The Universal Church
The Roman Catholic Church is an episcopal church, governed by its bishops, each of whom can trace a direct line of ordination from St Peter, to whom Jesus entrusted the care of the earthly community of believers. The senior bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, the Bishop of Rome, holds the title of Pope. The administration of Church affairs is conducted by the Roman Curia, which is located in the Vatican City State.
In the course of history, Roman Popes have exercised significant secular, as well as religious, power. The history of Europe has been greatly influenced by the Roman Catholic Church, as of course has its art and culture. In modern times, there remains an echo of this through ambassadorial connections between the Vatican and other states.
The Pope is elected by a college of Cardinals, senior members of the Church. Cardinals do not necessarily have a pastoral role within the Church - many are officials in the Curia. However, it is very often the case that senior bishops of a country or region are made Cardinals.
Although there is a central administrative system within the Vatican, and the Pope is a figure of authority in questions of faith and morals, pastoral responsibility for the faithful is exercised worldwide through conferences of bishops presiding over individual countries or other similarly sized regions. Elsewhere on this Website we explain how St Werburgh's is one parish within the Diocese of Shrewsbury, which is part of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.