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Pope, information about the popes

The pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church. He is also Bishop of Rome, in a direct line, Catholics believe, from St Peter, the first Bishop.

The pope usually lives in Rome in the Vatican, which he rules as an independent state. He has spiritual authority over millions of people throughout the world. Sometimes the pope makes pronouncements on faith and morals ex cathedra — that is, from the chair of St Peter. Roman Catholics believe that such pronouncements are infallible and that the pope cannot then be wrong. Protestants, however, do not accept the pope's infallibility.

Paul IV - Pope, information about the popes

Three pontifexes - information about the popes, list of popes

Pope, information about the popes:

In 1965, Paul VI became the first pope to visit the Americas. He and his interpreter (left) are seen here meeting President Lyndon Johnson in New York City (click to increase a picture)

Pope, information about the popes:

Three popes of the early 1900's. Top: The coronation of John XXIII in November, 1958. The pope is on the open balcony of St. Peter's Church, Vatican. Above left: Pius XII, pope during World War II. Above right: Paul VI, who became pope in 1963 (click to increase a picture)

The pope has the assistance of a large administration called the Curia Romana. The most important advisory body is the Sacred College of cardinals to whom the pope delegates considerable responsibility. They elect new popes from their own number, and while considering their choice are shut away from the outside world. The pope's personal guard, known as the Swiss Guards, dress in fine Renaissance uniforms.

By popes information, in the very early Christian Church, the Bishop of Rome was pre-eminent only in prestige. But when Leo the Great became pope in the 400's, the emperor recognized his authority over the Western Church as the defender of the true faith. Moreover, Leo twice helped to save Rome from destruction. Pope Gregory I increased Rome's prestige and power and sent Augustine to England in 597.

By the 800's the pope was the virtual ruler of Italy. In 800, Leo III crowned Charlemagne in Rome and formed a close alliance with the Frankish empire. When Innocent III was pope, from 1198 to 1216, almost every European king accepted his authority. Some rival popes were set up in opposition to the pope in Rome, and this led to the Great Schism, which eventually ended in 1417. The Protestant Reformation during the 1500's was followed by a counter-reformation. But the papacy was weakened when the Papal States were confiscated by Italy in the mid-1800's. In protest, Pius IX refused to leave the Vatican. The dispute was settled in 1929, when Pius XI emerged amid great rejoicing after his agreement with Mussolini to establish the Vatican as a separate state.

List of Popes

Date of Reign

Information about Popes names

Events in the Papacy

to about 67


Believed to have been the first Bishop of Rome.

217 -235


Began a schism and set up as an antipope.

314 -335

Silvester I

Emperor Constantine gave official recognition to Christianity.

526 -530

Felix IV

Extreme unction introduced as a sacrament.

590 -604

Gregory I

Sent Augustine to convert Anglo -Saxon England.

604 -606


Believed to have introduced church bells.

795 -816


Crowned Charlemagne in 800.

999 -1003

Silvester II

Said to have introduced Arab numerals into Europe.

1049 -1054

Leo IX

In his last year, the East broke away to set up the Eastern Orthodox Church.

1073 -1085

Gregory VII

Excommunicated Emperor Henry IV and humiliated him at Canossa.

1088 -1099

Urban II

Began the Crusades against the Muslims.

1130 -1143

Innocent II

Condemned heresies vigorously.

1154 -1159

Adrian IV

The only English pope.

1187 -1191

Clement III

Proclaimed the Third Crusade.

1198 -1216

Innocent III

Made the papacy stronger. Excommunicated King John of England.

1227 -1241

Gregory IX

Brought the Inquisition under papal control.

1254 -1261

Alexander IV

Established the Inquisition in France.

1378 -1389

Urban VI

The cardinals elected another pope while he was still in office. Nearly 40 years of schism followed, with sometimes two or three popes claiming office.

1492 -1503

Alexander VI

Appointed from the Borgia family.

1513 -1521

Leo X

Appointed from the Medici family. Martin Luther rebelled against the sale of indulgences and the Reformation began.

1523 -1534

Clement VII

Another Medici pope, he refused to annul the marriage of Henry VIII of England.

1534 -1549

Paul III

Approved the Jesuits.

1555 -1559

Paul IV

Set up the Index, a list of prohibited books.

1559 -1565

Pius IV

Founded the Vatican's press.

1572 -1585

Gregory XIII

Replaced the Julian calendar with the Gregorian.

1585 -1590

Sixtus V

Excommunicated Henry III and Henry IV of France.

1592 -1605

Clement VIII

Published the Vulgate, a revised edition of the Bible.

1769 -1774

Clement XIV

Suppressed the order of Jesuits.

1775 -1799

Pius VI

Dethroned by Napoleon Bonaparte.

1800 -1823

Pius VII

Officiated at Napoleon's coronation. Restored the Jesuits.

1903 -1914

Pius X

Church and state separated in the French Republic.

1914 -1922

Benedict XV

Active in foreign affairs.

1922 -1939

Pius XI

Signed the Concordat with Italy, recognizing Vatican City as papal territory.

1939 -1958

Pius XII

Pope during World War II.

1958 -1963


Introduced several reforms into the Church.

1963 - 1978

Paul VI

Traveled to the Holy Land and to India.


John Paul I

First pope to use 'the First' in his regnal name

1978 -1975

John Paul II

First non-Italian pope and first Polish pope in 455 years

2005 -present

Benedict XVI

German pope. Oldest to become pope since Clement XII in 1730

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