Pope's name

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Annunciation of the pope 's name Martin V in 1415 at the Council of Constance

The Pope's name is adopted by a newly elected Pope in place of his baptismal name and remains with him, as in the case of Pope Benedict XVI. , even after resigning from office . The Pope, however, still celebrates his name day according to his baptismal name. The name of the Pope is announced in Latin by the cardinal protodeacon to the crowd gathered in Rome at the end of a conclave :

“Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: Habemus Papam! Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum NN , Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem NN, qui sibi nomen imposuit NN "

“I announce a great joy to you: we have a Pope! His Eminence the Most Venerable Lord, Lord [ baptismal name of the elected ], of the Holy Roman Church Cardinal, [ family name of the elected ], who has given himself the name [ papal name ]. "

If a member of one of the Uniate Eastern Churches has been elected Pope, the word "Romanae" is omitted. If the elected does not have the rank of cardinal, the corresponding passage is omitted.

The tradition of adopting a new name in the election of the Pope does not go back to the origins of the papal office, but by matching the names of the modern popes with those of antiquity and by using a uniform nomenclature from the beginnings to the present day, it carries it on Art contributes to the continued existence of this institution.

Forms and variants of papal names

Like other nicknames, the names of the Popes also differ in different languages. Usually the names are "translated" into the respective native language, if there is an equivalent for them in it. Therefore, a Pope called Ioannes in Latin and Ιωάννης (Ioánnis) in Greek is called Jean in French , John in English , Giovanni in Italian , Juan in Spanish , János in Hungarian and Johannes in German . Unless specifically noted, the names of the Popes used in this article are the German-speaking ones. For the Pope elected in 2013, Francis immediately prevailed in German , probably because the reference to Francis of Assisi is most clearly “translated”. Popes with the name Johannes were never just called “Johann” in German, while “Paul” was also used as a translation for Latin Paulus (actually: “the little one”) for the pope's name.

Names and languages

Not every “translation” - mostly a transformation or phonetic and grammatical adaptation that has taken place over the centuries - is possible or necessary. Some rare names keep their Latin or Greek form because there is no German equivalent ( Hormisdas , Sisinnius ); other Latin names are still common in German, for example if the respective name is common in German as a "secular" first name ( Pius , Leo ).

In non- Catholic countries and cultures, papal names are often borrowed from other languages. In Turkish it is customary to denote popes with their French name with a prefixed number. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. are therefore generally called ikinci Jean Paul and onaltıncı Benoit . With the increasing spread of English, however, the forms ikinci John Paul and onaltıncı Benedict are increasingly found . You can even find the Latin or Italian names. In addition, in these forms the spelling of the language of origin is sometimes retained, sometimes the name is written phonetically ( Jan Pol ).

The cultural and linguistic dominance of one state over another has a strong influence on the naming in the dominated country, also with regard to papal names. In Azerbaijani , a language very close to Turkish, the Russian papal names are used, which is why John Paul II ikinci Ioann Pavel - in Russian Иоанн Павел второй (Ioann Pawel wtoroj) - was called. In Tagalog , the official language of the Philippines , which are Spanish Pope names. In the Protestant countries of Northern Europe , the Latin names of the Popes are most frequently used, even if there is an equivalent in the respective language. Exceptions are made for the most common first names ( Paul , Alexander ), and for others, the orthography can be adapted to that of the national language (for example by replacing c with k). In contrast, languages ​​in Orthodox countries have equivalents for the names of saints in the early Christian Church and can therefore translate the majority of papal names.

In addition, Christianity has been resident in some Arab countries for a long time, so that there are names in Arabic for Catholic saints and thus also for popes . These names partly deviate from their strict equivalent from the Muslim tradition: John is calledيوحنّا / Yūḥannā reproduced when referring to a Catholic Pope, but asيحيی / Yaḥyā when Muslims mean the prophet John the Baptist .

Ambiguity of certain names

Even in the “official” Latin Popes Lists, it can happen that different names that sound similar or have a similar meaning were mixed up afterwards. For example, the first three popes of antiquity named Sixtus probably had the Greek name Xystos (the smoothed one) or the Roman first name Sextus (the sixth). The two names were mixed into a single name Sixtus (Latinized-Greek also sometimes Xystus ), which was then taken up by two other popes in the Renaissance .

The same mixture happened to Marinus or Martin for reasons of sound ( see below ). However, this confusion is now recognized as a mistake, and the two names are considered different.

Between 615 and 618 a pope ruled with the Latin name Deusdedit , literally "God gave". Another Pope ruled from 672 to 676, whose Latin name Adeodatus (“given by God”) has practically the same meaning. It has become customary to view the two names as variants of one and the same and to list the two popes in Latin as Adeodatus primus and Adeodatus secundus .

The case of the third Pope, depending on the source Kletus or Anaclet , is discussed in the article Anaclet .


Names of the first popes

Simon Bar Jona, as Peter, according to church tradition, the first Pope; Painting by Rubens

The known dates of the earliest bishops of Rome were often limited to their names.

According to the Gospel according to Matthew , the apostle Peter was called Simon , before Christ gave him the surname Peter through a saying which, according to the Catholic understanding, establishes the papacy as a whole with Simon as the first holder :

"Do it Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam"

"You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church"

- ( Mt 16.18  EU )

Little is known of Peter's immediate successors. In the later harmonized lists of the first "popes" there are numerous ambiguities, especially with regard to their reigns. Historians generally assume that their names have been passed down correctly, but their terms of office and functions are mostly unclear. The person Anaclet , who is also called Kletus , was unhistorically doubled due to misunderstandings in the tradition.

The early community leaders in Rome are believed to have been of Jewish origin and spoke Greek . It was not until the 3rd century that the ruling class of the Roman community was increasingly recruited from Latin- speaking Christians. The names of the officials have been passed down almost entirely in Latin or Greek. The Latin names can be praenomina, nomina or cognomina , i.e. given names, surnames or surnames.

Only two papal names are of Hebrew origin. They come directly from the New Testament and appear in late antiquity , when Christianity had long separated from Judaism. These names are John (in 523, after John the Baptist ) and Zacharias (in 741, after Zacharias , John's father). After all, a pope seems to have had a Germanic name, namely Lando . He was the last Pope (before John Paul I in 1978 and Francis 2013) to bear a new name. After him, all newly elected popes had names that at least one predecessor had already borne, and the habit of systematic name changes soon developed.

The ancient popes up to the late 6th century are venerated almost consistently as saints . That is why the names they carried became baptismal names for future generations, and some are still used today, e.g. B. Eugen , Julius , Pascal , Urban , Silvester , Felix and possibly Kai .

Origin of the name change of the Popes

The first recorded case of a change in the name of a man who was elected Pope is that of Mercurius in 533. Since he did not want to bear the name of a pagan deity , he called himself John II. This was repeated when a man named a pagan god or emperor was chosen; In 955, an Octavian ascended the papal throne as John XII.

In 983 Petrus Canepanova became Pope as John XIV . He wanted to avoid a second "Pope Peter" after the first Pope and Apostle Peter . Incidentally, a later misinterpretation of his “active” rule and his imprisonment as two pontificate of different people resulted in a confusion when counting the popes of his name. Hence the name of John XXI. not as XX. counted, in order to correct the alleged error. The other bearers of the name Peter or a variant who became Pope changed their name for the same reason as John XIV.

In 996, Bruno of Carinthia was the first German to be elected Pope. He was followed in 999 by the first French pope, Gerbert von Aurillac. Both had Germanic first names that were alien to the papal tradition (although a predecessor, Lando , had a Germanic or Lombard papal name despite his Italian origins). They changed their names and became Gregor V and Silvester II. At this time, Germanic first names were already widespread, not only in Germanic countries. From now on, all bearers of a Germanic name changed it when they became Pope. The only exceptions made two anti-popes of the 11th century, which retained their Germanic name: Theodoric and Albert . (Only with Antipope Gregory VI. The real name is unclear, possibly he did not change his name either.)

For all these reasons, the need to change names already preoccupied the majority of popes by the end of the 10th century, but the custom established itself for almost all popes regardless of their baptismal name. It was given a symbolic meaning: the new Pope was no longer the same man as before his election, and therefore his name should no longer be the same. This gave the election to the papacy a special importance, although it was never recognized as a sacrament like the ordination of priests or bishops .

Enthronement of Benedict XIII. , Antipope in Avignon , September 1394

Until around the end of the 12th century, people did not become unambiguous at the moment of acceptance of the election of Pope, as they do today, but at least formally only through enthronement and, if necessary, episcopal ordination. This was necessary for several reasons. In particular, it was often opportune to wait for the consent of the emperor (although not necessarily). In addition, many of the elected were not bishops , some not even priests , and therefore had to be ordained before they could fully exercise the office. (This is also prescribed by canon law today.) Gregory VII , elected in 1073, insisted that only the enthronement would make a man fully pope; acceptance of the election only justified the claim to the office, so to speak. Due to the often chaotic political situation, many popes had a long period of time, up to more than a year, between election and enthronement. Bishop Wibert of Ravenna, appointed Pope by the Emperor in 1080 (and today regarded as an antipope), could not be enthroned in Rome until 1084. In the intervening four years, he saw himself only as the "elected Pope" and not as the incumbent. He gave himself his papal name Clemens III. not until his inauguration. One can therefore speculate that his immediate successors Theodoric and Albert did not change their names because they were not enthroned at all, or that their possible secret enthronement did not leave any historical traces of at least one papal name.

Since 996 only two popes kept their baptismal names: Adriaan Florisz Boeyens became Hadrian VI in 1522 . , and Marcello Cervini ascended the papal throne as Marcellus II in 1555. Giuliano della Rovere probably wanted to keep his name in 1503, but there was no predecessor named Julian , so he was content with the name Julius , which had already been borne before, so to speak became Julius II . In fact, since Lando 913, it was not until 2013 that Francis chose a completely new papal name. In Lando's time the papacy was occupied by a few Roman families, including the Tusculans , and the names that came up showed little variety. When the name change soon became customary, all popes (apart from John Paul I in 1978, who combined two previous names, see below) observed the principle of only choosing names that had already been used.

Meaning of the Pope's names

The name given to himself by a new Pope can have many meanings, and for some the reason for their choice is unknown. The Latin names Innozenz ( innocentia = innocence) and Clemens ( clementia = mildness) sound “programmatic”, although there are also early Roman predecessors, similar to Pius (= the pious). Benedictus is Latin for "the blessed", Bonifatius for "benefactor". The new Pope can also take his name in honor of a special saint. The "highest ranking" saints names occurring as Pope names are John the Baptist (approx. 23 times) and Paul (6 times so far); other "great" saints are z. B. Stephanus , Nikolaus or Martin . An election can be made in honor of a relative or in remembrance of a church in which the new Pope ruled, or several other people with the same name. When Gerbert von Aurillac became Pope in 999, he chose the name Silvester II in memory of Silvester I , who had been Pope under Constantine the Great when Christianity became the Roman state religion.

Gregory the Great in a representation by Francisco de Zurbarán

Numerous popes chose their names as a tribute to a far back and glorious predecessor instead of a closer predecessor - Gregory the Great (16 times) and Leo the Great (13 times) are particularly frequent here . This was sometimes done to give the papal office a new look after the failings of the recent past. In particular, the period of the so-called Gregorian reforms , named after Gregory VII, followed the period of the great decadence of the papacy from the 10th century to the first half of the 11th century, when the most common names were John, Benedict, Leo and Stephan . , although it began partially before his rule. In response to the Popes of the recent past, numerous very old papal names have been revived. The list of Popes from 1046 to 1145 shows a large number of names with ordinal number II (14 of 18 Popes). These first names (and Gregory ) were then reused, from which a new series with the ordinal number III originates (1145 to 1227 with 8 of 11 popes). There is also a series with IV (1241 to 1292 with 8 of 13 popes) before the system splits up in the fifth generation (up to around 1455). The shame of the theophylactic epoch was forgotten and the "tainted" names John and Benedict came back into fashion. The name "Leo", on the other hand, had to wait several centuries before it was revived (cf. St. Leo IX , Leo X , Leo XII ; all of them probably linked to Leo I the Great). "Stephan" was since the IX. (X.) 1058, which was German, was not reused at all, possibly also due to the numbering difficulties associated with this name.

During the Great Schism , the Popes of Rome , Avignon, and Pisa took on distinctly different names. After the restoration of the unified papacy, the popes initially excluded the names of the three old allegiances and instead revived names that had fallen out of use. The first of them named himself after St. Martin of Tours , since the day of his papal election was the feast of St. Martin (name day 11 November), i.e. Pope Martin V , regardless of the counting errors with this name. In the epoch of humanism and the early Renaissance, it is noticeable that personal motives appear when choosing a name. With the Spaniard Kalixt III. the “objective” meaning is particularly unclear, whether it referred to the first predecessor Callistus or the Greek word meaning (“the most beautiful”) or “onomatopoeic” to the Santo Cáliz of Valencia, which is venerated as the Holy Grail in his homeland becomes. Pope Nicholas V chose his name in grateful memory of his former master and benefactor, the Blessed. Carthusian and Cardinal Niccolò Albergati ; Sixtus IV because the beginning of the conclave in which he was elected coincided with the feast of Pope Sixtus II (August 6th); Pius IV , probably because he wished to be what the name suggests; Sixtus V to renew the memory of Sixtus IV, who like him belonged to the Franciscan order. Pius IX named himself after Pius VIII , because he, like he was at the time, Bishop of Imola. In contrast, Cardinal Castagna, who was raised in 1590, declared that he wanted to bear an old papal name and called himself Urban VII ( Urban I was a native Roman like him), a name that had not been used for over 200 years, but then , until today for the last time, was taken up by Urban VIII .

Numerous different names were in use during the Renaissance , some common at the time, others old and otherwise no longer in use, with the only restriction that the name had been used at least once before. In addition to the retention of the baptismal name ( Hadrian VI. , Marcellus II. And, with a small change, Julius II. ), A name valued in the family became the papal name: Cardinal Enea Silvio Piccolomini became Pius II based on the "pious Aeneas" of Virgil. Rodrigo Borgia called himself Alexander VI. in avowed adoration of Alexander the Great . The Renaissance thus allowed references to ancient pagans. Alexander VII , however, was referring to Alexander III. who also came from Siena, like Benedict XV. remembered Benedict XIV , who was also Archbishop of Bologna. Innocent VIII remembered Innocent IV , who also came from Genoa. Some popes took the name of an ancestor in their family. Pius III was the nephew of Pius II , Honorius IV. a great-nephew of Honorius III. and Leo XI. also great-nephew of Leo X ; Innocent XIII. came from the ancient noble family, who u. a. Innocent III. arose. Julius III. honored Julius II as a patron of his family, as did Paul V the former patron of the Borghese , Paul III.

It is generally unusual to choose the name of one of the twelve apostles as the papal name, especially not Peter , or that of an evangelist. (The only exception was the briefly reigning Pope Marcus , who already had this name before his election.) The name of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus and patron of the church, is also unusual.

The Pietas

The most common patron saint of a Pope's name, however, is a recent predecessor to which the newly elected Pope wants to show gratitude for personal reasons. This custom is called pietas from the Latin word for “piety”.

Clement XI. , Founder of a "dynasty" of four cardinals and later popes of that name

The newly elected popes in the early modern period more and more frequently chose the name of the person who had made them cardinal or thanks to whom they had ascended in the hierarchy . So Paul IV refers to Paul III. ; as was Clement XIV. Ganganelli of Clement XIII. Rezzonico was appointed cardinal, this in turn by Clement XII. Corsini, and that of Clement XI. Albani. The Roman Clement X. Altieri was also from his predecessor Clemens IX. Rospigliosi was elevated to the cardinal status, as was Benedict XIV by Benedict XIII. and Innocent XII. by Innocent XI. and this was made cardinal by Innocent X. In the case of the Clement Popes, however, a program of mildness (= clementia ) was demonstrably linked to the choice of name four times , for example with Clemens VII. De Medici, Clemens VIII. Aldobrandini, Clemens IX. and Clemens XI. (with the latter also the day's saint, as also with Martin V and Sixtus IV. ).

Gregory XVI. Capellari was referring to Gregory XV. Ludovisi, the founder of Propaganda Fide , who presided over Cardinal Capellari before his election as Pope. Gregory XV. again reminded of Gregory XIII. Buoncompagni, his compatriot and early patron. Gregory XIII. but made reference to St. Gregory I , on whose feast day he had been promoted to cardinal. The Dominican Benedict XIII. referred to the Dominican Pope Benedict XI.

Other forms of homage are more subtle. With Eugene III. , Pupil of Bernhard von Clairvaux , one suspects a (typically medieval- "folk etymological") allusion to "Gospel", with Eugene IV. To the "wellbirth" as the nephew of Gregory XII. Some popes honored the memory of a predecessor who helped their families or who gave their families their choice. Alexander VIII became Pope thanks to the influence of Cardinal Flavio Chigi , who was a nephew of Alexander VII . (The two Alexander were also appointed cardinal on the same day.) From the 16th century onwards, this system led to an impoverishment of various pope names. The 14 popes between 1644 and 1774 therefore only had four different names before Pius VI. this tradition broke up and the "Pius tradition" opened.

Probably the first case on record of a name choice in adoration of the predecessor of the same name is from Blessed Viktor III. OSB proven: It was named after Viktor II , the last of Emperor Heinrich III. chosen Pope as “Roman patron” in order to set a sign of reconciliation.

The name Pius

Pius I.
Almost nothing is known about the first Pope named Pius , except for his fifteen-year term in office between 140 and 155 in Rome, which was then pagan. Like all the popes of that time, he is considered a saint and martyr. The reason for the success of the name Pius with the modern popes is therefore not the first bearer of the name, unlike with Gregory the Great or Leo the Great . The name Pius sank into obscurity and was also overlooked by the popes during the Gregorian reforms that revived numerous other ancient names.
Pius ii
In 1458, Enea Silvio de 'Piccolomini, a cleric, writer and scholar, was elected Pope. It may be a testament to humor that he chose the name Pius II . Piccolomini was already the diminutive of piccolo ( Italian for "small" ), and Pius (Italian: Pio ) can be seen as the diminutive of the diminutive. Another theory assumes that the name is an allusion to Virgil's "pio Enea" (pious Aeneas) .
Pius III
The son of Pius II's sister became Pope in 1503. He owed everything to his uncle, from the family name, which he did not have from birth, to the coat of arms and the cardinal's hat. He therefore called himself Pius III. , but died 26 days after the election.
Pius IV
The choice of the name of Pius IV , Giovanni Medici, who was not related to the Florentine dynasty and elected in 1559, is more difficult to understand. Possibly he wanted to bear a name that was directed against that of his rigorous predecessor Paul IV , whose criminal nephew he had convicted and executed. At this time, the names Pius and Paul were used in parallel . It is conceivable that the name Pius, in Italian Pio , was an alternative to the taboo name Peter, Pietro [= Pi… o]. The apostles Peter and Paul are considered to be the founders of Christianity in Rome and the papacy. It is therefore likely that Pius IV wanted to refer directly to Peter; also his successor and then again Pius VI. acted so. The name had thus become the “reform program”.
Pius V in a representation by El Greco
Pius V.
The immediate successor of Pius IV, Michele Ghislieri, took the name of Pius V when he was elected in 1566 . This seems surprising as he was a favorite of the Paul IV family and had to endure the pontificate of Pius IV dishonored. However, a nephew of Pius IV, St. Charles Borromeo , made the choice possible. The naming is therefore an example of the tradition of the Pietas . Pius V continued the work of reform and counter-reformation that had been decided on at the Council of Trent , both against Protestants and against Muslims . He financed the Catholic coalition fleet that defeated the Turks in the naval battle of Lepanto . He was canonized not only for this first important victory of the Christians against the Ottomans and his piety. In the context of the Pietas , however, only Pius VI. again honor, indicating special ambitions. By then the name Pius had been out of use for around 200 years.
Pius VI
In 1775 Giovanni Angelo Braschi became Pope and named himself Innocent , Alexander , Clement or Benedict Pius VI after a hundred and thirty year series of 14 popes . He took the work of Pius V as a model and took an ambitious anti- Enlightenment stance in his pontificate . The French Revolution ended his long, strict rule when the Papal States were occupied and the Roman Republic was proclaimed. He was deported to France and died in exile in Valence in 1799 . The revolutionaries believed and hoped that it was the last Pope in history and ridiculed him as "Pius the Last" . You were wrong.
Pius VII
The programmatic conservative piety and his tragic end as a peregrinus apostolicus made Pius VI. almost a martyr for the Catholics. His successor, elected in 1800 in the Austrian occupied Venice , therefore consciously called himself Pius VII , even though he, a theologian and Benedictine, no church lawyer, was more open to modern ideas than this. He, too, was later abducted from Rome by the French . He had to anoint Napoléon Bonaparte emperor in 1804 (Napoléon crowned himself), but then turned against him. After the end of Napoleon and in the course of the Restoration , he returned to Rome and ruled from there for the rest of his long and eventful pontificate: in protest against Napoleon's occupation of the papal state ( Non possumus ! = We cannot (do without)) the modern gold and silver flag for the Vatican (symbolizing the keys of Peter), while before that the heraldic church colors were red and gold (those of the emperor were black and gold).
until Pius XII.
The long duration of both pontificates and the events that shaped them - sometimes perceived as the struggle of the Christian world order against the atheist revolution - meant that the name Pius remained popular with the popes and seven of eleven popes carried it between 1774 and 1958: besides the mentioned Pius VI. and Pius VII. as the third Pius VIII. in 1829, Pius IX. in 1846, Pius X. 1903, Pius XI. 1922 and Pius XII. 1939. The struggles and the philosophy of Pius 'V and Pius' VI. are not the only reason for this amazing series. Here, too, the Pietas is a motif . Pius VIII referred to the "liberal politician" Pius VII, and so did Pius IX at the beginning of his pontificate. Incidentally, these were much less strictly conservative than the two popes of that time who were not called Pius: Leo XII. and Gregory XVI. Leo XIII. consciously referred to Leo XII., whose regime he had personally experienced in the Papal States, remembering his youth, especially the Holy Year 1825: The regaining of the Papal State had for the "modern" Leo XIII. namely absolute priority, even if he was unsuccessful, while Pius X. like his model Pius IX. was more about pastoral care.

The controversy over Pius XII. Attitude during the Second World War and the turning point caused by the Second Vatican Council during the term of office of his successor suddenly put the name Pius out of use. He is associated not only with the idea of ​​a conservative and backward-looking Pope, but also with the entire struggle between the Church and the modern secularized world. Pius XII. himself (although he did not believe in the prophecies of Malachia ) said that he suspected he was the last Pope Pius. This expressed skepticism as to whether the church could continue with the previous methods, as Jean Guitton reports. Hermann Hesse appeared to be a future Pope Pius XV in his novel Das Glasperlenspiel . obvious.

Development from the 1950s

The successor of Pius XII., John XXIII, elected in 1958 . (Angelo Roncalli), revived a name that hadn't been used in centuries. It is even the name and the "number" of a former antipope. Although there were doubts whether the former John XXIII. Cossa was actually illegitimate. Presumably the modern John XXIII chose. Roncalli, an experienced church historian, was aware of the name in order to emphasize that the former illegally called himself Pope (and the name was therefore still free as "23rd").

John XXIII But chose the name not in reference to an earlier Pope John, but directly related to John the Baptist . In addition, his father was called Giovanni, this is the Italian form of the name Johannes. The choice of name was considered bold. His successor Paul VI, whom he himself greatly appreciated . The real name he paved the way for was Giovanni Battista Montini, which is why one can assume that by choosing a name he wanted to favor the latter's later choice.

Since then there have been two Pope portraits in S. Paolo in Rome Ioannes XXIII. (but no XX.). Historically the "most correct" number for John XXIII. Roncalli would probably have been "John XXI.", But earlier counting errors are sometimes taken over, including by Council Pope Martin V (the next Pope John would have the choice of whether he would be the second XXII. (With complete correction), the third XXIII Correction of the missing XX.) Or the first XXIV. Or with the rehabilitation of the Pisan "Antipope XXIII." Even who wants to be XXV.)

Paul VI referred, completely surprisingly, to the Apostle Paul. So he took the example very "up", as Paul II did, whom the cardinals could only with difficulty prevent from keeping his real name Pietro (= Petrus II); He almost wanted to call himself "Formosus II". Since of the six Popes Paul only "incidentally" Paul V and Paul IV. On Paul III. related, all of those with this name should have been “somehow” convinced of the combination of Peter and Paul .

Even Paul II and Paul III. alluded to the "intellectual combination" of the names of the princes of the apostles Peter and Paul , like the II. Council Pope Paul VI. it did. Some commentators suspected that the only reason he did not call himself John XXIV was because John (Giovanni) was already his baptismal name. Before the Ecumenical Council in Geneva in 1969 Paul VI. however, analogously: “I am Peter. My name is Paulus. ”This speaks for the mentioned“ allusion ”, which perhaps also played a role for Paul V.

John Paul I and John Paul II referred to several predecessors, John Paul II even to three. Paul's successors took up the custom of naming themselves after a close predecessor: John Paul I explicitly referred to his two immediate predecessors in office. It can also be seen as a homage to the city of Venice, in which he was patriarch and in which there is a prominent church called Santi Giovanni e Paolo . He was the first and so far only Pope who added the I. to his new name himself . Ordinal numbers are usually only added from the second bearer of the name. After his sudden death it was hoped for a successor similar to him. The newspaper Le Monde had the headline on October 10, 1978: “In search of John Paul II”, who was consequently elected on October 16 with Cardinal Wojtyla.

Benedict XVI. pointed explicitly to St. Benedict of Nursia and Pope Benedict XV to justify his choice of name . (e.g. in his first general audience and in the Word on World Day of Peace 2006), who had exhorted peace during the First World War . This was at the same time a "more modest" choice of name than with the Council Popes John XXIII. and Paul VI. connected.

Francis himself explicitly understands the choice of name as an appeal to St. Francis of Assisi . Francis is the first Pope since Lando (913–914) to choose a new, uncombined papal name. In contrast to John Paul I, Francis did not add the ordinal number I and is thus the first Pope since Lando without an ordinal number. Shortly after the election, according to a cardinal, Francis had also considered the name John XXIV.

Criteria for choosing a name

Of course, we are only partially informed about the reasons which led the individual popes to adopt a certain name, especially since the pope is not obliged to announce his motives. Very often the Pope takes his name out of gratitude and in honor of a predecessor (...) The same honor is often given to the Pope who made the newly elected Pope cardinal or bishop or otherwise promoted him. So with Leo XIII. who expressly stated that he would take the name Leo in memory of Leo XII. to whom he has always felt indebted in love and gratitude; (...) Nicholas V chose his name in grateful memory of his former master and benefactor, Cardinal Albergati; Sixtus IV because the beginning of the conclave in which he was elected coincided with the feast of Pope Sixtus II ; Pius IV because he wished to be what the name implies; Gregory XIII. because the purple was once given to him on the feast of Gregory the Great; Sixtus V to renew the memory of Sixtus IV, who belongs to the Franciscan order like him. Pius IX called himself after Pius VIII , because he, as he had been Bishop of Imola at the time (...) On the other hand, Cardinal Castagna, who was raised in 1590, declared that he wanted to bear an old papal name and called himself Urban VII. , a name that has been around since had not occurred over 200 years.

As already mentioned, it is not customary for the Pope to choose the name of one of the twelve apostles or the evangelists ( no exception: Pope Marcus , whose civil name was that); the Pope's name John always refers to John the Baptist . Originally, the popes kept their real first names after the election. The first pope to change his name was John II in 533. His real name was Mercurius and as a pope did not want to bear the name of a pagan god. However, the occasional adoption of a new name remained an exception until the end of the 1st millennium.

Since the 16th century, the Pope chose the name of the Pope who had made him cardinal relatively often (see above, Pietas ). It is rather seldom that a pope chose the same name as its immediate predecessor; In modern times, however, this has almost always only been the case when the latter had elevated him to cardinal:

St. Pius V chose the name of his predecessor Pius IV , although he did not make him cardinal and even under him was a bit "sidelined". It has been assumed that Pi..o as a pious allusion to "Pi (etr) o" (Petrus) was rediscovered in the 16th century, if this was not already Pius II's mind.

Pius VIII., Pius X. and Pius XI referred to the indirect (2nd) predecessor; [Pius IX. related his choice of name to Pius VIII., s. o.], Leo XIII. referred to Leo XII, whose holy year he had seen in 1825 when he was 15 years old. This related directly to Leo I. d. Gr., As well as Gregory XIII. directly on Gregor I. d. Size related [s. o.] and Clemens VII. to Clemens I.

For predecessors further back, z. B. Sixtus V. (on the IV., Also Franciscans, see above), Gregory XVI. (on the XV., founder of the propaganda fide ), Benedict XIII. (on the XI., also Dominican), Benedict XVI. (to the XV. and St. Benedict ), Benedict XV. (on the XIV., also Archbishop of Bologna and Pope), Innocent XIII. (on Innocent III , from the same family) and Alexander VII. (on Alexander III , also from Siena), Innocent VIII. (on IV., also from Genoa).

The names of the Popes Clemens, Alexander, Xystus (through Sixtus IV. ), Pius (through Pius II. ), Calixtus, Urban, Stephan, Innocent, Boniface, Coelestin, Leo, Johannes, Benedict and Gregory were later "activated" from early church times . . In the 1st millennium, John became the name of the Pope so often because a great many popes had a civil name that they kept.

Numbering of the Popes


The seal of Gregory VII (1073-1085) bears his ordinal number.

In 257 Sixtus, who is now listed as Sixtus II , was the first Pope to have a name that had already been used. This happened more and more often over time. With Pelagius II , two popes of the same name, one of whom had ruled shortly before the other, began to add the addition junior to the second . When there were three popes with the same name, the name secundus junior was added . In order to avoid confusion in the face of this complicated system, one hung from Gregory III. (731–741) occasionally add a number to the pope's name. However, this only became the rule on official documents from the 10th century. The custom arose around the same time as the obligatory adoption of a pope's name. From Leo IX. (1049-1054) the number also appeared on papal bulls and on the fishing ring .

The popes who had ruled before the introduction of numbering were subsequently numbered for practical reasons. Popes who had not used a name again were not given a number afterwards. Nevertheless, Albino Luciani gave himself the number “the first” in 1978 when he became Pope John Paul , even before there was a John Paul II . This is also done in some of today's monarchies, such as Belgium, while in others a number is only used if there is at least a second bearer of the name, as in the Netherlands.

The counter-popes who lived before the numbering was introduced were usually not numbered subsequently. Exceptions are Felix II - who was not considered a legitimate Pope, but for a long time was wrongly regarded as a saint and was therefore kept on the lists for a long time - as well as Boniface VII and John XVI. which resulted in errors in the numbering of subsequent popes of the same name.

The counter- popes who appeared after the introduction of numbering always followed the custom of numbering because they saw themselves as legitimate popes. However, since the Church does not recognize her, her name and number have always been considered unassigned. If a later legitimate Pope adopted this name, he also took the number with him, which means that the later “correct” count also delegitimizes the earlier antipope. During the Great Schism prevailed as the anti-popes Clement "VII." And Benedict "XIII." , John "XXIII." And Clemens "VIII." , Which later, so legitimate popes did not stop them, also as Clement VII. , Clemens VIII. And Benedict XIII. or also John XXIII. to rule.

Numbering error

Upon closer inspection of the list of Popes, some anomalies in the numbering of certain names become apparent. Most of this goes back to anti-popes who were considered legitimate at certain times, but others are simple mistakes.

Antipope John XXIII. (1410-1415)
Boniface VII, Benedict X and Alexander V.
As described, the Catholic Church regards the rule of an antipope as null and void. So when a legitimate pope later adopts the name of an antipope, he also adopts his number. The numbers of three counter- popes were nevertheless not reused: Boniface VII , Benedict X and (later) Alexander V. The following popes of the same name called themselves Boniface VIII , Benedict XI. and Alexander VI. It should be noted here that Alexander V was a Pope from Pisa during the Great Schism, and the illegality of the Pisa Popes was to Alexander VI. Still the subject of discussion. The name of another Pope from Pisa, John XXIII. (1410-1415), was by John XXIII. (1958–1963) only accepted five centuries later, when the polemics had ebbed.
Felix II
Similarly, Felix II. Now regarded as anti-pope. Felix III. and Felix IV. did not have numbers during their lifetime, as this custom only came up after them and they were numbered retrospectively. It would therefore be logical, Felix II. And Felix III. as some lists do. But since there was later an antipope Felix V , there are also reasons to name the names at Felix III. and Felix IV.
John XX.
There was neither a Pope nor an antipope named John XX. When Pedro Julião became Pope in 1276 under the name of Johannes , there were already numerous predecessors of the same name who were numbered differently in the many circulating lists of that time. Some counted the counter-popes as full, including the one who is now John XVI. is mentioned, another John XIV counted twice as two different people. Pedro Julião was wrongly called John XXI. instead of John XIX. or John XX.
Martin II. And Martin III.
There were neither popes nor counter-popes named Martin II or Martin III. The mistake was made in 1281, when Simon de Brion became Pope and took the name Martin: The name Marin (us) was wrongly believed to be identical to Martin and the Popes Marinus I and Marinus II were listed as Martin II. or Martin III. on. So Simon de Brion became Martin IV. The mistake was later corrected for the two popes named Marinus, but the incorrect numbering of Martin IV and later Martin V persisted.
Stephan IX. or Stephan X.?
Stephen (II.) Was elected in 752 and died immediately afterwards, before he was consecrated. Since at that time the enthronement and not the election marked the assumption of office of a Pope, he was immediately removed from the lists. His seven successors of the same name had no numbers during their lifetime, but they were subsequently listed as Stephan II to Stephan VIII. When a new Stephan was elected in 1057, after the numbering was introduced, he naturally called himself Stephan IX. At the end of the 16th century, Stephen, who died early, began to be regarded as legitimate and the following popes would now have Stephen III. must number to Stephan X., although the last one had the number IX during his lifetime . But in the papal Annuario Pontificio of 2008, which de facto provides an official list, the first Stephen (II.) Is again, as has been customary since 1961, not listed (see ibid., Footnote on p. 11) and his name successors are as Stephan II. To Stephan IX. listed, with (each one number higher) additional digits in brackets. Both numbers can be found in semi-official lists. The same problem could have arisen, for very similar reasons, with another pope, Celestine II , who was in office only for a very short time, but his exclusion from the list never aroused opposition (and thus ultimately wrongly made him antipope). Since the numbering of the popes was already common practice in his day, his successor also and of course called himself Celestine II. Another Pope, Gregory XI, who died early . , is possibly entirely a legend, and its number was given by the rightful Pope Gregory XI. reused.

Pope names assigned so far

The list of Annuario Pontificio counts from Peter to Francis 266 popes. It should be noted that they Benedict IX. counts three times. He became pope for the first time at the age of around 20 (the age of 10 to 12 years given by Rodulfus Glaber is considered unlikely), was overthrown, became pope again, and sold his dignity to Gregory VI. , was once again Pope, again driven out and excommunicated - in order, according to legend, to finally become a monk and to repent for his sins.

The list also counts Leo VIII and Benedict V as legitimate popes, who, however, ruled and rivals at the same time. Conversely, it excludes the popes of Avignon and Pisa , who were opponents of the Roman popes during the Great Schism .

The antipopes not counted in the Roman list are missing here. In addition, John XX is missing . , Martin II. And Martin III. that never existed (ever because of a counting error). With these particularities in mind, there are therefore 264 legitimate popes, who are divided as follows:

See also


  • BU Hergemöller: The history of the names of the Popes , Münster 1980
  • Philippe Levillain (Ed.): Dictionnaire historique de la Papauté , Fayard, 2nd edition 2003, 1776 pages. ( ISBN 2-21361-857-7 ; first edition 1994.)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Website of the Vatican on the election of Benedict XVI. Retrieved November 16, 2009 .
  2. D. von Schad: About papal names . In: Allgemeine Rundschau No. 31 of August 6, 1927, p. 492.
  3. General Audience, April 27, 2005. Accessed November 17, 2009 .
  4. ^ Message for the celebration of World Day of Peace 2006. Retrieved on November 17, 2009 .
  5. World: Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina is Francis. Retrieved March 13, 2013 .
  6. Cardinal: Pope almost became "John XXIV." religion.orf.at, March 13, 2014, accessed on March 17, 2014
  7. D. von Schad: About papal names. In: Allgemeine Rundschau No. 31 of August 6, 1927, p. 492.
  8. Bronze foot and iron lady. In: Spiegel Online. Retrieved November 18, 2009 .
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on April 1, 2007 .