Mark Hart

Jesus’ House Keys: Interesting Facts about the Papacy

There are so many things I love about being Catholic: the intimacy of the Eucharist, the unconditional mercy offered through Confession, and just the sacred mystery of the Sacraments, in general. We've got the simple chapels and the gothic cathedrals, the stained glass and the artwork and the incense – we've got the smells and the bells.

The Catholic Church gave the world my favorite book, too, in case anyone wondered where the Bible came from. To be clear, the Church didn't 'come out' of the Bible, the Bible came out of the Church.

There are so many things worthy of mention, but one of the coolest parts about being Catholic has to be the Tradition. We're a Church built on a 2,000 year old foundation, y'all – with Christ, Himself, as our Founder and 'cornerstone' (Ephesians 2:20, 1 Peter 2:6).

There are a lot of opinions and conspiracy 'theories' floating around about the next pope and the papacy, in general, these days. No doubt there is an author somewhere preparing to rewrite history, once again, in a best-seller telling us all about 'what's really happening” behind the closed doors of this papal election.

Pay no attention to the media-hype, conspiracy theories, disgruntled bloggers, or secular ignorance. Instead, let's just pray – pray that the Spirit moves and souls listen. Pray that the Father's will be done, now and forever.

Have fun with this time. You are witnessing history!

In fact, here are some interesting facts about the papacy:

  • The word pope means 'father.'
  • The pope is known as the 'Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth.' The word 'vicar' comes from the Latin term vicarius meaning 'substitute.'
  • The pope does not eat in public.
  • The longest Pontificate was most likely our first pope (Simon) Peter who reigned from the crucifixion/Pentecost until his martyrdom in the 60′Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏs. Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) which lasted almost 32 years would, technically, be a close second.
  • The term Pontiff comes from the Latin term for 'bridge.'
  • The shortest Pontificate was Stephen II (752) which lasted one day, followed by Urban VII who died just twelve days after taking office and John Paul I who died after only thirty-three days in the Chair of Peter (1978).
  • Pope Paul VI was the first pope to travel by plane.
  • The pope does not have to be a Cardinal . . . he doesn't even have to be a priest. Any baptized male can be elected pope, actually, but the last time the cardinals chose a 'non-cardinal' was 1378, when they elected Urban VI. The last pope who was not a priest was Leo X (1513).
  • This is Pope Leo X - He wasn't even a priest when he was elected pope!

    This is Pope Leo X – He wasn’t even a priest when he was elected pope!

  • When someone is elected pope they take a new name. The most commonly taken name has been John (used 23 times), followed by Gregory and Benedict (both taken 16 times). Only two popes have taken two names: John Paul I and John Paul II.
  • To date, 81 popes have been canonized. Nine popes have been beatified.
  • Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI has a license to fly a helicopter, but not to drive a car.
  • There have been over 260 popes since St. Peter. Out of that number, 205 have been Italian, 19 have been French, 14 Greeks, 8 Syrians, 6 Germans, 3 Africans, 2 Spaniards, 1 Austrian, 1 Palestinian, 1 Englishman, 1 Dutchman, and 1 Pole (that was John Paul II).
  • Nine different men held the title of Pope during the 20th Century.
  • The first pope to live in the Vatican was Nicholas III (1277-1280).
  • The oldest pope(s) ever elected were Celestine III and Celestine V (both 85 years old), Adrian I seems to be next at 80 years of age.
  • The youngest pope elected was believed to be Benedict IX (1032 AD), who many historians believe was 'elected' at 12 and assumed the papacy at about 20 years. Some say Pope John XII (at 18 years old) was the youngest. Still others point to Leo X or Clement VII. It all depends on what historical 'source' you listen to and when they were 'elected' versus when they actually took the chair.
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  • The pope’s car is called the 'Popemobile.' There are at least 20 Popemobiles scattered around the world. The Vatican garage houses six of the four-ton vehicles. Land Rover made the first armored Popemobile in 1982, after the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II. Popemobiles have also been made by Fiat, Renault, Peugeot, GM, Toyota and Mercedes Benz.
  • The pope has a number of titles, actually. He is:
    • Bishop of Rome
    • Vicar of Jesus Christ
    • Successor to the Prince of the Apostles
    • Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church
    • Patriarch of the West
    • Primate of Italy
    • Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Province of Rome
    • Sovereign of the Vatican City
    • Servant of the Servants of God
Mark Hart

About the Author

My childhood plan was to be a jedi. My teenage plan was to be on Saturday Night Live. God's plan was to have me in ministry. God won - and I'm glad He did.