and Portugal became superpowers in 15th century and they were able to travel to Africa, Far East Asia and the Americas as colonisers of other nations and people and force conversion to Christianity on the captives. Presently, the vast majority of people in the Americas are Roman Catholic due to European colonisation.
Unfortunately, the Coptic Orthodox Christians was not able to spread their version of Christianity as the Romans did. The geopolitical situation was not too friendly for the expansion of the Coptic Christian faith. Egypt was invaded and conquered by the invading Arabs, who were spreading Islam as the new religion in the northern parts of Africa. With the arrival of Arabs, the Coptic Christian population declined in Egypt. And even though the British were able to create its own version of Protestant Christianity as a breakaway from Roman Catholic Church doctrine, after becoming a powerful empire, its influence was not enough to stop the spread of Roman Catholicism across the globe.
So as the Roman Catholic cardinals in Rome have picked a new pope – Francis I -- to take over from Pope Benedict who resigned because of poor health, and the Coptic Orthodox Christians recently elected a new pope on November 4, 2012 -- Theodoros the Second -- after the death of the previous pope in Egypt, the Christian faith will remain divided and followers of the two different denominations will continue to hold on to their beliefs about who was the first pope.
Whether it was the Apostle Peter or the Apostle Mark but based on other historical factors that are not recorded in the holy scriptures, the word “pope” means father and it seems as though both Peter and Mark were important and influential persons who organised and spread the Christian faith and they are recognised as the father of the different denomination that embrace them.
However, it is very important to understand that all the major religions in the world were spread to different countries by powerful nations because human beings are spiritual even though they are materialistic and domineering. Therefore, it is expected that popular religions will keep on changing some of their doctrines as new nations become global powers of influence.