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June 2016


The name ‘Pope’ comes from the Latin word Papa meaning father. The Pope is the Bishop of Rome. St Peter is seen as the first Pope or leader of the Church because Jesus called him ‘the rock’ and said that He would build His Church on this rock.

A list of the names of all the Bishops of Rome has been kept from the time of St Peter to the present day. Pope Francis is the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

There was a great persecution of Christians in Rome in the first few centuries and many of the early Popes were martyred for their faith.

Pope John II (533-535) was the first Pope ever to change his name. This was because he was called Mercurius, after the Roman god Mercury and this didn’t seem an appropriate name for a Pope. The tradition continued from that date.

Pope Leo the Great was Pope from 440 to 461. He is famous for meeting Attila the Hun, who was marching with his army to destroy Rome and persuading him to spare the City. He was later declared a Saint and a Doctor of the Church.

Pope Urban VII was elected on 15 September, 1590 but died of malaria on 27th September, just 13 days after his election. After the death of Pope Paul VI in 1978, Pope John Paul I was elected on 26 August. Sadly he died on 28 September only 33 days later. Ten other Popes held the office for less than 33 days.

Pope Pius IX (1846 – 1878) holds the record for the longest time as Pope with 31 years 7 months and 23 days. Pope John Paul II (1978 – 2005) held the office for the second longest time of 26 years 5 months and 18 days.

Clement X was one of the oldest men to be elected as Pope in 1670 when he was 79 years old. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI was elected at the age of 78. Pope Leo XIII is the oldest known Pope as he died in office when he was 93 years old. Only two Popes have not died in office. Pope Benedict XVI resigned in 2013 and Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415.

Stephen II was selected to be Pope on 23 March 752 but he died three days later and was never consecrated into the office of Pope, so his name does not appear in the list of Popes.

Nicholas Breakspear, who was born around 1100 at Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire was the only English Pope. He took the name Adrian IV.