AP: High and Low Points in the History of the Papacy





From the Associated Press account published at news24 website (4-17-05):

The Associated Press looked into some of the highlights and low points from nearly 20 centuries of papal history and came up with this list.

Among the sources for the research was"Lives of the Popes" (HarperSanFrancisco) by the Rev. Richard P. McBrien:

  • FIRST POPE: The Apostle Peter.

  • LONGEST REIGNING POPE: Peter, according to Roman Catholic tradition, though there are no agreed dates for his reign. He also was the first martyred pope.

  • SECOND-LONGEST REIGN: Pius IX (1846-1878), nearly 32 years. John Paul II (1978-2005) ranks third.

  • SHORTEST REIGN: Urban VII, 12 days (1590). He caught malaria during the election and was never crowned. John Paul I's tenure lasted just 33 days in 1978, but his was not even among the 10 shortest reigns.

  • FIRST (AND LAST) POPE TO DIRECTLY SUCCEED HIS FATHER: Innocent I, son of Anastasius I (401). Thirteen years after Pope Hormisdas died, his son became Pope Silverius (536). John XI was allegedly the first and last illegitimate son of a pope (Sergius III) elected pope himself (931).

  • FIRST (AND LAST) POPE SAID TO DIRECT HIS PREDECESSOR'S MURDER: Sergius III (904 or 905).

  • FIRST POPE MURDERED IN OFFICE: No pope was called upon to die for the faith after the church's first centuries, but the highly political John VIII was poisoned and clubbed to death (882). He was the first of perhaps eight popes to be slain in office.

  • FIRST POPE TO RESIGN: Pontianus (in 235), after he was imprisoned during Rome's persecution of Christians.

  • LAST POPE TO RESIGN: Gregory XII, in the deal ending the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants (1415).

  • FIRST POPE TO ASSUME A PAPAL NAME: John II (533), because he was named after the pagan god Mercury. The last pope who kept his name was Marcellus II (1555).

  • FIRST (AND LAST) POPE ELECTED DESPITE HAVING BEEN SUSPENDED BY A PREVIOUS POPE: Boniface VI (896). He was actually suspended twice - for immorality.

  • FIRST (AND LAST) TEENAGE POPE: The dissolute John XII, elected at 18 (955).

  • FIRST LAYMAN ELECTED POPE: Leo VIII (963). He had to be consecrated a bishop to actually take over the office.

    FIRST (AND LAST) HERMIT TO BE NAMED POPE: Celestine V, in 1294. Uneducated and incompetent, he soon resigned.

  • LAST POPE ELECTED WHO WASN'T A CARDINAL: Urban VI (1378). His misrule provoked the Great Western Schism.

  • LAST POPE ELECTED WHO WASN'T A BISHOP WHEN THE CONCLAVE BEGAN: The monk Gregory XVI (1831).

  • LAST POPE CORONATED WITH A CROWN: Paul VI (1963). John Paul I (1978) abandoned the practice.

  • LAST NON-ITALIAN POPE PRIOR TO POLAND'S JOHN PAUL II: Hadrian VI of The Netherlands (1522), who was absent at the conclave. There also have been 16 French, 13 Greek, six Syrian and three African popes. Others have been: Alsatian, Bavarian, Dalmatian, English, Portuguese, Saxon, Spanish, Swabian, Thracian and Jewish (Peter).

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