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For the history of the Catholic Church in general, see timeline and history. See also, List of popes.
Popes trace their episcopal lineage back to Saint Peter.

The History of the Papacy spans over 2,000 years from the time of Saint Peter to present day. The Papacy is the office occupied by the pope, as the spiritual head of the Catholic Church, the bishop of Rome and (since 1929) as the Head of State of the Vatican City. The list of popes includes 265 men, in 267 terms, plus several claimants currently regarded as antipopes.

The history of the Papacy's temporal role can be divided into three major time periods: the early church, the Middle Ages, and the modern era. During the Early Church, the Pope had no temporal power and served only as the bishop of the Christian church in Rome. Even in that spiritual role, it was contested whether the patriarchs of the other churches were subordinate to the bishop of Rome.

The second major time period runs roughly from the 4th Century until the Kingdom of Italy seized Church lands in 1870. The Middle Ages saw the papacy reach its height of power, consolidating and unifying the churches of Western Europe, and expanding its territories, known as the Papal States. However, it also witnessed the Great Schism, which permanently divided the Church, East and West, Byzantine and Catholic, and then again, the Protestant Reformation, which directly challenged the authority of the papacy. At the end of this time period, the Papal states were taken away from the Vatican.

The Modern Era begins with the decline of the Pope's temporal power in the 19th century to the present day. During this period, the Papacy has focused on its role as the spiritual head of the Catholic Church.


During the Roman Empire (until 493)

Early Christianity

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.[1][2] Although Peter never bore the title of "Pope", which came into use much later, Catholics recognize him as the first Pope,[3] while official declarations of the Church 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.[4][5][6]

Many popes in the first three centuries of the Christian era are obscure figures. Several suffered martyrdom along with members of their flock in periods of persecution. Most of them engaged in intense theological arguments with other bishops.

From Constantine

Constantine I made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and the pope a major property holder in Rome.

Christianity managed not only to survive Diocletian's attempts to crush it by persecution but to continue to grow in spite of his efforts. Christianity was legalized by Galerius, who was the first emperor to issue an edict of toleration for all religious creeds including Christianity in April of 311.[7]

Constantine the Great was the first Roman Emperor to embrace Christianity, although he may have continued in his pre-Christian beliefs. He and the co-Emperor Licinius in the East were the first to bestow imperial favor on Christianity through the Edict of Milan promulgated in 313. After the Edict of Milan, the church adopted the same governmental structure as the Empire: geographical provinces ruled by bishops. These bishops of important cities therefore rose in power over the bishops of lesser cities.

The brief pontificate of Pope Miltiades (311-314) marked a transition to a very different role for the papacy. The Lateran Basilica (Basilica of Our Savior) became the episcopal seat of the Bishop of Rome. In 313, Miltiades held the Lateran synod openly in Rome, at the behest of the emperor. This event inaugurated a link between the papacy and temporal power which would last for over a millennium. In Africa the Donatist developed the theory, - for about one hundred years - that the Church must be a Church of saints and not sinners.

Pope Silvester I (313-335) benefited from Constantine’s generosity, who built major Cathedrals in Rome such as the Lateran and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. The first Ecumenical Council took place during his pontificate in Nicaea, (325) which formulated the teaching authority of the papacy. Arianism, a heresy from his perspective, became a major problem during his pontificate, as the emperor Constantine himself converted to it.[8]

Under Pope Liberius (352-366) the Arian conflict between the emperor and the Pope culminated in the Synod of Arles (353) , convened by Constantius II. The legates of the Pope signed a declaration, condemning the Council of Nicaea. Liberius refused to recognize the Council and its signatures and was exiled.[9] However, from then on, no Roman bishop participated in a Synod, which he had not convened himself, and which did not take place under his leadership in Rome.[10] No Pope personally participated in an ecumenical council, convened by an Emperor from then on.[10] Under Pope Damasus, (366-384) the conflict with Arianism was decided in favour of the papal position, with the help of Emperor Theodosius, Gregory of Nazianzus Gregory of Nyssa and Ambrose of Milan. The Pope opened the catacombs in Rome, which had been shut by emperor Diocletian. Pope Siricius (384-399) is credited with the first written papal decree regarding Church discipline. Under Celestine I, the Church disputes in Africa with the Donatists were put on the front burner, a fight largely undertaken by Augustine of Hippo.[11] By the fifth century, the bishop of Rome began to claim his supremacy over all other bishops, and all church doctors and most church fathers also made this claim for him.

In the middle of the eighth century, a fraudulent attempt was made to claim a large transfer of power and authority from the Emperor Constantine to the Bishop of Rome. The Donation of Constantine was purported to be the legal document in which the Emperor Constantine donated to Sylvester, the Bishop of Rome (314-335), much of his property and invested him with great spiritual power and authority. This document was used by some medieval popes to bolster their claims for territorial and secular power in Italy. It was widely accepted, though the Emperor Otto III denounced the document as a forgery. By the mid 15th century, however, the Church had begun to realize that the document could not possibly be genuine. The Italian humanist Lorenzo Valla proved in 1440 that the Donation must be a fake by analyzing its language, and showing that while certain imperial-era formulas are used in the text, some of the Latin in the document could not have been written in the 4th century.

Middle Ages (359–1417)

Ostrogothic Papacy (493–537)

Byzantine Papacy (537–752)

Justinian I re-conquered Rome and appointed the next three popes.

The Byzantine Papacy was a period of Byzantine domination of the papacy from 537 to 752, when popes required the approval of the Byzantine Emperor for episcopal consecration, and many popes were chosen from the apocrisiarii (liaisons from the pope to the emperor) or the inhabitants of Byzantine Greece, Syria, or Sicily. Justinian I conquered the Italian peninsula in the Gothic War (535–554) and appointed the next three popes, a practice that would be continued by his successors and later be delegated to the Exarchate of Ravenna.

With the exception of Pope Martin I, no pope during this period questioned the authority of the Byzantine monarch to confirm the election of the bishop of Rome before consecration could occur; however, theological conflicts were common between pope and emperor in the areas such as monotheletism and iconoclasm. Greek speakers from Greece, Syria, and Byzantine Sicily replaced members of the powerful Roman nobles in the papal chair during this period. Rome under the Greek popes constituted a "melting pot" of Western and Eastern Christian traditions, reflected in art as well as liturgy.

Pope Gregory I (590-604) was a major figure in asserting papal primacy and gave the impetus to missionary activity in northern Europe, including England.

Frankish influence (756–857)

In 751, Aistulf, took Ravenna and threatened Rome. To respond to this threat, Pope Stephen II made an unusual journey north of the Alps to visit the Frankish king, Pepin III, to seek his help against the Lombards who have recently taken the city of Ravenna and who now pose a similar threat to Rome.

The pope anointed Pepin at the abbey of St Denis, near Paris, together with Pepin's two young sons Charles and Carloman. Pepin duly invaded northern Italy in 754, and again in 756. Pepin was able to drive the Lombards from the territory belonging to Ravenna but he does not restore it to its rightful owner, the Byzantine emperor. Instead, perhaps believing the fiction revealed in the forged Donation of Constantine, he handed over large areas of central Italy to the pope and his successors.

The land given to pope Stephen in 756, in the so-called Donation of Pepin, made the papacy a temporal power. This territory would become the basis for the Papal States, over which the popes ruled until the Papal States were incorporated into the new Kingdom of Italy in 1870. For the next eleven centuries, the story of Rome will be almost synonymous with the story of the papacy.

The Lombard kingdom reached its height in the 7th and 8th century. Paganism and Arianism were at first prevalent among the Lombards but were gradually supplanted by Catholicism. Roman culture and Latin speech were gradually adopted and the Catholic bishops emerged as chief magistrates in the cities. Lombard law combined Germanic and Roman traditions. After Aistulf's death King Desiderius renewed the attack on Rome. In 772, Pope Adrian I enlisted the support of Charlemagne, Pepin's successor, who intervened, and, after defeating the Lombards, added their kingdom to his own.

After being physically attacked by his enemies in the streets of Rome, Pope Leo III made his way in 799 through the Alps to visit Charlemagne at Paderborn.

It is not known what was agreed between the two, but Charlemagne traveled to Rome in 800 to support the pope. In a ceremony in St Peter's Basilica, on Christmas Day, Leo was supposed to anoint Charlemagne's son as his heir. But unexpectedly (it is maintained), as Charlemagne rose from prayer, the pope placed a crown on his head and acclaimed him emperor. It is reported that Charlemagne expressed displeasure but nevertheless accepted the honour. The displeasure was probably diplomatic, for the legal emperor was supposed to be seated in Constantinople. Nevertheless this public alliance between the pope and the ruler of a confederation of Germanic tribes was a reflection of the reality of political power in the west. This coronation launched the concept of the new Holy Roman Empire which would play an important role throughout the Middle Ages. The Holy Roman Empire only became formally established in the next century. But the concept is implicit in the title adopted by Charlemagne in 800: 'Charles, most serene Augustus, crowned by God, great and pacific emperor, governing the Roman empire.'

Saeculum obscurum (904-964)

The period beginning with the installation of Pope Sergius III in 904 and lasting for sixty years until the death of Pope John XII in 964 is sometimes referred to as Saeculum obscurum or the "dark age". Historian Will Durant refers to the period from 867 to 1049 as the "nadir of the papacy".[12]

During this period, the Popes were controlled by a powerful and corrupt aristocratic family, the Theophylacti, and their relatives[13] .

Crescentii era (974–1012)

Tusculan Papacy (1012-1044/1048)

Conflicts with the Holy Roman Emperor and the East (1048-1257)

Europe with modern borders as divided by the East-West Schism

The Imperial crown once held by the Carolingian emperors was disputed between their fractured heirs and local overlords; none emerged victorious until Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor invaded Italy. Italy became a constituent kingdom of the Holy Roman Empire in 962, from which point the emperors Germanic. As emperor's consolidated their position, northern Italian city-states would become divided by Guelphs and Ghibellines. Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor found three rival popes when he visited Rome in 1048 because of the unprecedented actions of Pope Benedict IX. He deposed all three and installed his own preferred candidate: Pope Clement II.

The history of the Papacy from 1048 to 1257 would continue to be marked by conflict between popes and the Holy Roman Emperor, most prominently the Investiture Controversy, a dispute over who—pope or emperor—could appoint bishops within the Empire. Henry IV's Walk to Canossa in 1077 to meet Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085), although not dispositive within the context of the larger dispute, has become legendary. Although the emperor renounced any right to lay investiture in the Concordat of Worms (1122), the issue would flare up again.

Long-standing divisions between East and West also came to a head in the East-West Schism and the Crusades. The first seven Ecumenical Councils had been attended by both Western and Eastern prelates, but growing doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political, and geographic differences finally resulted in mutually denunciations and excommunications. Pope Urban II (1088–1099) speech at the Council of Clermont in 1095 became the rallying cry of the First Crusade.

Unlike the previous millennium, the process for papal selection became somewhat fixed during this period. Pope Nicholas II promulgated In Nomine Domini in 1059, which limited suffrage in papal elections to the College of Cardinals. The rules and procedures of papal elections evolved during this period, laying the groundwork for the modern papal conclave. The driving force behind these reforms was Cardinal Hildebrand, who later became Gregory VII.

The Wandering Popes (1257–1309)

The papal palace in Viterbo...
...and Orvieto

The pope is the bishop of Rome, but it is nowhere written that he has to stay there (in fact, only 200 years prior, cardinals would have been required to reside in Rome). The popes of the thirteenth century bounces around the city-states of the Italian peninsula like a traveling salesman skipping town to avoid getting tarred and feathered. Frequent destinations include Viterbo, Orvieto, and Perugia. The popes brought the Roman Curia with them, and the College of Cardinals met in the city where the last pope had died to hold papal elections. Host cities enjoyed boosts their prestige and certain economic advantages, but the municipal authorities risked being subsumed into the administration of the Papal States if they allowed the pope to overstay his welcome.

According to Eamon Duffy, "aristocratic factions within the city of Rome once again made it an insecure base for a stable papal government. Innocent IV was exiled from Rome and even Italy for six years, and all but two of the papal elections of the thirteenth century had to take place outside Rome. The skyline of Rome itself was now dominated by the fortified war-towers of the aristocracy (a hundred were build in Innocent IV's pontificate alone) and the popes increasingly spent their time in the papal palaces at Viterbo and Orvieto."[14]

Avignon Papacy (1309-1377)

The Palais des Papes in Avignon

During this period, seven popes, all French, resided in Avignon starting in 1309: Pope Clement V (1305–1314), Pope John XXII (1316–1334), Pope Benedict XII (1334–1342), Pope Clement VI (1342–1352), Pope Innocent VI (1352–1362), Pope Urban V (1362–1370), Pope Gregory XI (1370–1378). In 1378, Gregory XI moved the papal residence back to Rome and died there.

Western Schism (1378-1417)

The division of European allegiances at one point during the Western Schism

After seventy years in France the papal curia was naturally French in its ways and, to a large extent, in its staff. Back in Rome some degree of tension between French and Italian factions was inevitable. This tension was brought to a head by the death of the French pope Gregory XI within a year of his return to Rome. The Roman crowd, said to be in threatening mood, demanded a Roman pope or at least an Italian one. In 1378 the conclave elected an Italian from Naples, Pope Urban VI. His intransigence in office soon alienated the French cardinals. And the behaviour of the Roman crowd enabled them to declare, in retrospect, that his election was invalid, voted under duress.

The French cardinals withdrew to a conclave of their own, where they elected one of their number, Robert of Geneva. He took the name Clement VII. By 1379 he was back in the palace of popes in Avignon, while Urban VI remained in Rome.

This was the beginning of the period of difficulty from 1378 to 1417 which Catholic scholars refer to as the "Western schism" or, "the great controversy of the antipopes" (also called "the second great schism" by some secular and Protestant historians), when parties within the Catholic Church were divided in their allegiances among the various claimants to the office of pope. The Council of Constance in 1417 finally resolved the controversy.

For nearly forty years the Church had two papal curias and two sets of cardinals, each electing a new pope for Rome or Avignon when death created a vacancy. Each pope lobbied for support among kings and princes who played them off against each other, changing allegiance when according to political advantage.

In 1409 a council was convened at Pisa to resolve the issue. The council declared both existing popes to be schismatic (Gregory XII from Rome, Benedict XIII from Avignon) and appointed a new one, Alexander V. But the existing popes had not been persuaded to resign so the church had three popes.

Another council was convened in 1414 at Constance. In March 1415 the Pisan pope, John XXIII, fled from Constance in disguise; he was brought back a prisoner and deposed in May. The Roman pope, Gregory XII, resigned voluntarily in July.

The Avignon pope, Benedict XIII, refused to come to Constance. In spite of a personal visit from the emperor Sigismund, he would not consider resignation. The council finally deposed him in July 1417. Denying their right to do so, he withdrew to an impregnable castle on the coast of Spain. Here he continued to act as pope, creating new cardinals and issuing decrees, until his death in 1423.

The council in Constance, having finally cleared the field of popes and antipopes, elected Pope Martin V as pope in November.

Early Modern and Modern Era (1417-present)

Renaissance Papacy (1417-1534)

Pope Leo X with his cousins Giulio de' Medici (left, the future Pope Clement VII) and Luigi de' Rossi (right), whom he appointed as cardinal-nephews

From the election of Pope Martin V of the Council of Constance in 1417 to the Reformation, Western Christianity was largely free from schism as well as significant disputed papal claimants. Martin V returned the papacy to Rome In 1420. Although there were important divisions over the direction of the religion, these were resolved through the then-settled procedures of the papal conclave

Unlike their European peers, popes were not hereditary monarchs, so they could only promote their family interests through nepotism.[15] The word nepotism originally referred specifically to the practice of creating cardinal-nephews, when it appeared in the English language about 1669.[16] According to Duffy, "the inevitable outcome of all of this was a creation of a wealthy cardinalatial class, with strong dynastic connections."[17] The College was dominated by cardinal-nephews—relatives of the popes that elevated them, crown-cardinals—representatives of the Catholic monarchies of Europe, and members of the powerful Italian families. The wealthy popes and cardinals increasingly patronized Renaissance art and architecture, (re)building the landmarks of Rome from the ground up.

The Papal States began to resemble a modern nation-state during this period, and the papacy took an increasingly active role in European wars and diplomacy.[18] Pope Julius II become known as "the Warrior Pope" for his use of bloodshed to increase the territory and property of the papacy.[18] The popes of this period used the papal military not only to enrich themselves and their families, but also to enforce and expand upon the longstanding territorial and property claims of the papacy as an institution.[19] Although before the Western Schism the papacy had derived much of its revenue from the "vigorous exercise of its spiritual office," during this period the popes were financially dependent on the revenues from the Papal States themselves.[20] With ambitious expenditures on war and construction projects, popes turned to new sources of revenue from the sale of indulgences and bureaucratic and ecclesiastical offices .[20] Pope Clement VII's diplomatic and military campaigns resulted in the Sack of Rome in 1527.[21]

Popes were more frequently called upon to arbitrate disputes between competing colonial powers than to resolve complicated theological disputes. Columbus' discovery in 1492 upset the unstable relations between the kingdoms of Portugal and Castile, whose jockeying for possession of colonial territories along the African coast had for many years been regulated by the papal bulls of 1455, 1456, and 1479. Alexander VI responded with three bulls, dated May 3 and 4, which were highly favorable to Castile; the third Inter caetera (1493), awarded Spain the sole right to colonize most of the New World.

According to Eamon Duffy, "the Renaissance papacy invokes images of a Hollywood spectacular, all decadence and drag. Contemporaries viewed Renaissance Rome as we now view Nixon's Washington, a city of expense-account whores and political graft, where everything and everyone had a price, where nothing and nobody could be trusted. The popes themselves seemed to set the tone."[17] For example, Leo X was said to have remarked: "Let us enjoy the papacy, since God has given it to us."[15] Several of these popes took mistresses and fathered children and engaged in intrigue or even murder.[17] Alexander VI had four acknowledged children: Cesare Borgia, Lucrezia Borgia, Gioffre Borgia, and Giovanni Borgia.

Reformation and Counter-Reformation (1517-1585)

Baroque Papacy (1585-1689)

During the Age of Revolution (1775–1848)

Garibaldi defends the short-lived Roman Republic

Roman Question (1870–1929)

The breach of the Porto Pio during the Capture of Rome

The provisional capital of Italy had been Florence since 1865. After defeating the papal forces in 1870, the Italian government moved to the banks of the Tiber a year later. Victor Emmanuel installed himself in the Quirinale Palace. Rome became once again, for the first time in thirteen centuries, the capital city of a united Italy. Rome was unusual among capital cities only in that it contained the power of the Pope and a small parcel of land (Vatican City) beyond national control. This anomaly was not formally resolved until the Lateran pacts of 1929.

The last eight years of his long pontificate - the longest in Church history - Pope Pius spent as prisoner of the Vatican. Catholics were forbidden to vote or being voted in national elections. However, they were permitted to participate in local elections, where they achieved successes.[22] Pius himself was active, during those years, by creating new diocesan seats and appointing bishops to numerous dioceses, which had been unoccupied for years. Asked if he wanted his successor to follow his Italian policies, the old pontiff replied:

  • My successor may be inspired by my love to the Church and my wish, to do the right thing. Everything changed around me. My system and my policies had their time, I am too old to change direction. This will be the task of my successor[23]

Pope Leo XIII, considered a great diplomat, managed to improve relations with Russia, Prussia, German France, England and other countries. However, in light of a hostile anti-Catholic climate in Italy, he continued the policies of Pius IX towards Italy, without major modifications.[24] He had to defend the freedom of the Church against Italian persecutions and attacks in the area of education, expropriation and violation of Catholic Churches, legal measures against the Church and brutal attacks, culminating in anticlerical groups attempting to throw the body of the deceased Pope Pius IX into the Tiber river on July 13, 1881.[25] The Pope even considered moving the papacy to Trieste or Salzburg, two cities under Austrian control, an idea which the Austrian monarch Franz Josef I gently rejected.[26]

His encyclicals changed Church positions on relations with temporal authorities, and, in the 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum addressed for the first time social inequality and social justice issues with Papal authority. He was greatly influenced by Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, a German bishop who openly propagated siding with the suffering working classes[27] Since Leo XIII, Papal teachings expand on the right and obligation of workers and the limitations of private property: Pope Pius XI Quadragesimo Anno, the Social teachings of Pope Pius XII on a huge range of social issues, John XXIII Mater et Magistra in 1961, Pope Paul VI, the encyclical Populorum Progressio on World development issues, and Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII.

The eclipse of papal temporal power during the 19th century was accompanied by a recovery of papal prestige. The monarchist reaction in the wake of the French Revolution and the later emergence of constitutional governments served alike, though in different ways, to sponsor that development. The reinstated monarchs of Catholic Europe saw in the papacy a conservative ally rather than a jurisdictional rival. Later, when the institution of constitutional governments broke the ties binding the clergy to the policies of royal regimes, Catholics were freed to respond to the renewed spiritual authority of the pope.

The popes of the 19th and 20th centuries exercised their spiritual authority with increasing vigor and in every aspect of religious life. By the crucial pontificate of Pope Pius IX (1846–1878), for example, papal control over worldwide Catholic missionary activity was firmly established for the first time in history.

From the creation of Vatican City (1929)

A map of Vatican City, as established by the Lateran Treaty (1929)

The pontificate of Pope Pius XI was marked by great diplomatic activity and the issuance of many important papers, often in the form of encyclicals. In diplomatic affairs, Pius was aided at first by Pietro Gasparri and after 1930 by Eugenio Pacelli (who succeeded him as Pope Pius XII). Cardinal Gasparri's masterpiece was the Lateran Treaty (1929), negotiated for the Vatican by Francesco Pacelli. Nevertheless, the Fascist government and the pope were in open disagreement over the restriction of youth activities; this culminated in a strong papal letter (Non abbiamo bisogno, 1931), arguing the impossibility of being at once a Fascist and a Catholic. Relations between Mussolini and the Holy See were cool ever after.

Negotiations for the settlement of the Roman Question began in 1926 between the government of Italy and the Holy See, and in 1929 they culminated in the agreements of the three Lateran Pacts, signed for King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy by Prime Minister Benito Mussolini and for Pope Pius XI by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri in the Lateran Palace (hence the name by which they are known).

The Lateran treaty included a political treaty, which created the state of the Vatican City and guaranteed full and independent sovereignty to the Holy See. The Pope was pledged to perpetual neutrality in international relations and to abstention from mediation in a controversy unless specifically requested by all parties. The concordat established Catholicism as the religion of Italy. And the financial agreement was accepted as settlement of all the claims of the Holy See against Italy arising from the loss of temporal power in 1870.

The sum thereby given to the Holy See was actually less than Italy declared it would pay under the terms of the Law of Guarantees of 1871, by which the Italian government guaranteed to Pope Pius IX and his successors the use of, but not sovereignty over, the Vatican and Lateran Palaces and a yearly income of 3,250,000 lire as indemnity for the loss of sovereignty and territory. The Holy See, on the grounds of the need for clearly manifested independence from any political power in its exercise of spiritual jurisdiction, refused to accept this settlement, and the Popes thereafter considered themselves prisoners in the Vatican, a small, limited area inside Rome.

The Reichskonkordat, signed on July 20, 1933, between Germany and the Holy See remains the most important and controversial of Pacelli's concordats. A national concordat with Germany was one of Pacelli's main objectives as secretary of state. As nuncio during the 1920s, he had made unsuccessful attempts to obtain German agreement for such a treaty, and between 1930 and 1933 he attempted to initiate negotiations with representatives of successive German governments, but the opposition of Protestant and Socialist parties, the instability of national governments and the care of the individual states to guard their autonomy thwarted this aim. In particular, the questions of denominational schools and pastoral work in the armed forces prevented any agreement on the national level, despite talks in the winter of 1932.[28][29]

Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor on 30 January 1933 and sought to gain international respectability and to remove internal opposition by representatives of the Church and the Catholic Centre Party. He sent his vice chancellor Franz von Papen, a Catholic nobleman and former member of the Centre Party, to Rome to offer negotiations about a Reichskonkordat.[30] On behalf of Cardinal Pacelli, his long-time associate Prelate Ludwig Kaas, the out-going chairman of the Centre Party, negotiated first drafts of the terms with Papen.[31] The concordat was finally signed, by Pacelli for the Vatican and von Papen for Germany, on 20 July and ratified on September 10, 1933.[32]

Between 1933 to 1939, Pacelli issued 55 protests of violations of the Reichskonkordat. Most notably, early in 1937, Pacelli asked several German cardinals, including Michael Cardinal von Faulhaber to help him write a protest of Nazi violations of the Reichskonkordat; this was to become Pius XI's encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge. The encyclical, condemning the view that "exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State ... above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level", was written in German instead of Latin and read in German churches on Palm Sunday 1937.[33]

World War II (1939-1945)

When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, the Vatican declared neutrality to avoid being drawn into the conflict and also to avoid occupation by the Italian military. In 1944, the German Army occupied Rome. Adolf Hitler proclaimed that he would respect Vatican neutrality. However, several incidents, such as giving aid to downed Allied airmen, nearly caused Nazi Germany to invade the Vatican. Rome was liberated by the Allies after several months of occupation.

The Church policies after World War II of Pope Pius XII focused on material aid to war-torn Europe with its 15 million displaced persons and refugees, an internal internationalization of the Roman Catholic Church, and the development of its worldwide diplomatic relations. His encyclicals, Evangelii Praecones[34] increased the local decision-making of Catholic missions, many of which became independent dioceses. Pius XII demanded recognition of local cultures as fully equal to European culture.[35][36] He internationalized the College of Cardinals by eliminating the 1000 year old Italian majority and appointed cardinals from Asia, South America and Australia. In Western Africa[37] Southern Africa[38] British Eastern Africa, Finland, Burma and French Africa Pope Pius establishd independent dioceses in 1955.

While after years of rebuilding the Church thrived in the West and most of the developing world, it faced most serious persecutions in the East. Sixty million Catholics came under Soviet dominated regimes in 1945, with tens of thousands of priests and religious killed, and millions deported into Soviet and Chinese Gulags. The communist regimes in Albania, Bulgaria, and Rumania and China practically eradicated the Roman Catholic Church in their countries[39]

From the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)

The opening of the Second Session of the Second Vatican Council

The continuing strength of the forces within the church favoring theological innovation and energetic reform became unmistakably evident at the Second Vatican Council, convened by Pope John XXIII (1958–1963), and found expression especially in its decrees on ecumenism, religious liberty, the liturgy, and the nature of the church. The ambivalence of some of those decrees, however, and the disciplinary turmoil and doctrinal dissension following the ending of the council, brought about new challenges to papal authority.

On October 11, 1962, Pope John XXIII opened the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council. The 21st ecumenical council of the Catholic Church emphasized the universal call to holiness and brought many changes in practices, including an increased emphasis on ecumenism; fewer rules on penances, fasting and other devotional practices; and initiating a revision of the services, which were to be slightly simplified and made supposedly more accessible by allowing the use of native languages instead of Latin. Opposition to changes inspired by the Council gave rise to the movement of Traditionalist Catholics who disagree with changing the old forms of worship.

On December 7, 1965, a Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration of His Holiness Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I lifted the mutual excommunication against Catholic and Orthodox which had been in force since the Great Schism of 1054.

The bishops agreed that the pope exercises supreme authority over the church, but defined "collegiality", meaning that all bishops share in this authority. Local bishops have equal authority as successors of the Apostles and as members of a larger organization, the Church founded by Jesus Christ and entrusted to the apostles. The pope serves as a symbol of unity and has additional authority to ensure the continuation of that unity.

During the Second Vatican Council, Catholic bishops drew back a bit from statements which might anger Christians of other faiths.[40] Cardinal Augustin Bea, the President of the Christian Unity Secretariat had always the full support of Pope Paul VI in his attempts to ensure that the Council language is friendly and open to the sensitivities of Protestant and Orthodox Churches, whom he had invited to all sessions at the request of Pope John XXIII. Bea also was strongly involved in the passage of Nostra Aetate, which regulates relation of the Church with the Jewish faith and members of other religions[41]

The establishment of national conferences of bishops tended to erode papal authority to some degree, and Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968), reaffirming the prohibition of artificial birth control, was met with both evasion and defiance in the USA and Western Europe but warmly welcomed in South America, Eastern and Southern Europe.[42]

Pope Paul VI (1963–1978), however, continued the ecumenical efforts of Pope John XXIII in his contacts with Protestant and Orthodox churches. He also continued John XXIII's attempts to make discreet moves in the direction of pragmatic accommodation with the Communist regimes of eastern Europe, a policy that were possible in the eras of Krushchev and Brezhnev. Paul VI also reorganized the curia and spoke strongly for peace and social justice.

Pope Paul VI faced criticism throughout his papacy from both traditionalists and liberals for steering a middle course during Vatican Two and in the course of the implementation of its reforms thereafter.[43] His passion for peace during the Vietnam War was not understood by all. The urgent task of overcoming World poverty and start real development resulted partly in benign neglect of papal teachings by the influential and the rich. On basic Church teachings, this pope was unwavering. On the tenth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, he strongly reconfirmed his teachings.[44] In his style and methodology, he was a disciple of Pius XII, whom he deeply revered.[45] He suffered under the attacks of his predecessor for his allegded silences, knowing from personal association with the late Pope the real concerns and compassion of Pius XII.[45] Pope Paul is not credited to have had the encyclopaedic culture of Pius XII, nor his phenomenal memory, his amazing gift for languages, his brilliant style in writing,[46] nor did he have the Charisma and outpouring love, sense of humor and human warmth of John XXIII. He took on himself the unfinished reform work of these two popes, bringing them diligently with great humility and common sense and without much fanfare to conclusion.[44] In doing so, Paul VI saw himself following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, torn to several directions as Saint Paul, who always said, I am attracted to two sides at once, because the Cross always divides.[47]

He became the first Pope to visit all five continents.[48] Paul VI systematically continued and completed the efforts of his predecessors, to turn the Euro-centric Church into a Church for the whole world, by integrating the bishops from all continents in its government and in the Synods which he convened. His August 6, 1967 Motu Proprio Pro Comperto Sane opened the Roman Curia to the bishops of the world. Until then, only Cardinals could be leading members of the Curia.[48]

An inner joy seems to have been a characteristic of Paul VI. His confessor, the Jesuit Paolo Dezza arrived at the Vatican every Friday evening at seven p.m. to hear confession of Paul VI. The only words he ever spoke about his long service to Paul VI during his pontificate were, that this pope is a man of great joy.[49] After the death of Pope Paul VI, Dezza was more outspoken, saying that "if Paul VI was not a saint, when he was elected Pope, he became one during his pontificate. I was able to witness not only with what energy and dedication he toiled for Christ and the Church but also and above all, how much he suffered for Christ and the Church. I always admired not only his deep inner resignation but also his constant abandonment to divine providence.".[50] It is this character trait, which led to the opening of the process of beatification and canonization for Paul VI.

Pope John Paul II (1978-2005)

With the accession of Pope John Paul II after the mysterious death of John Paul 1 (who only survived as Pope for 33 days), the church had, for the first time since Pope Adrian VI in the 16th century, a non-Italian pope. John Paul II has been credited with helping to bring down communism in eastern Europe by sparking what amounted to a peaceful revolution in his Polish homeland. Lech Wałęsa, one of the several founders of the Solidarity worker movement that ultimately toppled communism, credited John Paul with giving Poles the courage to rise up.[51]Gorbachev himself acknowledged publicly the role of John Paul II in the fall of Communism.[52] The pope himself stated after the fall of Communism that "the claim to build a world without God has been shown to be an illusion" (Prague, April 21, 1990).

But this world without God exists in Capitalism too. Therefore, as did his predecessors, John Paul repeated the content of Christianity, its religious and moral message, its defense of the human person, and warned against the dangers of capitalism. "Unfortunately, not everything the West proposes as a theoretical vision or as a concrete lifestyle reflects Gospel values."

The long pontificate of John Paul is credited with re-creating a sense of stability and even identity to the Catholic Church after years of questioning and searching.[53] His teaching was firm and unwavering on issues which seemed to be in doubt under his predecessor including the ordination of women, liberation theology and priestly celibacy.[54] He virtually stopped the liberal laicisation of problem priests policy of Pope Paul VI,[55] which inadvertently may have contributed to problems in the USA.[56] His authoritative style was reminiscent of Pope Pius XII, whose teaching he repeated in his own words, such as the identity of the Catholic Church with the Body of Christ and his condemnations of capitalism "viruses": secularism, indifferentism, hedonistic consumerism, practical materialism, and also formal atheism.[57]

As always after a long pontificate, a new page was opened in the history of the Church with the election of a new pope. Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005. In his inaugural homily, the new Pontiff explained his view of a relation with Christ:

Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us?... No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation....When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.[58]


  1. ^ "Catechism of the Catholic Church". Vatican Library. Retrieved 2008-08-02. , 880-884
  2. ^ "St. Peter, The Catholic Encyclopedia
  3. ^ 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"
  4. ^ Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 22
  5. ^ [ Pope John Paul II, Talk on 7 October 1992
  6. ^ Avery Dulles, The Catholicity of the Church, Oxford University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-19-826695-2, page 140
  7. ^ De Mortibus Persecutorum ("On the Deaths of the Persecutors", chapters 34, 35)
  8. ^ Silvester I, Hans Kühner Enyclopedia of the Papacy, New York London 1958
  9. ^ Kühner, Liberius
  10. ^ a b Franzen, 47
  11. ^ Kühner Coelestin, Siricius
  12. ^ Durant, Will. The Age of Faith. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972. p. 537
  13. ^ Brook, Lindsay (2003). "Popes and Pornocrats: Rome in the early middle ages". Foundations 1 (1): 5–21. 
  14. ^ Duffy, 2006, p. 156.
  15. ^ a b Spielvogel, 2008, p. 369.
  16. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. September 2003. "Nepotism"
  17. ^ a b c Duffy, 2006, p. 193.
  18. ^ Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named s368; see Help:Cite error.
  19. ^ Duffy, 2006, p. 190.
  20. ^ a b Duffy, 2006, p. 194.
  21. ^ Duffy, 2006, p. 206.
  22. ^ Schmidlin 119
  23. ^ Schmidlin109
  24. ^ Schmidlin 409
  25. ^ Schmidlin 413
  26. ^ Schmidlin 414
  27. ^ in his book Die Arbeiterfrage und das Chistentum
  28. ^ Ludwig Volk Das Reichskonkordat vom 20. Juli 1933, p. 34f., 45-58.
  29. ^ Klaus Scholder "The Churches and the Third Reich" volume 1: especially Part 1, chapter 10; Part 2, chapter 2
  30. ^ Volk, p. 98-101. Feldkamp, 88-93.
  31. ^ Volk, p. 101,105.
  32. ^ Volk, p. 254.
  33. ^ Phayer 2000, p. 16; Sanchez 2002, p. 16-17.
  34. ^ issued on June 2, 1951
  35. ^ Audience for the directors of mission activities in 1944 A.A.S., 1944, p. 208.
  36. ^ Evangelii Praecones. p. 56.
  37. ^ in 1951,
  38. ^ 1953
  39. ^ see Persecutions against the Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII
  40. ^ Peter Heblethwaite, Paul VI
  41. ^ October 28, 1965
  42. ^ see Humanae Vitae
  43. ^ Graham, Paul VI, A Great Pontificate, Brescia, November 7, 1983, 75
  44. ^ a b Graham, 76
  45. ^ a b Graham 76.
  46. ^ Pallenberg, Inside the Vatican, 107,
  47. ^ Guitton, 159
  48. ^ a b Josef Schmitz van Vorst, 68
  49. ^ Hebblethwaite,339
  50. ^ Hebblethwaite, 600
  51. ^ "The pope started this chain of events that led to the end of communism," Wałęsa said. "Before his pontificate, the world was divided into blocs. Nobody knew how to get rid of communism. "He simply said: Don't be afraid, change the image of this land."
  52. ^ "What has happened in Eastern Europe in recent years would not have been possible without the presence of this Pope, without the great role even political that he has played on the world scene" (quoted in La Stampa, March 3, 1992).
  53. ^ George Weigel, Witness to Hope, biography of Pope John Paul II
  54. ^ Redemptor Hominis Orinatio ´Sacercotalis
  55. ^ Peter Hebblethwaite, Paul VI New York, 1993
  56. ^ According to some critics like Hans Küng in his 2008 autobiography
  57. ^ see Anni Sacri
  58. ^ - Homily on Christ


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See also

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