If Jesus is the Lord then why do Catholics follow the Pope?
There is no conflict as the Pope is the successor of Peter, made by Jesus as the ROCK or head of his Church. The Pope does not displace Christ but stands for him as his vicar on earth. Jesus is the invisible head of the Church and the Pope is the visible head. The Pope, sometimes called the Holy Father, but not to be confused with God our heavenly Father, is not the master of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition but rather is their divinely protected servant and interpreter. It is true that Peter denies Christ three times but he is forgiven and with three affirmations of love is told by the risen Christ to care for his flock.
The pattern of the New Testament is retained in the life of the Church. While the Pope usually speaks from his ordinary magisterial authority, he is also empowered by God to make special infallible statements. This preservation from error serves the mission of Christ who said that he came to proclaim the truth. Public revelation ends with the death of the last apostle, but the Church under the Pope transmits these truths and reflects upon them in time. The doctrine of infallibility is frequently misunderstood. It does not mean all his practical decisions are guaranteed correct or that every personal idea or assumption is correct. The notion of infallibility might seem incredible but most Christians, Catholic and Protestant, also believe that the Sacred Scriptures are inspired by God and are preserved from error in terms of necessary saving truths. This can be misunderstood as well, as when people wrongly try to use the Bible as a science text. The inspiration or infallibility of the Bible comes from God, even though the human authors were sinful and weak men. The Holy Spirit inspires the Bible (indeed the whole process in its formation), the bishops who gather in council and the papacy. Note the unity of the Catholic Church in the universal truths that it teaches century after century. By comparison there is a vast fragmentation in the non-Catholic or Protestant churches, as well as a wide divergence in what they believe.
Matthew 16:18-19 – “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. l I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
John 14:15-18 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
John 21:15-17 – “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He then said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’”