Ancient Christian leaders of the East gave special honor to the bishop of Rome, but considered any claim of one bishop’s supremacy to be an act of schism. Even in the West such a privilege was rejected by Gregory the Great in the sixth century. He expressed offense at being addressed by a bishop as “universal pope”: “a word of proud address that I have forbidden….None of my predecessors ever wished to use this profane word ['universal']….But I say it confidently, because whoever calls himself ‘universal bishop’ or wishes to be so called, is in his self-exaltation Antichrist’s precursor, for in his swaggering he sets himself before the rest” (Gregory I, Letters; tr. NPNF 2 ser.XII. i. 75-76; ii. 170, 171, 179, 166, 169, 222, 225).
These words are also quoted by Jean Calvin in his Institutes IV.vii.16.
This would seem to raise a logical difficulty similar to the famous Cretan Paradox. St. Gregory is esteemed as an early Pope by the Roman Catholic Church. A decree of the First Vatican Council in 1870 proclaimed the Pope's infallibility when speaking ex cathedra. The Pope claims to be universal head of the Church, set above the other bishops. Yet Gregory himself explicitly repudiated this title for himself. If he did so infallibly, that might mean that the universal head of the Church is nothing of the sort. Or does it? Assuming they are aware of it, how would the current leadership in Rome go about resolving this paradox?