Did you know? Interesting Facts to Share with Your Students About the Papacy

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Interesting facts to share with your students about the papacy.
  • The term pope comes from the Greek work pappas, or the Latin word papa, both of which mean "father."
  • The pope's official titles include bishop of Rome, vicar of Jesus Christ, successor of the prince of the Apostles, supreme pontiff of the universal Church, patriarch of the West, primate of Italy, archbishop and metropolitan of the Roman province, sovereign of the state of Vatican City, servant of the servants of God.
  • There have been 264 popes, beginning with Saint Peter and ending with John Paul II. The next pope will be the 265th successor to Saint Peter.
  • The oldest pope at election was Adrian I, elected in 772 at age 80. The youngest pope at election was Benedict IX, elected in A.D. 1032 at age 12, though many believe he was closer to 20 when he actually assumed the papacy.
  • At 32 years, Pius IX's papacy was the longest--from 1846 to 1878. Stephen II's, in 752, lasted only one day.
  • Pope John Paul I, the predecessor to John Paul II, is sometimes called "the September pope," because he was installed on August 26, 1978, and died on September 28, just 32 days later. He is also known as "the smiling pope."
  • Eighty-one popes have been canonized.
  • In 1506, Pope Julius II commissioned the building of Saint Peter's Basilica. Several architects, including Michelangelo, worked on it until its completion in the seventeenth century.
  • The name for the bureaucracy that assists the pope is called the Curia.
  • A newly elected pope receives the Fisherman's ring, which is used to seal official papal documents known as briefs. The ring is made of gold, with an image of Saint Peter fishing in a boat and the name of the reigning pope encircling the image.
  • The Swiss Guard supplies the pope's protection and security needs.
  • The pope has absolute authority over Vatican City, which is an independent state located within Rome. Vatican City was established in 1929 and is the smallest independent country in the world.
  • Vatican City has its own flag, anthem, currency, postal system, railroad station, and radio station. It manages its own telephone and telegraph services, and publishes its own newspaper and official monthly journal.
  • The pope's armored vehicle is actually called the popemobile!
  • The gathering of cardinals to elect the new pope is called the conclave. The conclave also refers to the actual space in which the cardinals gather. It is kept secure to maintain confidentiality.
  • A new pope must be elected by a two-thirds majority. However, if thirty elections have taken place without anyone receiving a two-thirds majority, then the cardinals may elect the new pope by a simple majority vote (one-half, plus one vote).


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