The bishop of Rome is one of the most recognisable religious figures in the world. The office is one of the oldest in continuous existence for the past two millennia. In the popular media there is fascination with the incumbent – his personality and activity – with a particular interest, as with all tarred with the brush of celebrity, on any scandal surrounding the institution, as well as him personally. This fascination reached something of a frenzy in 2005, with the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI and was repeated in 2013 with the abdication of Benedict and the election of Francis. For some the interest broadens to include the role the Roman bishop plays within the Catholic church, where stories about the interventions of Rome into the lives of individual local churches are well reported, whether favourably or not, and between Christian churches, where the activities of Roman bishops throughout history are seen as having contributed to the fracturing of Christianity into its current various denominations. The reasons behind such fracturing were the Roman bishops’ claims to a universal primacy of jurisdiction (the authority to intervene in all other churches). Such claims have existed for quite some time and contributed to the division of the church into Catholic and Orthodox in 1054 and to the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. So entrenched in the popular mind are these notions of Rome’s authority within the Catholic church (or at least claims to such authority) that many find it difficult to entertain the notion that it could ever have been different.