When Pope John Paul II visited Miami in 1987 a T-shirt maker printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the visit. Instead of “Vi el Papa (I saw the Pope)” the shirts read “vi la papa (I Saw the Potato).” Let’s hope we can do better when the next pope comes to town. Because, let’s be honest, this new pope will come to America. Pope Francis is from South America and Latins are the largest group of Catholics in the world. More importantly, for us Gringos, is that many of those faithful have migrated to our beloved Casa del Norte. In a day filled with papal firsts, (1) 1st pope from the Americas, (2) 1st Latin pope, (3) 1st Jesuit pope, it was also a day that was steeped in tradition. Pope Francis is not going to wander far from church doctrine but he will be far more involved with the laity than any pope in modern history. Which would make him more of a traditionalist than any pope since about 1600.
He takes over a church that is awash in scandal and intrigue. I see no reason to wander down that rat hole now. The facts are known well enough. What is less known is that the traditional Italian hierarchy isn’t actually the history of the church. There had been African and Greek popes until about 800 AD. Well, Jesus was from the Middle East (next door to Africa) and the original Bible was written in Greek.
But then the Italians, essentially, wrested control and outlawed anyone not Italian from holding any position higher than priest. The alleged exception to that would be the Frankish Pope John VIII. I’ll deal with her later.
This was during the dark ages. Far from being the light that led the masses out of their turmoils, the church dramatically reduced access to knowledge, printed materials and money. It became a corrupt power broker. Regular readers already know how that held true until people learned to read thanks to porn.
Molly Oldfield and John Mitchinson, the brains behind the BBC quiz show Q1, took some time out of their busy day to gather some background on the whole pope thing.
I admire the Pope. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can tour without an album. Rita Rudner
“Pope” comes from the Greek “pappas” meaning father. The term used to be applicable to all bishops, but gradually came to denote the Bishop of Rome. The Pope also holds several other titles: Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of Apostles , Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City and Servant of Servants of God. The word papa means pope (Italian), father (English), shark (Swahili), arse (Maori) and potato (Quechua).
Theoretically any male, baptised Catholic who has reached the age of reason, is not a heretic, not in schism, and is not “notorious” for simony can become Pope, although for th past 600 years the cardinals have selected one of their own number. The last non-cardinal was Pope Urban VI, elected in 1378.
Dressing the Pope
The newly elected Pope addresses the crowd from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica but as there is so little time between the election and first appearance there must be three different sets of Papal robes on hand – small, medium and large – which nuns will speedily alter to ensure the new Pontiff looks impeccable for his first public appearance. Benedict XVI sparked a flurry of media attention when it was suggested that his signature red loafers were made by Prada. The Vatican’s newspaper l’Osservatore Romano declared the claims “frivolous” and added that the Pope “does not wear Prada, but Christ”.
Transporting the Pope
The Pope travels in specially adapted cars which allow as many people as possible to see him. John Paul II asked the press to avoid the word “popemobile” as he thought it was undignified, but his wishes were widely ignored. The popemobile he used to travel around Ireland in the 1979 is now owned by the Dublin Wax Museum, who hire it out for around €300 plus VAT. In 2005 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, sold his 1999 VW Golf for $13,000. It was reported to be in “well-cared-for condition” and was later resold on eBay for $244,000 to the Golden Palace casino of Austin, Texas as a “celebrity status item”.
The antipopes were acclaimed by a large section of the Catholic church to be legitimate candidates for the papacy, while a rival was already in place. As they were unofficial, records aren’t as sturdy as the papal records, but it is thought there were more than 37 antipopes between 217 and 1439.
Fourteen different years have seen three popes hold their position, but 1276 saw four different popes following the death of Gregory X. Innocent V became the next pope; he introduced the wearing of white cassocks (a tradition from the Dominican order he belonged to) but died five months into the job. Adrian V was then elected but died five weeks later. The fourth Pope that year was John XXI, who lasted into 1277 before being crushed to death when his study’s ceiling collapsed.
Pope John XX
There was no Pope John XX. The mistake arose when historians in the 11th century thought there had been another Pope John between the antipope Boniface VII and the true Pope John XV. The latter Johns were adjusted to hold their correct numbers but John XXI and XXII kept the numbers they had taken themselves, as they believed there had been 20 Johns before them.
In 2001, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls ended speculation about the Pope’s personal wealth by saying: “The Pope does not and has never received a salary.” The Pope-elect’s private property is either donated to the Church or, if it’s hereditary property, transferred to another relative, used to endow a foundation, or placed in trust. When John Paul II died in 2005 he left no possessions and asked that his personal papers be burned.
Vatican City has one of the highest crime rates in the world (608 crimes, 500 people in 2002). The small size (just 0.44sq km) accounts for the anomaly but also means the country has two Popes per sq km.
Let’s wander back up to the whole Pope John XX thing. The reason the numbering is off is because, up until then, the church admitted that there had been a Pope John VIII a/k/a Pope Joan. In fact, most of the modern dogma comes from the church’s dealings with a world that was changing in the 1300s. Gay saints and married popes were accepted until around then.
Many people point to Liber Pontificalis (Book of Popes) as proof that Pope Joan never existed. However, that book is so rife with political alterations and factual errors that it is rendered meaningless as a historical document.
Given the amount of circumstantial evidence, excellently compiled by Donna Woolfolk-Cross in her fiction book Pope Joan (she is a historian, not an idiot), it is far more likely that there was a female pope. Admittedly one elected by accident.
This pope, however, is no accident. If he can emulate Sister Mary Clarence and evangelize the populace, then there may be hope for more than just us after all.
Hope isn’t such a bad thing to have.
Vaya con Dios Padre.