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Bishop of Rome
Coat of arms of the Holy See.svg
Pope Benedictus XVI january,20 2006 (2) mod.jpg
Benedict XVI
Elected: 19 April 2005

Province: Ecclesiastical Province of Rome
Diocese: Holy See
Cathedral: Basilica of St. John Lateran
First Bishop: Saint Peter
Formation: 33 AD
Website: Benedict XVI
Pope Clement I, one of the 1st-century Bishops of Rome, considered successors to Saint Peter as leaders of the Catholic Church. Monastic mural from Ohrid, Macedonia.

The pope (from Latin: papa; from Greek: πάππας[1] (pappas),[2] an affectionate word for father) is the Bishop of Rome and, as such, is leader of the worldwide Catholic Church (that is, both the Latin Rite and the Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Roman Pontiff). The current[3] office-holder is Pope Benedict XVI, who was elected in papal conclave on 19 April 2005.

The office of the pope is called the Papacy, and his ecclesiastical jurisdiction the "Holy See" (Sancta Sedes in Latin) or "Apostolic See" (the latter on the basis that both St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred at Rome). The pope is also head of state of Vatican City, a sovereign city-state entirely enclaved by the city of Rome.

Early popes helped to spread Christianity and resolve doctrinal disputes.[4] After the conversion of the rulers of the Roman Empire (the conversion of the populace was already advanced even before the Edict of Milan, 313), the Roman emperors became the popes' secular allies until, with the loss of the emperors' power in the west, Pope Stephen II was forced in the 8th century to appeal to the Franks for help,[5] beginning a period of close interaction with the rulers of the west. For centuries, the forged Donation of Constantine also provided the basis for the papacy's claim of political supremacy over the entire former Western Roman Empire. In medieval times, popes played powerful roles in Western Europe, often struggling with monarchs for power over wide-ranging affairs of church and state,[4] crowning emperors (Charlemagne was the first emperor crowned by a pope) and regulating disputes among secular rulers.[6]

Gradually forced to give up secular power, popes now focus almost exclusively on spiritual matters.[4] Over the centuries, popes' claims of spiritual authority have been ever more clearly expressed, culminating in the proclamation of the dogma of papal infallibility for rare occasions when the pope speaks ex cathedra (literally "from the chair (of Peter)") to issue a solemn definition of faith or morals.[4] The first (after the proclamation) and so far the last such occasion was in 1950, with the definition of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary.



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Catholics recognize the Pope as a successor to Saint Peter, whom, according to the Bible, Jesus named as the "shepherd" and "rock" of the Church.[7][8] Peter never bore the title of "Pope", which came into use much later, but Catholics recognize him as the first Pope,[9] while official declarations of the Church only speak of the Popes as holding within the college of the Bishops a position analogous to that held by Peter within the college of the Apostles, of which the college of the Bishops, a distinct entity, is the successor.[10][11][12]

The study of the New Testament offers no uncontested proof that Jesus established the papacy nor even that he established Peter as the first bishop of Rome.[13] The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus personally appointed Peter as leader of the Church and in its dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium makes a clear distinction between apostles and bishops, presenting the latter as the successors of the former, with the Pope as successor of Peter in that he is head of the bishops as Peter was head of the apostles.[14] Some historians have argued that the notion that Peter was the first bishop of Rome and founded the Christian church there can be traced back no earlier than the third century.[15] The writings of the Church Father Irenaeus who wrote around 180 AD indicate a belief that Peter "founded and organised" the Church at Rome.[16] However, Irenaeus was not the first to write of Peter's presence in the early Roman Church. Clement of Rome wrote in a letter to the Corinthians, c. 96[17] about the awesome persecution of Christians in Rome as the “struggles in our time” and presented to the Corinthians its heroes, “first, the greatest and most just columns, the “good apostles” Peter and Paul.[18] St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote shortly after Clement and in his letter from the city of Smyrna to the Romans he said he would not command them as Peter and Paul did.[19] Given this and other evidence, many scholars conclude that Peter was indeed martyred in Rome under Nero.[20]

Various Christian communities would have had a group of presbyter-bishops functioning as leaders of the local church. Eventually this evolved into a monarchical episcopacy in certain cities.[21] Some historians would argue that it is possible that the monarchical episcopacy probably developed in other churches in the Christian world before it took shape in Rome. For example, it has been conjectured that Antioch may have been one of the first Christian communities to have adopted such a structure.[21] Indeed, in Rome there were many who claimed to be the rightful bishop though again Irenaeus stressed the validity of one line of bishops from the time of St. Peter up to his contemporary Pope Victor I and listed them.[22] Some writers claim that the emergence of a single bishop in Rome probably did not arise until the middle of the second century. In their view, Linus, Cletus and Clement were possibly prominent presbyter-bishops but not necessarily monarchical bishops.[15] Though this would not necessarily affect their authority as Popes in terms of Catholic Theology.

The see of Rome was early accorded prominence in issues related to matters of the universal church.[23]

Early Christianity (c. 30 – 325)

It seems that at first the terms 'episcopos' and 'presbyter' were used interchangeably.[24] The general consensus among scholars has been that, at the turn of the first and second centuries, local congregations were led by bishops and presbyters whose offices were overlapping or indistinguishable.[25] There was probably no single 'monarchical' bishop in Rome before the middle of the second century ... and likely later."[26]

In the early Christian era, Rome and a few other cities had claims on the leadership of worldwide ("Catholic") church. James the Just, known as "the brother of the Lord", served as head of the Jerusalem church, which is still honored as the "Mother Church" in Orthodox tradition. Alexandria had been a center of Jewish learning and became a center of Christian learning. Rome had a large congregation early in the apostolic period whom Paul the Apostle addressed in his Epistle to the Romans, and Paul himself was martyred there.

During the first century of the Christian Church (ca. 30–130), the Roman capital became recognized as a Christian center of exceptional importance. Pope Clement I at the end of the 1st century wrote an epistle to the Church in Corinth, Greece, intervening in a major dispute, and apologising for not having taken action earlier.[27] However there are only a few other references of that time to recognition of the authoritative primacy of the Roman See outside of Rome. In the Ravenna Document of 13 October 2007, theologians chosen by the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches stated: "41. Both sides agree ... that Rome, as the Church that 'presides in love' according to the phrase of St Ignatius of Antioch (To the Romans, Prologue), occupied the first place in the taxis, and that the bishop of Rome was therefore the protos among the patriarchs. They disagree, however, on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the Bishop of Rome as protos, a matter that was already understood in different ways in the first millennium." In addition, in the last years of the first century AD the Church in Rome intervened in the affairs of the Christian Church in Corinth to help solve their internal disputes.

Later in the second century AD, there were further manifestations of Roman authority over other churches. In 189 AD, assertion of the primacy of the Church of Rome may be indicated in Irenaeus of Lyons's Against Heresies (3:3:2): "With [the Church of Rome], because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree... and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition." And in 195 AD, Pope Victor I, in what is seen as an exercise of Roman authority over other churches, excommunicated the Quartodecimans for observing Easter on the 14th of Nisan, the date of the Jewish Passover, a tradition handed down by St. John the Evangelist (see Easter controversy). Celebration of Easter on a Sunday, as insisted on by the Pope, is the system that has prevailed (see computus).

Early popes helped spread Christianity and resolve doctrinal disputes.[4]

Nicea to East-West Schism (325–1054)

During these seven centuries, the church unified by Emperor Constantine within his empire effectively split first, after the 451 Council of Chalcedon, into Chalcedonian Christianity and Oriental Orthodoxy, and then, after the 1054 East-West Schism, into a Greek East and Latin West. In the West, the pope became independent of the Emperor in the East, and became a major force in politics there.

Imperial capitals: Rome and Constantinople

With the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine to Christianity and the Council of Nicea, the Christian religion received imperial backing.

At the time of the Council (325), Rome was still seen as the capital of the empire, although the emperor rarely lived there. With the establishment of a new fixed capital in Constantinople (330), there arose a new centre, which soon grew in prominence, rivalling those in Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, which previously had been the most important centres of Christianity.

Of these, Rome claimed the chief place, as illustrated by Pope Leo the Great's statement, in about 446, that "the care of the universal Church should converge towards Peter's one seat, and nothing anywhere should be separated from its Head",[28] clearly articulating the extension of papal authority as doctrine, and promulgating his right to exercise "the full range of apostolic powers that Jesus had first bestowed on the apostle Peter".

The early ecumenical councils, particularly the First Council of Constantinople (381), affirmed the importance of the Bishop of Rome's position, though all the councils in the Church's early history took place in cities in the East, and the Pope did not personally attend the council in 381. It was at the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 that Leo I (through his emissaries) stated that he was "speaking with the voice of Peter". At this same council, the Bishop of Constantinople was given "equal privileges" to those of the Bishop of Rome, because "Constantinople is the New Rome". Pope Leo rejected this decree on the ground that it contravened the sixth canon of Nicaea and infringed the rights of Alexandria and Antioch.[29]

Medieval development

Gregory the Great (c 540–604) who established medieval themes in the Church, in a painting by Carlo Saraceni, circa 1610, Rome.

After the fall of Rome, the pope served as a source of authority and continuity. Gregory the Great (c 540–604) administered the church with stern reform.[5] From an ancient senatorial family, Gregory worked with the stern judgment and discipline typical of ancient Roman rule.[5] Theologically, he represents the shift from the classical to the medieval outlook, his popular writings full of dramatic miracles, potent relics, demons, angels, ghosts, and the approaching end of the world.[5]

Gregory's successors were mostly dominated by the exarch or the Eastern emperor.[5] These humiliations, the weakening of the Empire in the face of Muslim expansion, and the inability of the Emperor to protect the papal estates made Pope Stephen II turn from the Emperor.[5] Seeking protection against the Lombards and getting no help from Emperor Constantine V, the pope appealed to the Franks to protect his lands.[5] Pepin the Short subdued the Lombards and donated Italian land to the Papacy.[5] When Leo III crowned Charlemagne (800), he established the precedent that no man would be emperor without anointment by a pope.[5]

Around 850, a forger, probably from among the French opposers of Hincmar, Archbishop of Reims[30] made a collection of church legislation that contained forgeries as well as genuine documents.[30][31] At first some attacked it as false, but it was taken as genuine throughout the rest of the Middle Ages[30] It is now known as the False Decretals. It was part of a series of falsifications of past legislation by a party in the Carolingian Empire whose principal aim was to free the church and the bishops from interference by the state and the metropolitans respectively,[30][31] and who were concerned for papal supremacy as guaranteeing those rights.[30] The author, a French cleric calling himself Isidore Mercator, created false documents purportedly by early church popes, demonstrating that supremacy of the papacy dated back to the church's oldest traditions.[5] The decretals include the Donation of Constantine, in which Constantine grants Pope Sylvester I secular authority over all Western Europe.[32] Thanks to this forgery in the collection, the decretals became one of the most persuasive forgeries in the history of the West. It supported Papal policies for centuries.[5]

Pope Nicholas I (858–867) asserted that the pope should have suzerain authority over all Christians, even royalty, in matters of faith and morals.[5] Only Photius, bishop of Constantinople, dared gainsay him.[5] He sternly defended morality and justice in a decadent age.[5] After his death, the authority of the papacy was acknowledged more widely than ever before.[5]

The low point of the Papacy was 867–1049.[33] The Papacy came under the control of vying political factions.[33] Popes were variously imprisoned, starved, killed, and deposed by force.[33] The family of a certain papal official made and unmade popes for fifty years.[33] The official's great-grandson, Pope John XII, held orgies of debauchery in the Lateran palace.[33] Emperor Otto I of Germany had John accused in an ecclesiastical court, which deposed him and elected a layman as Pope Leo VIII.[33] John mutilated the Imperial representatives in Rome and had himself reinstated as Pope.[33] Conflict between the Emperor and the papacy continued, and eventually dukes in league with the emperor were buying bishops and popes almost openly.[33]

In 1049, Leo IX became pope, at last a pope with the character to face the papacy's problems.[33] He traveled to the major cities of Europe to deal with the church's moral problems firsthand, notably the sale of church offices or services (simony) and clerical marriage and concubinage.[33] With his long journey, he restored the prestige of the Papacy in the north.[33]

East–West Schism to Reformation (1054–1517)

Historical map of the Western Schism: red is support for Avignon, blue for Rome

The East and West churches split definitively in 1054. This split was caused more by political events than by slight diversities of creed.[33] Popes had galled the emperors by siding with the king of the Franks, crowning a rival Roman emperor, appropriating the exarchate of Ravenna, and driving into Greek Italy.[33]

In the Middle Ages, popes struggled with monarchs over power.[4]

From 1309 to 1377, the pope resided not in Rome but in Avignon (see Avignon Papacy). The Avignon Papacy was notorious for greed and corruption.[34] During this period, the pope was effectively an ally of France, alienating France's enemies, such as England.[35]

The pope was understood to have the power to draw on the "treasury" of merit built up by the saints and by Christ, so that he could grant indulgences, reducing one's time in purgatory.[34] The concept that a monetary fine or donation accompanied contrition, confession, and prayer eventually gave way to the common understanding that indulgences depended on a simple monetary contribution.[34] Popes condemned misunderstandings and abuses but were too pressed for income to exercise effective control over indulgences.[34]

Popes also contended with the cardinals, who sometimes attempted to assert the authority of councils over the pope's. Conciliar theory holds that the supreme authority of the church lies with a General Council, not with the pope.[36] Its foundations were laid early in the 13th century, and it culminated in the 15th century.[36] The failure of the conciliar theory to win general acceptance after the 15th century is taken as a factor in the Protestant Reformation.[36]

Various antipopes challenged papal authority, especially during the Western Schism (1378–1417). In this schism, the papacy had returned to Rome from Avignon, but an antipope was installed in Avignon, as if to extend the papacy there.

The Eastern Church continued to decline with the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, undercutting Constantinople's claim to equality with Rome. Twice an Eastern Emperor tried to force the Eastern Church to reunify with the West. Papal claims of superiority were a sticking point in reunification, which failed in any event. In the 15th century, the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople.

Reformation to present (1517 to today)

As part of the Catholic Reformation, Pope Paul III (1534–1549) initiated the Council of Trent (1545–1563), which established the triumph of the Papacy over those who sought to reconcile with Protestants or oppose Papal claims.

Protestant Reformers criticized the Papacy as corrupt and characterized the pope as the antichrist.

Popes instituted the Catholic Reformation[4] (1560–1648), which addressed challenges of the Protestant Reformation and instituted internal reforms. Pope Paul III (1534–1549) initiated the Council of Trent (1545–1563), which established the triumph of the Papacy over rulers who sought to reconcile with Protestants and against French and Spanish bishops opposed to Papal claims.[37]

Gradually forced to give up secular power, popes focused on spiritual issues.[4]

The pope's claims of spiritual authority have been ever more clearly expressed since the first centuries. In 1870, the First Vatican Council proclaimed the dogma of papal infallibility for those rare occasions the pope speaks ex cathedra (literally "from the chair (of Peter)") when issuing a solemn definition of faith or morals.[4]

Later in 1870, Victor Emmanuel II seized Rome from the pope's control and substantially completed the unification of Italy.[4] The Papal States that the pope lost had been used to support papal independence.[4]

In 1929, the Lateran Treaty between Italy and Pope Pius XI established the Vatican guaranteed papal independence from secular rule.[4]

In 1950, the pope defined the Assumption of Mary as dogma, the only time that a pope has spoken ex cathedra since papal infallibility was explicitly declared.

The Petrine Doctrine is still controversial as an issue of doctrine that continues to divide the eastern and western churches as well as separating Protestants from Rome.

Saint Peter and the origin of the office

The dogmas and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church teach that the institution of the papacy was first mandated by interpretations of several Biblical passages, mainly Matthew 16:13–19:[nb 1]

"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? ... And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Catholics believe that this passage shows Jesus establishing his church on the shoulders of Simon son of John (Peter). In the past, some authorities have held that that the "rock" Jesus referred to was Jesus himself or was Peter's faith.[38] The general scholarly consensus is that this account is authentic, and almost all current scholars agree with the straightforward interpretation that the "rock" Jesus refers to in this passage is Peter.[39]

The reference to the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" here is the basis for the symbolic keys often found in Catholic papal symbolism, such as in the Vatican Coat of Arms (see below).[citation needed]

Election, death and abdication


The Giving of the Keys to Saint Peter painted by Pietro Perugino (1492)

The pope was originally chosen by those senior clergymen resident in and near Rome. In 1059 the electorate was restricted to the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, and the individual votes of all Cardinal Electors were made equal in 1179. Pope Urban VI, elected 1378, was the last pope who was not already a cardinal at the time of his election. Canon law requires that if a layman or non-bishop is elected, he receives episcopal consecration from the Dean of the College of Cardinals before assuming the Pontificate. Under present canon law, the pope is elected by the cardinal electors, comprising those cardinals who are under the age of 80.

The Second Council of Lyons was convened on 7 May 1274, to regulate the election of the pope. This Council decreed that the cardinal electors must meet within ten days of the pope's death, and that they must remain in seclusion until a pope has been elected; this was prompted by the three-year Sede Vacante following the death of Pope Clement IV in 1268. By the mid-sixteenth century, the electoral process had more or less evolved into its present form, allowing for alteration in the time between the death of the pope and the meeting of the cardinal electors.

Traditionally, the vote was conducted by acclamation, by selection (by committee), or by plenary vote. Acclamation was the simplest procedure, consisting entirely of a voice vote, and was last used in 1621. Pope John Paul II abolished vote by acclamation and by selection by committee, and henceforth all Popes will be elected by full vote of the Sacred College of Cardinals by ballot.

The conclave in Konstanz where Pope Martin V was elected
The formal declaration of "Habemus Papam" after the election of Pope Martin V

The election of the pope almost always takes place in the Sistine Chapel, in a sequestered meeting called a "conclave" (so called because the cardinal electors are theoretically locked in, cum clave, until they elect a new pope). Three cardinals are chosen by lot to collect the votes of absent cardinal electors (by reason of illness), three are chosen by lot to count the votes, and three are chosen by lot to review the count of the votes. The ballots are distributed and each cardinal elector writes the name of his choice on it and pledges aloud that he is voting for "one whom under God I think ought to be elected" before folding and depositing his vote on a plate atop a large chalice placed on the altar (in the 2005 conclave, a special urn was used for this purpose instead of a chalice and plate). The plate is then used to drop the ballot into the chalice, making it difficult for any elector to insert multiple ballots. Before being read, the number of ballots are counted while still folded; if the total number of ballots does not match the number of electors, the ballots are burned unopened and a new vote is held. Otherwise, each ballot is read aloud by the presiding Cardinal, who pierces the ballot with a needle and thread, stringing all the ballots together and tying the ends of the thread to ensure accuracy and honesty. Balloting continues until a Pope is elected by a two-thirds majority.[40]

One of the most famous aspects of the papal election process is the means by which the results of a ballot are announced to the world. Once the ballots are counted and bound together, they are burned in a special stove erected in the Sistine Chapel, with the smoke escaping through a small chimney visible from St. Peter's Square. The ballots from an unsuccessful vote are burned along with a chemical compound in order to produce black smoke, or fumata nera. (Traditionally, wet straw was used to produce the black smoke, but this was not completely reliable. The chemical compound is more reliable.) When a vote is successful, the ballots are burned alone, sending white smoke (fumata bianca) through the chimney and announcing to the world the election of a new pope. At the end of the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, church bells were also rung to signal that a new pope had been chosen.

The Dean of the College of Cardinals then asks two solemn questions of the cardinal who has been elected. First he asks, "Do you freely accept your election?" If he replies with the word "Accepto", his reign as Pope begins at that instant, not at the inauguration ceremony several days afterward. The Dean then asks, "By what name shall you be called?" The new pope then announces the regnal name he has chosen for himself. (If the Dean himself is elected pope, the Vice Dean performs this duty).

The new pope is led through the "Door of Tears" to a dressing room in which three sets of white papal vestments (immantatio) await: small, medium, and large. Donning the appropriate vestments and reemerging into the Sistine Chapel, the new pope is given the "Fisherman's Ring" by the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, whom he first either reconfirms or reappoints. The pope then assumes a place of honor as the rest of the cardinals wait in turn to offer their first "obedience" (adoratio) and to receive his blessing.

The senior Cardinal Deacon then announces from a balcony over St. Peter's Square the following proclamation: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum! Habemus Papam! ("I announce to you a great joy! We have a pope!"). He then announces the new pope's Christian name along with the new name he has adopted as his regnal name.

Until 1978 the pope's election was followed in a few days by the Papal Coronation. A procession with great pomp and circumstance formed from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter's Basilica, with the newly elected pope borne in the sedia gestatoria. There, after a solemn Papal Mass, the new pope was crowned with the triregnum (papal tiara) and he gave for the first time as pope the famous blessing Urbi et Orbi ("to the City [Rome] and to the World"). Another renowned part of the coronation was the lighting of a bundle of flax at the top of a gilded pole, which would flare brightly for a moment and then promptly extinguish, with the admonition Sic transit gloria mundi ("Thus passes worldly glory"). A similar sombre warning against papal hubris made on this occasion was the ritual exclamation "Annos Petri non videbis", reminding the newly crowned Pope that he would not live to see his rule lasting as long as that of St. Peter, who according to tradition headed the church for 35 years and has thus far been the longest reigning Pope in the history of the Catholic Church.

A traditionalist Catholic belief claims the existence of a Papal Oath sworn, at their coronation, by all popes from Pope Agatho to Pope Paul VI, but which since the abolition of the coronation ceremony is no longer used. There is no reliable authority for this claim.

The Latin term sede vacante ("vacant seat") refers to a papal interregnum, the period between the death of a pope and the election of his successor. From this term is derived the term sedevacantism, which designates a category of dissident Catholics who maintain that there is no canonically and legitimately elected Pope, and that there is therefore a Sede Vacante. One of the most common reasons for holding this belief is the idea that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and especially the replacement of the Tridentine Mass with the Mass of Paul VI are heretical, and that, per the dogma of papal infallibility, it is impossible for a valid Pope to have done these things. Secevacantists are considered to be schismatics by the mainstream Roman Catholic Church.

For centuries, the papacy was an institution dominated by Italians. Prior to the election of the Polish cardinal Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II in 1978, the last non-Italian was Pope Adrian VI of the Netherlands, elected in 1522. John Paul II was followed by the German-born Benedict XVI, leading some to believe the Italian domination of the papacy to be over.


Funeral of Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 2005, presided over by Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI

The current regulations regarding a papal interregnum—that is, a sede vacante ("vacant seat")—were promulgated by John Paul II in his 1996 document Universi Dominici Gregis. During the "Sede Vacante", the Sacred College of Cardinals, composed of the pope's principal advisors and assistants, is collectively responsible for the government of the Church and of the Vatican itself, under the direction of the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church; however, canon law specifically forbids the cardinals from introducing any innovation in the government of the Church during the vacancy of the Holy See. Any decision that requires the assent of the pope has to wait until the new pope has been elected and accepts office.

In recent centuries it was traditional, when a Pope was judged to have died, for the Cardinal Chamberlain to confirm the death ceremonially by gently tapping the Pope's head thrice with a silver hammer, calling his birth name each time. This custom was not followed at the death of Pope John Paul I[41] and probably was not revived upon the death of Pope John Paul II. The Cardinal Chamberlain then retrieves the Ring of the Fisherman and cuts it in two in the presence of the Cardinals. The deceased pope's seals are defaced, to keep them from ever being used again, and his personal apartment is sealed.

The body then lies in state for a number of days before being interred in the crypt of a leading church or cathedral; the popes of the 20th century were all interred in St. Peter's Basilica. A nine-day period of mourning (novendialis) follows the interment of the late Pope.


The Code of Canon Law 332 §2 states, "If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone." This right has been exercised by, among others, Pope Celestine V in 1294 and Pope Gregory XII in 1409, Gregory XII being the last to do so.

It was widely reported in June and July 2002 that Pope John Paul II firmly refuted the speculation of his resignation using Canon 332, in a letter to the Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera. Nevertheless, 332 §2 caused speculation that (1) Pope John Paul II would have resigned as his health failed, or (2) a properly manifested legal instrument had been prepared which effected his resignation if he could not perform his duties.[citation needed] Pope John Paul II, however, did not resign. He died on 2 April 2005 after a long period of ill-health and was buried on 8 April 2005. After his death, it was reported in his last will and testament that he considered abdicating in 2000 as he neared his 80th birthday.[citation needed] That portion of the will, however, is unclear and others interpret it differently.


Papal styles of

Emblem of the Papacy SE.svg

Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style NA

Official list of titles

The official list of titles of the Pope, in the order in which they are given in the Annuario Pontificio, is: Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God.[42]

The official list of titles does not include all the titles that are officially used.


The best-known title of the Popes, that of "Pope", does not appear in the official list, but is commonly used in the titles of documents, and appears, in abbreviated form, in their signatures. Thus Pope Paul VI signed as "Paulus PP. VI", the "PP." standing for "Papa" ("Pope").

The title "Pope" was from the early third century an honorific designation used for any bishop in the West.[43] In the East it was used only for the Bishop of Alexandria.[43] Pope Marcellinus (d. 304) is the first Bishop of Rome shown in sources to have had the title "Pope" used of him. From the 6th century, the imperial chancery of Constantinople normally reserved this designation for the Bishop of Rome.[43] From the early sixth century it began to be confined in the West to the Bishop of Rome, a practice that was firmly in place by the eleventh century,[43] when Pope Gregory VII declared it reserved for the Bishop of Rome.

In Eastern Christianity, where the title "pope" is used also of the Bishop of Alexandria, the Bishop of Rome is often referred to as the "Pope of Rome", regardless of whether the speaker or writer is in communion with Rome or not.

Vicar of Peter and Vicar of Christ

Early bishops occupying the See of Rome were designated "Vicar of Peter", indicating that they were successors of Saint Peter, the "Prince of the Apostles" or leader of the apostolic Church. The Roman Missal uses this title in its prayers for a dead Pope.[44]

The designation "Vicar of Christ" was first used of a Pope by the Roman Synod of 495 with reference to Pope Gelasius I. But for long after this the stable designation for the Popes was "Vicar of Peter", while "Vicar of Christ" was a title used by the Roman Emperors of the East.[45]

Much earlier, Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 220) used the phrase "Vicar of Christ" of the Holy Spirit with regard to the Spirit's role of maintaining in the Church the teaching given by the apostles:

"Grant, then, that all have erred; that the apostle was mistaken in giving his testimony; that the Holy Ghost had no such respect to any one (church) as to lead it into truth, although sent with this view by Christ, ... grant also that He, the Steward of God, the Vicar of Christ neglected His office, permitting the churches for a time to understand differently, (and) to believe differently, what He Himself was preaching by the apostles,— is it likely that so many churches, and they so great, should have gone astray into one and the same faith?"[46]

He also referred to the Holy Spirit as the "Vicar of the Lord":

"For what kind of (supposition) is it, that, while the devil is always operating and adding daily to the ingenuities of iniquity, the work of God should either have ceased, or else have desisted from advancing? whereas the reason why the Lord sent the Paraclete was, that, since human mediocrity was unable to take in all things at once, discipline should, little by little, be directed, and ordained, and carried on to perfection, by that Vicar of the Lord, the Holy Spirit."[47]

It was only from the time of Pope Innocent III (1198–1216) that the title, which has no legal definition or juridical significance, was used stably of the Popes.[45] For the Catholic Church, all bishops are vicars of Christ.[48]

Supreme Pontiff and Pontifex Maximus

The term "Supreme Pontiff" (Summus Pontifex) or, more completely, "Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church" (Summus Pontifex Ecclesiae Universalis) is one of the official titles of the Pope.

Inscriptions on buildings and coins often use the Latin title "Pontifex Maximus", which is not to be confused with "Summus Pontifex". The title "Pontifex Maximus" dates back to the early years of the Roman Republic. Beginning with Julius Caesar, it was associated with the Roman Emperors, until Gratian (359–383), under the influence of Saint Ambrose, formally renounced the title. It is commonly found in inscriptions on buildings erected in the time of a particular Pope and on coins and medals of his reign, and is usually abbreviated as "Pont. Max." or "P.M." The phrase literally means "Greatest Pontiff", but is often interpreted as "Supreme Pontiff", which is instead a literal translation of "Summus Pontifex".

Servant of the Servants of God

The title "Servant of the Servants of God", although used by Church leaders including St. Augustine and St. Benedict, was first used by Pope St. Gregory the Great in his dispute with the Patriarch of Constantinople after the latter assumed the title "Ecumenical Patriarch". It was not reserved for the pope until the thirteenth century. The documents of the Second Vatican Council reinforced the understanding of this title as a reference to the pope's role as a function of collegial authority, in which the Bishop of Rome serves the world's bishops.

Patriarch of the West

From 1863 until 2005, the Annuario Pontificio included also the title "Patriarch of the West". This title was first used by Pope Theodore I in 642, and was only used occasionally. Indeed, it did not begin to appear in the pontifical yearbook until 1863. On 22 March 2006, the Vatican released a statement explaining this omission on the grounds of expressing a "historical and theological reality" and of "being useful to ecumenical dialogue". The title Patriarch of the West symbolized the pope's special relationship with, and jurisdiction over, the Latin Church—and the omission of the title neither symbolizes in any way a change in this relationship, nor distorts the relationship between the Holy See and the Eastern Churches, as solemnly proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council.[49]

Other titles

Other titles commonly used are "His Holiness", "Holy Father". In Spanish and Italian, "Beatísimo/Beatissimo Padre" (Most Blessed Father) is often used in preference to "Santísimo/Santissimo Padre" (Most Holy Father). In the medieval period, "Dominus Apostolicus" ("the Apostolic Lord") was also used.


As indicated above, a Pope normally signs documents using the title "Papa" in the abbreviated form "PP." and with the numeral, as in "Benedictus PP. XVI" (Pope Benedict XVI). Exceptions are bulls of canonization and decrees of ecumenical councils, which the Pope signs with the formula, "Ego N. Episcopus Ecclesiae catholicae", without the numeral, as in "Ego Paulus Episcopus Ecclesiae catholicae" (I, Paul, Bishop of the catholic/universal Church).[50] The Pope's signature is followed, in bulls of canonization, by those of all the cardinals resident in Rome, and in decrees of ecumenical councils, by the signatures of the other bishops participating in the council, each signing as Bishop of a particular see.

Papal bulls are headed N. Episcopus Servus Servorum Dei ("Name, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God"). In general, they are not signed by the Pope, but Pope John Paul II introduced in the mid-1980s the custom by which the Pope signs not only bulls of canonization but also, using his normal signature, such as "Benedictus PP. XVI", bulls of nomination of bishops.

Residence and jurisdiction

The pope's official seat or cathedral is the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and his official residence is the Palace of the Vatican. He also possesses a summer residence at Castel Gandolfo (situated on the site of the ancient city of Alba Longa). Until the time of the Avignon Papacy, the residence of the Pope was the Lateran Palace, donated by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.

The Pope's ecclesiastical jurisdiction (the Holy See) is distinct from his secular jurisdiction (Vatican City). It is the Holy See which conducts international relations; for hundreds of years, the papal court (the Roman Curia) has functioned as the government of the Catholic Church.

The names "Holy See" and "Apostolic See" are in ecclesiastical terminology the ordinary jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome (including the Roman Curia); the pope's various honors, powers, and privileges within the Catholic Church and the international community derive from his Episcopate of Rome in lineal succession from the Apostle Saint Peter (see Apostolic Succession). Consequently, Rome has traditionally occupied a central position in the Catholic Church, although this is not necessarily so. The pope derives his pontificate from being Bishop of Rome but is not required to live there; according to the Latin formula ubi Papa, ibi Curia, wherever the Pope resides is the central government of the Church, provided that the pope is Bishop of Rome. As such, between 1309 and 1378, the popes lived in Avignon (see Avignon Papacy), a period often called the Babylonian Captivity in allusion to the Biblical exile of Israel.

Though the Pope is the diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of Rome, he delegates most of the day-to-day work of leading the diocese to the Cardinal Vicar, who assures direct episcopal oversight of the diocese's pastoral needs, not in his own name but in that of the Pope. The current Cardinal Vicar is Agostino Vallini, who was appointed to the office in June 2008.

Regalia and insignia

Pope Pius VII, bishop of Rome, next to Cardinal Caprara. The Pope wears the pallium, a liturgical vestment that is used heraldically at the foot of the coat of arms of Benedict XVI.
  • "Triregnum", also called the "tiara" or "triple crown", represents the pope's three functions as "supreme pastor", "supreme teacher" and "supreme priest". Recent popes have not, however, worn the triregnum, though it remains the symbol of the papacy and has not been abolished. In liturgical ceremonies Popes wear an episcopal mitre (an erect cloth hat).
  • Pastoral Staff topped by a crucifix, a custom established before the 13th century (see papal cross).
  • Pallium, or pall, a circular band of fabric worn around the neck over the chasuble. It forms a yoke about the neck, breast and shoulders and has two pendants hanging down in front and behind, and is ornamented with six crosses. Previously, the pallium worn by the pope was identical to those he granted to the primates, but in 2005 Pope Benedict XVI began to use a distinct papal pallium that is larger than the primatial, and was adorned with red crosses instead of black.
  • "Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven", the image of two keys, one gold and one silver. The silver key symbolizes the power to bind and loose on Earth, and the gold key the power to bind and loose in Heaven.
  • Ring of the Fisherman, a gold ring decorated with a depiction of St. Peter in a boat casting his net, with the name of the reigning Pope around it.
  • Umbraculum (better known in the Italian form ombrellino) is a canopy or umbrella consisting of alternating red and gold stripes, which used to be carried above the pope in processions.
  • Sedia gestatoria, a mobile throne carried by twelve footmen (palafrenieri) in red uniforms, accompanied by two attendants bearing flabella (fans made of white ostrich feathers), and sometimes a large canopy, carried by eight attendants. The use of the flabella was discontinued by Pope John Paul I. The use of the sedia gestatoria was discontinued by Pope John Paul II, being replaced by the so-called Popemobile.
The coat of arms of the Holy See. That of the State of Vatican City is the same except that the positions of the gold and silver keys are interchanged.[51]

In heraldry, each pope has his own Papal Coat of Arms. Though unique for each pope, the arms are always surmounted by the aforementioned two keys in saltire (i.e., crossed over one another so as to form an X) behind the escutcheon (shield) (one silver key and one gold key, tied with a red cord), and above them a silver triregnum with three gold crowns and red infulae (lappets—two strips of fabric hanging from the back of the triregnum which fall over the neck and shoulders when worn). This is blazoned: "two keys in saltire or and argent, interlacing in the rings or, beneath a tiara argent, crowned or"). With the recent election of Benedict XVI in 2005, his personal coat of arms eliminated the papal tiara; a mitre with three horizontal lines is used in its place, with the pallium, a papal symbol of authority more ancient than the tiara, the use of which is also granted to metropolitan archbishops as a sign of communion with the See of Rome, was added underneath of the shield. The distinctive feature of the crossed keys behind the shield was maintained. The omission of the tiara in the Pope's personal coat of arms, however, did not mean the total disappearance of it from papal heraldry, since the coat of arms of the Holy See was kept unaltered.

The flag most frequently associated with the pope is the yellow and white flag of Vatican City, with the arms of the Holy See (blazoned: "Gules, two keys in saltire or and argent, interlacing in the rings or, beneath a tiara argent, crowned or") on the right-hand side (the "fly") in the white half of the flag (the left-hand side—the "hoist"—is yellow). The pope's escucheon does not appear on the flag. This flag was first adopted in 1808, whereas the previous flag had been red and gold, the traditional colors of the papacy. Although Pope Benedict XVI replaced the triregnum with a mitre on his personal coat of arms, it has been retained on the flag.

Status and authority

To maintain contacts with local clergymen and Catholic communities, the popes grant private audiences as well as public ones. Here the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross from Uden (Netherlands) are received by Pope Pius XII.

First Vatican Council

The status and authority of the Pope in the Catholic Church was dogmatically defined by the First Vatican Council on 18 July 1870. In its Dogmatic Constitution of the Church of Christ, the Council established the following canons:[52]

"If anyone says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not established by the Lord Christ as the chief of all the apostles, and the visible head of the whole militant Church, or, that the same received great honour but did not receive from the same our Lord Jesus Christ directly and immediately the primacy in true and proper jurisdiction: let him be anathema.[53]

If anyone says that it is not from the institution of Christ the Lord Himself, or by divine right that the blessed Peter has perpetual successors in the primacy over the universal Church, or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in the same primacy, let him be anathema.[54]

If anyone thus speaks, that the Roman Pontiff has only the office of inspection or direction, but not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world; or, that he possesses only the more important parts, but not the whole plenitude of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate, or over the churches altogether and individually, and over the pastors and the faithful altogether and individually: let him be anathema.[55]

We, adhering faithfully to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God, our Saviour, the elevation of the Catholic religion and the salvation of Christian peoples, with the approbation of the sacred Council, teach and explain that the dogma has been divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when carrying out the duty of the pastor and teacher of all Christians by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority he defines a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, through the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, operates with that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer wished that His church be instructed in defining doctrine on faith and morals; and so such definitions of the Roman Pontiff from himself, but not from the consensus of the Church, are unalterable. But if anyone presumes to contradict this definition of Ours, which may God forbid: let him be anathema."[56]

Second Vatican Council

In its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (1964), the Second Vatican Council declared:

"Among the principal duties of bishops the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place. For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. They bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old, making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock. Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

Pope Pius XII, wearing the traditional 1877 Papal Tiara, is carried through St Peter's Basilica on a sedia gestatoria circa 1955.

... this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith. The infallibility promised to the Church resides also in the body of Bishops, when that body exercises the supreme magisterium with the successor of Peter. To these definitions the assent of the Church can never be wanting, on account of the activity of that same Holy Spirit, by which the whole flock of Christ is preserved and progresses in unity of faith."[57]

Political role

Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City
Coat of arms of the Vatican City.svg
Coat of Arms of the Vatican
Benedict XVI
Style His Holiness
Residence Papal Palace
First Sovereign Pope Pius XI
Formation 11 February 1929
Antichristus, a woodcut by Lucas Cranach of the pope using the temporal power to grant authority to a generously contributing ruler

Though the progressive Christianisation of the Roman Empire in the fourth century did not confer upon bishops civil authority within the state, the gradual withdrawal of imperial authority during the fifth century left the pope the senior imperial civilian official in Rome, as bishops were increasingly directing civil affairs in other cities of the Western Empire. This status as a secular and civil ruler was vividly displayed by Pope Leo I's confrontation with Attila in 452. The first expansion of papal rule outside of Rome came in 728 with the Donation of Sutri, which in turn was substantially increased in 754, when the Frankish ruler Pippin the Younger gave to the pope the land from his conquest of the Lombards. The pope may have utilized the forged Donation of Constantine to gain this land, which formed the core of the Papal States. This document, accepted as genuine until the 1400s, states that Constantine I placed the entire Western Empire of Rome under papal rule. In 800 Pope Leo III crowned the Frankish ruler Charlemagne as Roman Emperor, a major step toward establishing what later became known as the Holy Roman Empire; from that date onward the popes claimed the prerogative to crown the Emperor, though the right fell into disuse after the coronation of Charles V in 1530. Pope Pius VII was present at the coronation of Napoleon I in 1804, but did not actually perform the crowning. As mentioned above, the pope's sovereignty over the Papal States ended in 1870 with their annexation by Italy.

Popes like Alexander VI, an ambitious if spectacularly corrupt politician, and Pope Julius II, a formidable general and statesman, were not afraid to use power to achieve their own ends, which included increasing the power of the papacy. This political and temporal authority was demonstrated through the papal role in the Holy Roman Empire (especially prominent during periods of contention with the Emperors, such as during the Pontificates of Pope Gregory VII and Pope Alexander III). Papal bulls, interdict, and excommunication (or the threat thereof) have been used many times to increase papal power. The Bull Laudabiliter in 1155 authorized Henry II of England to invade Ireland. In 1207, Innocent III placed England under interdict until King John made his kingdom a fiefdom to the Pope, complete with yearly tribute, saying, "we offer and freely our lord Pope Innocent III and his catholic successors, the whole kingdom of England and the whole kingdom of Ireland with all their rights and appurtenences for the remission of our sins".[58] The Bull Inter caetera in 1493 led to the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, which divided the world into areas of Spanish and Portuguese rule. The Bull Regnans in Excelsis in 1570 excommunicated Elizabeth I of England and declared that all her subjects were released from all allegiance to her. The Bull Inter Gravissimas in 1582 established the Gregorian Calendar.[59]

Objections to the papacy

Antichristus, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, from Luther's 1521 Passionary of the Christ and Antichrist. The Pope is signing and selling indulgences.

The Pope's claim to authority is either disputed or not recognised at all by other churches. The reasons for these objections differ from denomination to denomination.

Orthodox, Anglican and Old Catholic churches

Some Christian churches (Assyrian Church of the East, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Old Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Independent Catholic Churches, etc.) accept the doctrine of Apostolic Succession and, to varying extents, papal claims to a primacy of honour while generally rejecting that the pope is the successor to Peter in any unique sense not true of any other bishop. Primacy is regarded as a consequence of the pope's position as bishop of the original capital city of the Roman Empire, a definition explicitly spelled out in the 28th canon of the Council of Chalcedon. These churches see no foundation to papal claims of universal immediate jurisdiction, or to claims of papal infallibility. Several of these churches refer to such claims as ultramontanism.

Protestant denominations

Many Christian denominations reject the claims of Petrine primacy of honor, Petrine primacy of jurisdiction, and papal infallibility. These denominations vary from simply not accepting the Pope's claim to authority as legitimate and valid, to believing that the Pope is the Antichrist[60] from 1 John 2:18,[61] the Man of Sin from 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12,[62] and the Beast out of the Earth from Revelation 13:11-18.[63] The sweeping rejection includes some denominations of Lutherans: Confessional Lutherans hold that the pope is the Antichrist, stating that this article of faith is part of a quia rather than quatenus subscription to the Book of Concord. In 1932, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) adopted A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod, which a number of Lutheran church bodies now hold.[64] Statement 43, Of the Antichrist:[65]

Christus, by Lucas Cranach. This woodcut of John 13:14–17 is from Passionary of the Christ and Antichrist. Cranach shows Jesus kissing Peter's foot during the footwashing. This stands in contrast to the opposing woodcut, where the Pope demands others kiss his feet.
Antichristus, by the Lutheran Lucas Cranach the Elder. This woodcut of the traditional practice of kissing the Pope's toe is from Passionary of the Christ and Antichrist. The two fingers the Pope is holding up symbolizes his claim to be the Church's substitute for Christ's earthly presence.

43. As to the Antichrist we teach that the prophecies of the Holy Scriptures concerning the Antichrist, 2 Thess. 2:3-12;1 John 2:18, have been fulfilled in the Pope of Rome and his dominion. All the features of the Antichrist as drawn in these prophecies, including the most abominable and horrible ones, for example, that the Antichrist "as God sitteth in the temple of God," 2 Thess. 2:4; that he anathematizes the very heart of the Gospel of Christ, that is, the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins by grace alone, for Christ's sake alone, through faith alone, without any merit or worthiness in man (Rom. 3:20-28; Gal. 2:16); that he recognizes only those as members of the Christian Church who bow to his authority; and that, like a deluge, he had inundated the whole Church with his antichristian doctrines till God revealed him through the Reformation—these very features are the outstanding characteristics of the Papacy. (Cf. Smalcald Articles, Triglot, p. 515, Paragraphs 39-41; p. 401, Paragraph 45; M. pp. 336, 258.) Hence we subscribe to the statement of our Confessions that the Pope is "the very Antichrist." (Smalcald Articles, Triglot, p. 475, Paragraph 10; M., p. 308.)

The claim of temporal power over all secular governments, including territorial claims in Italy, raises objection.[66] The papacy's complex relationship with secular states such as the Roman and Byzantine Empires are also objections. Some disapprove of the autocratic character of the papal office.[67] In Western Christianity these objections both contributed to and are products of the Protestant Reformation.


Groups sometimes form around antipopes, who claim the Pontificate without being canonically and properly elected to it.

Traditionally, this term was reserved for claimants with a significant following of cardinals or other clergy. The existence of an antipope is usually due either to doctrinal controversy within the Church (heresy) or to confusion as to who is the legitimate pope at the time (see schism). Briefly in the 1400s, three separate lines of Popes claimed authenticity (see Papal Schism). Even Catholics don't all agree whether certain historical figures were Popes or antipopes. Though antipope movements were significant at one time, they are now overwhelmingly minor fringe causes.

Other popes

In the earlier centuries of Christianity, the title "Pope," meaning "father," had been used by all bishops. Some popes used the term and others didn't. Eventually, the title became associated especially with the Bishop of Rome. In a few cases, the term is used for other Christian clerical authorities.

In the Roman Catholic Church

The "Black Pope" is a name that was popularly, but quite unofficially, given to the Superior General of the Society of Jesus due to the Jesuits' in reference to the importance, within the Church, of the Jesuit order. This name, based on the black colour of his cassock, was used to suggest a parallel between him and the "White Pope" (since the time of Pope Pius V the Popes dress in white) and the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (formerly called the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith), whose red cardinal's cassock gave him the name of the "Red Pope" in view of the authority over all territories that were not considered in some way Catholic. In the present time this cardinal has power over mission territories for Catholicism, essentially the Churches of Africa and Asia,[68] but in the past his competence extended also to all lands where Protestants or Eastern Christianity was dominant. Some remnants of this situation remain, with the result that, for instance, New Zealand is still in the care of this Congregation.

In the Eastern Churches

Since the papacy of Heraclas in the third century, the Bishop of the Alexandria in both the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria continue to be called "Pope", the former being called "Coptic Pope" or, more properly, "Pope and Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Orthodox and Apostolic Throne of Saint Mark the Evangelist and Holy Apostle" and the last called "Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa".

In the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church and Serbian Orthodox Church, it is not unusual for a village priest to be called a "pope" ("поп" pop). However, this should be differentiated from the words used for the head of the Catholic Church (Bulgarian "папа" papa, Russian "папа римский" papa rimskiy).

Longest-reigning popes

Pope Pius IX, excluding Saint Peter, the longest-reigning pope

Although the average reign of the pope from the Middle Ages was a decade, a number of those whose reign lengths can be determined from contemporary historical data are the following:

  1. Pius IX (1846–1878): 31 years, 7 months and 23 days (11,560 days).
  2. John Paul II (1978–2005): 26 years, 5 months and 18 days (9,665 days).
  3. Leo XIII (1878–1903): 25 years, 5 months and 1 day (9,281 days).
  4. Pius VI (1775–1799): 24 years, 6 months and 15 days (8,962 days).
  5. Adrian I (772–795): 23 years, 10 months and 25 days (8,729 days).
  6. Pius VII (1800–1823): 23 years, 5 months and 7 days (8,560 days).
  7. Alexander III (1159–1181): 21 years, 11 months and 24 days (8,029 days).
  8. St. Sylvester I (314–335): 21 years, 11 months and 1 day (8,005 days).
  9. St. Leo I (440–461): 21 years, 1 month, and 13 days. (7,713 days).
  10. Urban VIII (1623–1644): 20 years, 11 months and 24 days (7,664 days).

Saint Peter is thought to have reigned for over thirty years (AD 29 – 64?/67?), but the exact length is not reliably known.

Shortest-reigning popes

Pope Urban VII, the shortest-reigning pope

Conversely, there have been a number of popes whose reign lasted less than a month. In the following list the number of calendar days includes partial days. Thus, for example, if a pope's reign commenced on 1 August and he died on 2 August, this would count as having reigned for two calendar days.

  1. Urban VII (15 September–27 September 1590): reigned for 13 calendar days, died before consecration.
  2. Boniface VI (April, 896): reigned for 16 calendar days
  3. Celestine IV (25 October–10 November 1241): reigned for 17 calendar days, died before consecration.
  4. Theodore II (December, 897): reigned for 20 calendar days
  5. Sisinnius (15 January–4 February 708): reigned for 21 calendar days
  6. Marcellus II (9 April–1 May 1555): reigned for 22 calendar days
  7. Damasus II (17 July–9 August 1048): reigned for 24 calendar days
  8. Pius III (22 September–18 October 1503): reigned for 27 calendar days
  9. Leo XI (1 April–27 April 1605): reigned for 27 calendar days
  10. Benedict V (22 May–23 June 964): reigned for 33 calendar days,
    John Paul I (26 August–28 September 1978): reigned for 33 calendar days.

Note: Stephen (23 March–26 March 752), died of apoplexy three days after his election, and before his consecration as a bishop. He is not recognized as a valid Pope, but was added to the lists of popes in the fifteenth century as Stephen II, causing difficulties in enumerating later Popes named Stephen. He was removed in 1961 from the Vatican's list (see "Pope-elect Stephen" for detailed explanation).

See also


  1. ^ Liddell and Scott
  2. ^ American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
  3. ^ The Annuario Pontificio does not assign numbers to its list of popes because of canonical obscurities regarding the legitimacy of some members of the list.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Wetterau, Bruce. World history. New York: Henry Holt and company. 1994.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Durant, Will. The Age of Faith. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972. Chapter XXI: Christianity in Conflict 529-1085. p. 517–551
  6. ^ Such as regulating the colonization of the New World. See Treaty of Tordesillas and Inter caetera.
  7. ^ "Catechism of the Catholic Church". Vatican Library. Retrieved 2008-08-02. , 880-884
  8. ^ "St. Peter, The Catholic Encyclopedia
  9. ^ Wilken, p. 281, quote: "Some (Christian communities) had been founded by Peter, the disciple Jesus designated as the founder of his church. ... Once the position was institutionalized, historians looked back and recognized Peter as the first pope of the Christian church in Rome"
  10. ^ Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 22
  11. ^ [ Pope John Paul II, Talk on 7 October 1992
  12. ^ Avery Dulles, The Catholicity of the Church, Oxford University Press, 1987, ISBN 0198266952, page 140
  13. ^ O'Grady, John. The Roman Catholic church: its origins and nature. p. 143. 
  14. ^ Lumen gentium, 22
  15. ^ a b O'Grady, John. The Roman Catholic church: its origins and nature. p. 146. 
  16. ^ Stevenson, J.. A New Eusebius. p. 114. 
  17. ^ "Letter of Clement to the Corinthians". 
  18. ^ Gröber, 510
  19. ^ "Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Romans". 
  20. ^ "[M]any scholars ... accept Rome as the location of the martyrdom and the reign of Nero as the time." Daniel William O’Connor, "Saint Peter the Apostle." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 25 Nov. 2009 [1].
  21. ^ a b O'Grady, John. The Roman Catholic church: its origins and nature. p. 140. 
  22. ^ Stevenson, J.. A New Eusebius. p. 114-115. 
  23. ^ "From an historical perspective, there is no conclusive documentary evidence from the first century or the early decades of the second of the exercise of, or even the claim to, a primacy of the Roman bishop or to a connection with Peter, although documents from this period accord the church at Rome some kind of pre‑eminence" (Emmanuel Clapsis, Papal Primacy, extract from Orthodoxy in Conversation (2000), p. 110]); and "The see of Rome, whose prominence was associated with the deaths of Peter and Paul, became the principle centre in matters concerning the universal Church" (Clapsis, p. 102). The same writer quotes with approval the words of Joseph Ratzinger: "In Phanar, on 25 July 1976, when Patriarch Athenegoras addressed the visiting pope as Peter's successor, the first in honour among us, and the presider over charity, this great church leader was expressing the essential content of the declarations of the primacy of the first millennium" (Clapsis, p. 113).
  24. ^ Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1997 edition revised 2005, page 211: "It seems that at first the terms 'episcopos' and 'presbyter' were used interchangeably ..."
  25. ^ Cambridge History of Christianity, volume 1, 2006, "The general consensus among scholars has been that, at the turn of the first and second centuries, local congregations were led by bishops and presbyters whose offices were overlapping or indistinguishable."
  26. ^ Cambridge History of Christianity, volume 1, 2006, page 418: "Probably there was no single 'monarchical' bishop in Rome before the middle of the second century ... and likely later."
  27. ^ Chadwick, Henry, Oxford History of Christianity, OUP, quote: "Towards the latter part of the 1st century, Rome's presiding cleric named Clement wrote on behalf of his church to remonstrate with the Corinthian Christians who had ejected clergy without either financial or charismatic endowment in favour of a fresh lot; Clement apologized not for intervening but for not having acted sooner. Moreover, during the second century the Roman community's leadership was evident in its generous alms to poorer churches. About 165 they erected monuments to their martyred apostles, to Peter in a necropolis on the Vatican Hill, to Paul on the road to Ostia, at the traditional sites of their burial. Roman bishops were already conscious of being custodians of the authentic tradition of true interpretation of the apostolic writings. In the conflict with Gnosticism Rome played a decisive role, and likewise in the deep division in Asia Minor created by the claims of the Montanist prophets.."
  28. ^ Letter XIV
  29. ^ Council of Chalcedon (1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica)
  30. ^ a b c d e "False Decretals." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  31. ^ a b Encyclopaedia Britannica: False Decretals
  32. ^ Durant, Will. The Age of Faith. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972. p. 525–526
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Durant, Will. The Age of Faith. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972
  34. ^ a b c d Durant, Will. The Reformation. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1957. "Chapter I. The Roman Catholic Church." 1300-1517. p. 3–25
  35. ^ Durant, Will. The Reformation. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1957. "Chapter II. England: Wyclif, Chaucer, and the Great Revolt." 1308-1400. p. 26–57
  36. ^ a b c "Conciliar theory." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  37. ^ "Counter-Reformation." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  38. ^ Daniel William O'Connor. "Saint Peter the Apostle." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 27 Nov. 2009 [2].
  39. ^ Such is "the consensus of the great majority of scholars today." "Saint Peter the Apostle." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 27 Nov. 2009 [3].
  40. ^ With the promulgation of Universi Dominici Gregis in 1996, a simple majority after a deadlock of twelve days was allowed, but this was revoked by Pope Benedict XVI by motu proprio in 2007.
  41. ^ Sullivan, George E. Pope John Paul II: The People's Pope. Boston: Walker & Company, 1984.
  42. ^ Annuario Pontificio, published annually by Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p. 23*. ISBN of the 2009 edition: 978-88-209-8191-4.
  43. ^ a b c d Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3), article Pope
  44. ^ Liturgical Notes and Resource Materials for Use upon the Death of a Pope
  45. ^ a b New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law: Study Edition By John P. Beal, James A. Coriden, Thomas J. (Thomas Joseph) Green, Thomas J. Green, Canon Law Society of America, p. 432
  46. ^ Prescription Against the Heretics, Chapter 28)
  47. ^ Tertullian, On the Veiling of Virgins, Chapter 1)
  48. ^ Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 27
  49. ^ Communiqué concernant la suppression du titre «Patriarche d’Occident» dans l'Annuaire pontifical 2006
  50. ^ Classic Encyclopedia: Curia Romana
  51. ^ Vatican City (Holy See) - The Keys and Coat of Arms
  52. ^ The texts of these canons are given in Denzinger, Latin original; English translation
  53. ^ Denzinger 3055 (old numbering, 1823)
  54. ^ Denzinger 3058 (old numbering, 1825)
  55. ^ Denzinger 3064 (old numbering, 1831)
  56. ^ Denzinger 3073–3075 (old numbering, 1839–1840
  57. ^ Lumen gentium, 25
  58. ^ Quoted from the Medieval Sourcebook
  59. ^ See selection from Concordia Cyclopedia: Roman Catholic Church, History of
  60. ^ 'Therefore on the basis of a renewed study of the pertinent Scriptures we reaffirm the statement of the Lutheran Confessions, that “the Pope is the very Antichrist”' from Statement on the Antichrist, from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, also The Pope is the Antichrist
  61. ^ Brief Statment
  62. ^ See Kretzmann's Popular Commentary, 2 Thessalonians chapter two and An Exegesis of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10 by Mark Jeske
  63. ^ See See Kretzmann's Popular Commentary, Revelation Chapter 13
  64. ^ The Lutheran Churches of the Reformation[4], the Concordia Lutheran Conference[5], the Church of the Lutheran Confession[6], and the Illinois Lutheran Conference [7] all hold to Brief Statement, which the LCMS adopted in 1932 and places in the website
  65. ^ Online at Of the Antichrist
  66. ^ See the Baltimore Catechism on the temporal power of the pope over governments and Innocent III's Letter to the prefect Acerbius and the nobles of Tuscany. For objection to this, see the Concordia Cyclopedia, p.564 and 750
  67. ^ See Luther, Smalcald Articles, Article four
  68. ^ Sandro Magister, Espresso Online.


  • Barry, Rev. Msgr. John F (2001). One Faith, One Lord: A Study of Basic Catholic Belief. Gerard F. Baumbach, Ed.D. ISBN 0-8215-2207-8. 
  • Bokenkotter, Thomas (2004). A Concise History of the Catholic Church. Doubleday. ISBN 0385505841. 
  • Chadwick, Henry (1990). "The Early Christian Community". in John McManners. The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198229283. 
  • Duffy, Eamon (1997). Saints and Sinners, a History of the Popes. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-3000-7332-1. 
  • Franzen, August; John Dolan (1969). A History of the Church. Herder and Herder. 
  • Hartmann Grisar (1845–1932), History of Rome and the Popes in the Middle Ages, AMS Press; Reprint edition (1912). ISBN 0-404-09370-1
  • Kelly, J. N. (1986). Oxford Dictionary of the Popes. Prentice Hall. ISBN 9780191909351. 
  • Kung, Hans (2003). The Catholic Church: A Short History. Random House. ISBN 9780812967623. 
  • Loomis, Louise Ropes (2006). The Book of the Popes (Liber Pontificalis): To the Pontificate of Gregory I. Evolution Publishing: Merchantville, NJ. ISBN 1-889758-86-8. . Reprint of an English translation originally published in 1916.
  • Ludwig von Pastor, History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages; Drawn from the Secret Archives of the Vatican and other original sources, 40 vols. St. Louis, B. Herder 1898 – (World Cat entry)
  • Noble, Thomas; Strauss, Barry (2005). Western Civilization. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0618432779. 
  • Orlandis, Jose (1993). A Short History of the Catholic Church. Scepter Publishers. ISBN 1851821252. 
  • James Joseph Walsh, The Popes and Science; the History of the Papal Relations to Science During the Middle Ages and Down to Our Own Time, Fordam University Press, 1908, reprinted 2003, Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0-7661-3646-9

Further reading

  • Brusher, Joseph H. Popes Through The Ages. Princeton: D. Van Nostland Company, Inc., 1959.
  • Chamberlin, E.R. The Bad Popes. 1969. Reprint: Barnes and Noble, 1993. ISBN 9780880291163.
  • Dollison, John Pope-pourri. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994. ISBN 9780671886158.
  • Kelly, J.N.D. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford: University Press, 1986. ISBN 0-19-213964-9.
  • Maxwell-Stuart, P.G. Chronicle of the Popes: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Papacy from St. Peter to the Present; with 308 Illustrations, 105 in Color. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997. ISBN 0-500-01798-0.
  1. ^ See also Isaiah 22:20–22, John 21:15–17, Luke 12:41, and Luke 22:31–32.

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

Bishop of Rome

  1. an honorific title of the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church

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