What this means on a daily basis is that the pope has duties both political and religious. The pope meets with heads of state and maintains diplomatic relationships with more than 100 nations. He conducts liturgies, appoints new bishops and travels.
He doesn't, however, work like a corporate CEO, dipping into the local and daily workings of regional parishes, Briel said.
"He's looking at a very broad overview of the universal church, the church as a whole," he said. [Saint or Slacker? Test Your Religious Knowledge]
A typical day starts early, with a private mass attended by household staff, Briel said. After breakfast, the morning might be spent writing epistles, or formal communications, as well as other works of religious scholarship. Much of the rest of the day is likely to be spent in meetings with bishops and political leaders from around the world.
The pope also ministers directly to the faithful, greeting pilgrims at General Audiences, which usually attract between several thousand and tens of thousands of people. Briel attended Benedict's last General Audience in Rome in February, which drew 200,000, he said.
Around important holidays, such as Easter, the pope delivers major liturgies in St. Peter's Cathedral or elsewhere in Rome. He also travels around the world, conducting masses for audiences that fill football stadiums.