What Exactly Does The Pope Do?

Honestly, it's not one of the better jobs in the world, or even in religion. You're constantly criticized by all spectrums of opinion, you have to wear white in public, even after Labor Day, and every once in a blue moon, somebody takes a shot at you — like when Pope John Paul II survived an assassination attempt, per History. Nevertheless, Jorge Bergolio found himself elected as the 266th pope of the Catholic Church in 2013. What did that mean for the Cardinal from Argentina, the first pope ever elected from the Americas? Fortunately for all of us, the BBC gave us a helpful rundown of the job description ("wide-ranging") of a 21st Century pope.

When he's in town, he has a weekly Sunday appearance to bless the crowds in St. Peter's Square. He also hosts a weekly general audience in a massive concert-hall-like venue in Vatican City, for about 5,000 people at once.

The pope is first and foremost a priest, and so will celebrate Mass each morning before beginning the administrative work, like answering correspondence. (The homilies Pope Francis preaches at daily Mass are available at the Vatican News web site.) He keeps his personal life simple, both in where he lives and how he eats. He regularly issues longer statements, offering moral guidance to the Church and the world; Francis has been outspoken about care for the environment and supporting loving relationships within families. He has major liturgical tasks as well, celebrating public events on important feasts of the Church year, and for the canonization of saints.

One Pope, under God, indivisible, for all

A fairly major administrative task is meeting every five years with the bishops of the Catholic Church around the world, who travel to the Vatican, usually in regional groups, to report on their ministry and what's going on in their jurisdictions. He issues final approval of the appointment of bishops, based on committee recommendations.

Besides ecclesiastical responsibilities, Pope Francis serves as head of Vatican City State, at about 100 acres the smallest country in the world, even though it is entirely surrounded by the City of Rome. Live Science tells us that, as such, the pope hosts meetings with visiting heads of state, including presidents of the United States, to discuss national and global matters.

Popes travel globally as well, visiting nearly every part of the world. Pope John Paul II was perhaps the most peripatetic pope, with 129 visits abroad during his papacy. Though not as frequent a traveler, Francis has embraced his responsibility to visit a number of countries, including the United States, Uganda, Cuba, and the Philippines.