Roman Catholics for centuries have believed and been taught that the Bishop of Rome, i.e. the Pontiff or Pope, is THE leader on Earth of the universal Christian church. Most persons outside the walls of the RCC do not agree with this understanding and adaptation of Scripture or Tradition. Roman Catholics, to defend their internal dogma, often point to Matthew 16:18 which depicts Jesus declaring to Peter that he (Peter) is the “rock” of His Church and His followers. This implies that the Apostle Peter was essentially the “chief” Apostle during those days. That very well was the case, but does that also mean that down through the ages until even today that Peter’s successors would also be the head of the Church? That is a presumption that can be debated for centuries.
Likewise, if we were to agree that all successors of Peter (Bishops after Peter in his region or seat) are the head of the universal church- would not the current leader (Patriarch) of Antioch be the actual leader? For Peter established the Church in Antioch before he went to Rome to form the Church. If nothing else, wouldn’t there be two “equal” co-leaders of the worldwide Church?
The following is from http://www.antiochian.org/patofant :
“The Apostles directed a truly universal ministry. After spending some seven years in Antioch, Peter left for Rome. To succeed him as bishop of Antioch he appointed Euodius, who is thus counted in early episcopal lists as the first successor to the Antiochian Throne of Peter. The multiple Apostolic foundation of the See of Antioch, the early missions centered there and the active nature of the community, as recorded in the New Testament, have been a unique heritage to all who trace their spiritual and ecclesiastical roots to the Antiochian Patriarchate. “
This point is merely meant to show another problem with the RCC assumption that the ongoing and perpetual Bishop of Rome is the head of the Christian (or Catholic) faith. This is not meant to denigrate or undermine the overall importance of Rome as a key Christian city.