- This article is about Popes in general. For the current Pope, see Pope Francis.
Popes are elected by Cardinals of the Catholic Church. Once they are elected they hold the position until they die or resign. Usually they do not resign, though; Pope Benedict XVI is the only Pope to resign in the last 500 years. A newly elected Pope chooses a regnal name. Everyone is told this new name when the Habemus Papam is read out. The current pope (Francis) was called Jorge Bergoglio before he became a pope.
The name Pope comes from the Greek word pappas, meaning "father". Catholics believe that when making statements ex cathedra, that is official statements teaching about faith and morals, the Pope is infallible - which means God will not allow his followers to be misled by allowing their leader to make a wrong statement. Only two of any Pope's statements have been ex cathedra.
Popes today travel to many countries around the world preaching. The Pope is the only person in the world who runs a country and a religion at the same time. Like other bishops he wears a big hat called a mitre and holds a staff called a crosier.
Some recent Popes, and the time they were Pope:
- Pope John XXIII, 1958-1963
- Pope Paul VI, 1963-1978
- Pope John Paul I, 1978
- Pope John Paul II, 1978-2005
- Pope Benedict XVI, 2005-2013
- Pope Francis, current pope
The Popes in Avignon
During parts of the Middle Ages, the French kings had a lot of influence in Europe. For this reason, seven popes (and two anti-popes) lived in Avignon, rather than Rome. The Avignon Papacy was from 1309 to 1377. During that time, the popes were known for their greed and corruption. These popes were allies of France; the enemies of France were also their enemies.
The Bishops of Rome who lived in Avignon were:
- 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
Two antipopes were based in Avignon as well:
- Clement VII: 1378–1394
- Benedict XIII: 1394–1423 (expelled from Avignon in 1403)
Antipopes were people that were elected by small groups who did not like the official choice. Catherine of Siena convinced pope Gregory XI to move back to Rome. Unfortunately, he died shortly after moving. The cardinals then elected Urban VI to be the next pope. The French cardinals did not recognise this election as legitimate. They declared the papal see as vacant; which led to the Western Schism. The schism lasted until the Council of Constance in 1417. During this time, there was a pope in Rome, an Antipope in Avignon, and for some time, a second antipope. Each of the three was recognised as legitimate pope by different European powers. This led to a big split in the church as a whole. The council elected Pope Martin V as a new pope, recognised by all parties.
A historical map of the Mediterranean states in 1400. The Western Schism lasted from 1378 to 1417.
The Giving of the Keys to Saint Peter painted by Pietro Perugino (1492)
The formal declaration of "Habemus Papam" after the election of Pope Martin V
Funeral of Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 2005, presided over by Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI
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.
Pope Pius XII, wearing the traditional 1877 Papal tiara, is carried through St. Peter's Basilica on a sedia gestatoria c. 1955.
Antichristus, by the Lutheran Lucas Cranach the Elder. This woodcut of the traditional practice of kissing the pope's foot is from Passionary of the Christ and Antichrist.
Pope Pius IX, the longest-reigning modern pope
Pope Urban VII, the shortest-reigning pope
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