The Pope (from Latin: papa; from Greek: πάππας pappas, a child's word for father) is the Bishop of Rome and the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.
The office of the pope is known as the Papacy. His ecclesiastical jurisdiction is often called the "Holy See" (Sancta Sedes in Latin), or the "Apostolic See" based upon the Church tradition that the Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul were martyred in Rome. The pope is also head of state of Vatican City, a sovereign city-state entirely enclaved within the city of Rome.
The Papacy is one of the most enduring institutions in the world and has had a prominent part in world history. The Popes in ancient times helped in the spread of Christianity and the resolution of various doctrinal disputes. In the Middle Ages they played a role of secular importance in Western Europe, often acting as arbitrators between Christian monarchs. Currently, in addition to the expansion of the Christian faith and doctrine, the popes are dedicated to ecumenism and interfaith dialog, charitable work, and the defense of human rights.
The Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes, Italian: Santa Sede) is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome. The primacy of Rome makes its bishop, commonly known as the Pope, the worldwide leader of the church. Since Rome is the preeminent episcopal see of the Church, it contains the central government of the church, including various agencies essential to administration. Diplomatically, the Holy See acts and speaks for the whole Roman Catholic Church. It is also recognized by other subjects of international law as a sovereign entity, headed by the Pope, with which diplomatic relations can be maintained."
Often incorrectly referred to as "the Vatican", the Holy See is not the same entity as the Vatican City State, which came into existence only in 1929; the Holy See, the episcopal see of Rome, dates back to early Christian times. Ambassadors are officially accredited not to the Vatican City State but to "the Holy See", and papal representatives to states and international organizations are recognized as representing the Holy See, not the Vatican City State.