Amazingly Interesting and Unbelievable Facts About Popes

Here’s a list of interesting and amazing facts about popes.

The Pope is the highest authority in the Catholic Church. He is the worldwide leader of Catholicism and his office is known as the Papacy. The Pope is likewise the head of state of Vatican City.

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  1. The most recent pope whose canonization is on process is Pope John Paul II. As of 2009, he is regarded as Venerable. Of the 266 Popes, a total of 73 have been declared in the pathway of sainthood – 59 are saints, 10 are blessed, 2 are venerable and 2 are servants of God.
  2. The only pope to abdicate was Pope Celestine V after the death of Pope Nicholas IV in 1292. He was born Peter of Morone, a hermit, and was 79-year-old when elected in 1294. After 5 months of assuming the highest post in the Catholic Church he abdicated for reasons of lowliness, infirmities, inexperience and ignorance among others.
  3. Pope Clement VII, who served from 1523 to 1534, was so fond of mushrooms that he made it illegal for anyone else to eat those growing in the Papal States, to avoid shortage for his own table. He died in 1534 from eating the dreaded and poisonous Death Cap mushroom.
  4. Pope Benedict IX is the most controversial of all popes. He was born in 1012 and died in 1056. His real name is Theophylactus of Tusculum. He was Pope on three occasions between 1032 and 1048. He was also one of the youngest popes and was the only man ever to have sold the papacy.
  5. Saint Hippolytus is one of the most recognizable and commonly considered to be the earliest antipope, as he protested against Pope Callixtus I and headed a separate group within the Church in Rome.
  6. Pope John Paul II, served from 1978 to 2005, is one of the most loved popes as manifested in the millions of followers who attended his funeral. He canonized more saints than all of his predecessors combined. Pope John Paul II is also the most traveled pope. He visited 129 countries during his reign.
  7. There were 3 popes who were Africans. They were Pope Victor I who was pontiff from 189 to 199. He was born in the Roman Province of Africa; Pope Miltiades who was served from 311 to 314. He was a Berber African; and Pope Gelasius I who served from 492 to 496. He was African by birthright.
  8. Father and Son pope and saint – Pope St. Hormisdas was pope from 514 to 523. He was married and widowed before ordination. He was the father of Pope St. Silverius.
  9. The most favorite name of popes is John, 24 popes used this name and there were 15 popes who used the name Gregory.
  10. There were 14 popes who used the name Benedict and 14 popes also used the name Clement.
  11. There were 13 popes who used the name Innocent, 12 for Leo, 10 for Pius, 10 for Stephen, 8 for Boniface, 8 for Urban, 6 for Alexander, 6 for Paul, 5 for Adrian, 5 for Celestine and 5 for Sixtus.
  12. There were 4 popes each who used the following names; Anastasius, Eugene, Honorius, Nicholas and Sergius.
  13. There were 3 popes each who used the following names; Callixtus, Felix, Sylvester and Victor.
  14. There were 2 popes each who used the following names; Agapetus, Damasus, Gelasius, Lucius, John Paul, Julius, Marcellus, Marinus, Martin, Paschal, Pelagius and Theodore.
  15. Only one pope each used the following names; Adeodatus, Agatho, Anacletus, Anterus, Conon, Constantine, Cornelius, Dionysus, Donus, Eleuterus, Eusebius, Euthycian, Evaristus, Fabian, Formosus, Hilarius, Hormisdas, Hyginus, Lando, Liberius, Marcellinus, Mark, Miltiades, Peter, Pontian, Romanus, Sabinian, Severinus, Silverius, Simplicius, Siricius, Sissinius, Soter, Symmachus, Telesphorus, Valentine, Vigilius, Vitalian, Zachary, Zephyrinus and Zosimus.
  16. The Catholic Church, the largest Christian denomination, recognizes Saint Peter as the fist Bishop of Rome or Pope. He is thought to have served for 30 years.
  17. There were 33 popes who have been members of religious orders such as Benedictines, Augustinians, Dominicans and others.
  18. Since 1585, there have been 39 popes known not to have been sexually active during their papacy.
  19. There were 10 popes who were married before receiving Holy Orders. They were St. Peter, Pope Siricius, Pope Felix III, Pope St. Hormisdas, Pope Silverius, Pope Agatho, Pope Adrian II, Pope John XVII, Pope Clement IV and Pope Honorius IV.
  20. Pope Siricius, served from 384–399, was married but left his wife and children in order to become pope. He wrote a decree in 385, stating that priests should stop cohabiting with their wives.
  21. Pope Felix III, served from 483–492, was a widower with two children when he was elected in 483. It is said that he was the great-great-grandfather of Gregory the Great.
  22. Pope John XVII (1003) was married before his election to the papacy and had three sons, who all became priests.
  23. St. Peter, the first pope, was married before taking office. The last pope to have been married before he entered the clergy is Pope Honorius IV. He was the pope from 1285 to 1287.
  24. There were 4 sexually active popes before receiving Holy Orders. They were Pope Pius II, Pope Innocent VIII, Pope Clement VII and Pope Gregory XIII.
  25. Pope Pius II, served from 1458 to 1464, had at least two illegitimate children born before he entered the clergy while Pope Innocent VIII, took office from 1484 to1492, also had at least two illegitimate children, born before he entered the clergy. It was said that he may have fathered as many as 16 illegitimate children.
  26. Two popes, Pope Clement VII (1523–1534) and Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585), had one illegitimate son each before they took holy orders.
  27. There were 3 sexually active popes after receiving Holy Orders. They were Pope Julius II, Pope Paul III and Pope Pius IV.
  28. Pope Julius II (1503–1513) had at least 3 illegitimate daughters. Pope Paul III had 4 illegitimate children and Pope Pius IV had 3 illegitimate children before being elected to the papacy.
  29. There were 5 sexually active popes during their pontificate. They were Pope Sergius III, Pope John X, Pope John XII, Pope Benedict IX, Pope Alexander VI and Pope Paul II.
  30. There were 4 suspected popes to have had male lovers during pontificate. They were as follows; Pope Paul II, Pope Sixtus IV, Pope Leo X and Pope Julius III.
  31. Pope Paul II (1464–1471) was alleged to have died of a heart attack while in a sexual act with a page.
  32. There were at least 41 persons who were considered historical antipopes – a person who opposes a legitimately elected or sitting Pope and makes a significantly accepted competing claim to be the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Catholic Church.
  33. The oldest elected pope since 1295 is Clement X. He was elected in 1670 and was 79 years, 290 days 86 old. He served from 1670 to 1676.
  34. The oldest pope at death since 1295 is Leo XIII. He was 93 years, 140 days when he died and reigned for 25 years as pope. He was born Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci in 1810 and died in 1903.
  35. There were 17 popes who have had French Ancestry and since the end of the Avignon Papacy, no Frenchman has been elected pope. French is the most common non-Italian papal ancestry.
  36. There were 190 popes from Italy and there were 8 popes of German ancestry. Pope Benedict XVI, the present pope, is the first German pope since Pope Adrian VI in 1523.
  37. The 2 longest-reigning popes whose reigns lengths can be determined from contemporary historical data are the following: Pius IX (1846–1878): He reigned for 31 years, 7 months and 23 days or a total of 11,560 days. The second longest-reigning pope was John Paul II (1978–2005): He served for 26 years, 5 months and 17 days or a total of 9,665 days.
  38. The Venerable Pope John Paul II has been the only Polish or Slavic Pope to date and was the first non-Italian Pope since Dutch Pope Adrian VI in 1522.
  39. The 2 shortest-reigning popes were Urban VII he served for 13 days from September 15 to 27, 1590 and died of malaria before coronation; he is followed by Pope Boniface VI who served for 16 days in 896.
  40. There were 6 popes who were Syrians. They were Pope Anicetus (155–166), Pope John V (685–686), Pope Sergius I (687–701), Pope Sissinius (708), Pope Constantine (708–715) and Pope Gregory III (731–741).
  41. There were 124 popes (in addition to some 23 “anti-popes”) in the second millennium -1001–2000 but only 5 have been canonized as saints.


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