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And so it was decided that the Pope shall have the biggest hat.

"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."

The head of the Catholic Church and, since 1929, the head of state of Vatican City. His official list of titles is, "Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God." Not quite infallible. Wears a very Nice Hat. And Red Shoes (well, only a few did). At any given time - in recent history, that is - probably both the most loved and the most hated human being around (with a few notable exceptions). Has the best job security of anyone on the planet (not to mention some of the best physical security, in the form of the bulletproof Popemobile and the Swiss Guards). These days, anyway; things were very different in the Middle Ages.


The infallibility thing is generally misunderstood. It doesn't mean that the Pope is incapable of being wrong about anything, or even that he cannot sin - just that he cannot be wrong regarding on a matter of revealed faith or morals explicitly in his capacity as the earthly Head of that Church. It's not so much "the Pope's word is law and he is perfect" as "God will stop the Pope saying anything wrong in his authority, because he would lead lots of innocent people astray if he did." All in all, a Pope has only spoken infallibly seven times over two millennia.note  He is also infallible when adding Saints to the Canon, but that isn't really what most people (Catholics included) think of when talking about infallibility.


The Pope is elected via an unusual process that involves smoke from chimneys (the colour is indicative of whether an agreement is reached or not) and locking a bunch of old men in the Sistine Chapel (starve the cardinals into a decision).note  The history of the position is tumultuous, to put it mildly, because the potential power and influence of a Pope attracted the ambition of many power-hungry European families that were willing to commit all sorts of unsavory or ruthless acts to put one of their family members on the pontifical throne, without caring about whether or not said family member would be a good religious leader. This resulted in many popes acting more like powerful kings than leaders of the church; it took quite a few centuries until the papacy was finally separated from these political wheeling-dealings.

The Pope should not be confused with the heads of the Orthodox Churches (one of several Patriarchs, who are sometimes called "Greek Popes" erroneously), the patriarch of the Coptic Church (whose official title is "Pope"), or the head of the Jesuit order, often called the "Black Pope" due to the power of the order in the past and his wearing of simple black priests robes instead of the papal white.

Catholic tradition holds that Saint Peter was the first Pope; of course, there are many theories among historians and the different Christian denominations about how the succession started. The other wiki's article on the subject is a better place to search for details.

Famous Popes (sorted in reverse chronological order):

  • Francis (2013- ): The current guy, real name Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He was born and raised in Argentina (although both of his parents were actually Italian immigrants) and was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. A member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), he graduated as a chemical technician before joining the priesthood and taught literature and psychology in a Jesuit-run high school early in his career. His election in 2013 marked a number of Papal firsts:

    • First pope from the Americas.
    • First Pope from the Southern hemisphere.
    • First Jesuit pope (up until then, it was widely believed that a Jesuit would never be Pope due to their controversial role in the Church itself)
    • First pope since the 15th century to succeed a living pontiff
    • First (excluding John Paul I, who may or may not count) since the 10th century (when Pope Lando reigned briefly in 914) to choose an original name note 
    • First non-European pope since the 8th century (Gregory III, a Syrian, died in 741),
    • And most notably, first pope to cheer for a team in the FIFA World Cup finals while a retired pope was cheering for the other team.

He's known for his personal humility, austerity (he famously refused a limousine as cardinal and instead commuted in Buenos Aires by bus and subway, lived in a small apartment instead of Church-owned residences—a practice he replicates as Pope, preferring to stay in a room in the Vatican guesthouse rather than the Apostolic Palace—and urged his parishioners to donate to the poor instead of making pilgrimages to Rome), commitment to social justice, and his adherence to doctrine, and is also known for his ability to bridge gaps between his own community (the Jesuits) and others like the Communion and Liberation movement. His papal namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, was assumed in homage to that saint's austere lifestyle, emphasis on ministering to the poor and downtrodden, and efforts to reform the medieval Catholic Church from the state of worldliness and decadence it found itself in at the time. He is also a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples (though he privately supported an Argentine bill to allow same-sex domestic partnerships), abortion and euthanasia, largely of the same mind as his predecessors. However, he has gone on record to say that the Church has focused too much on opposing same-sex marriage, abortion, and birth control, and that homosexuals should not be discriminated against; it would appear that his position is, "these teachings matter, but if they don't proceed from a genuine love of God and neighbour, they're empty." Recently, he went on record in conversation with a gay Catholic who had suffered from sexual abuse by members of the clergy that, [of the man's sexuality] "God has made you this way and God loves you this way."

He has also officially declared all members of organized crime, specifically the Mafiosi, to officially be considered excommunicated from the church. Currently massively popular (outside Europe, that is), that his recent visit to the Philippines actually broke the previous record for largest papal mass set by then Pope John Paul II's visit in 1995 on the same country - estimated to six million compared to five on the previous papal visit. He acted as eparch (bishop) of the Eastern Catholics in Argentina as well. nota bene 

As well, he is openly known for being vocal about his disapproval of neoliberal capitalism (including the corruptive nature of private money in politics) and his support to migrants, and being in very much in favor of wealth redistribution and human action on mitigating climate change and restoring and preserving the environment, which is quite the opposite of some evangelicals, especially in the USA. He allowed any priest to absolve people who committed a procured abortion, and made confessions to priests from the Society of St. Pius X to be both licit and valid; first during the Year of Mercy, but then he extended both concessions undefinedly.

  • Benedict XVI (2005-2013): Real name Joseph Alois Ratzinger. He hails from Germany (and yes, he was recruited against his will in the Hitler Youth as a kid, it was the Law in Germany back then) and was Archbishop of Munich and Freising. Was very well-known as a scholar and intellectual before his ascension. Conservative and not very good with getting the media to accurately express his views. He affirmed the taboo of condoms, and reconciled (de-excommunicated) four traditionalist Bishops who were illicitly ordained. Among them was Bishop Richard Williamson, a Holocaust denier, for lack of a Google search. Looks suspiciously like Emperor Sheev Palpatine according to some, this being the source of one too many Memetic Mutations, and the accusation is not helped by the fact that his previous job was the the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (previously known as the Holy Office, or more importantly, the Roman Inquisitionnote ); his infamous nicknames "God's Rottweiler", "German Shepherd", and "Panzerkardinal"Note  also don't help. He relaxed the rules on when the Tridentine Mass (traditional Latin ritual) can be performed, to the glee of some Catholics and the dismay of others, and the new English translation of the Roman Missal was implemented under his watch. Again, some Catholics rejoiced, some despaired, most (churchgoing ones at least) simply resolved to read the new responses until they were memorized.
    • He resigned the papacy on February 28, 2013, making him the first pope to leave office during his lifetime since Gregory XII abdicated in 1415 in order to end the Western Schism and the first to do so voluntarily since Pope Celestine V in 1294. More than one meme has been born from the fact that he left the Vatican in a helicopter, among other things.

  • St. John Paul II (1978-2005, canonized April 27, 2014): Real name Karol Józef Wojtyła. The first East European Pope note , and the first non-Italian in the job in centuries. note  Also known, especially after his death, as Pope John Paul the Great. Unusually young (at least in recent history) when chosen (he was fifty-eight years old), partly out of a desire not to have to hold another conclave for a decade (they managed almost three). Had the second-longest papal reign in history — a little over 26 years. Staunchly conservative, he had great publicity and charisma as well as a very large presence, not to mention he traveled through the whole world (hence his nickname "The Pilgrim Pope" and one reporter making a pun on the title "Bishop of Rome"). He created the World Youth Day, an international event for young pilgrims. One such trip to the Philippines, in 1995, saw the largest crowd in history gathered to see him (such record even stood for nearly two decades, until Pope Francis' visit to the same country). Said to have been important in the fall of the various Communist governments; Mikhail Gorbachev once told the Pope that the Iron Curtain never would have fallen without his efforts. Famously was almost assassinated then forgave and visited his assassin in prison. Humor-minded history teachers have likened him to James Bond (without the sex, of course). Also re-invented as a super-hero, The Incredible Popeman (or the Superpope). Available as several action figures including a talking one.note 
    • Because of the unusual longevity of his papacy, for the last two decades of the twentieth century, to many young people he was simply THE pope. He effectively redefined the institution. When he died, there were people up to thirty years old who couldn't remember another person being Pope.
    • In one example of his publicity, he had a music video on MTV as one way to reach out to youth, one of the things he was known for.
    • In an interesting bit of trivia, one of the people beatified in his final years was the man he was named after: Karl Josef von Habsburg, the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary. "Karol Jozef" happened to be the Polish version of that name, given by his patriotic father (Wadowice, where he was born, had been in Austrian Silesia until a few months before he was born). It's been said that he did so as a sign of gratitude to his namesake. In fairness, it's not like Karl was not deserving: he was the Only Sane Man among state leaders during World War I—advocating that everyone just give up and go home to rebuild— and Anatole France called him "a saint" decades ago.
    • His canonization in 2014, makes him the latest pope to be declared a saint, along with John XXIII (canonized at the same time). At his funeral, young people chanted "Santo subito!" (saint immediately) and Benedict XVI put his predecessor on the fast track by waiving the traditional 5-year waiting time before official sainthood inquiries begin. On the flip side of the coin, JPII consecrated and beatified more people than every pope in the last 5 centuries combined. (The Onion had their own theory as to why.)
    • He was also good friends with the Dalai Lama.
    • In 1996, he made a statement (in a very complicated wording) along the lines of "Evolution is not just a theory, but more. A reality."
    • In an audience with a monsignor who was devoted to St. Francis and allowed people to bring their pets to Mass, John Paul stated his belief that "the animals possess a soul, and are as near to God as men are." Cue hilarious spin by Vatican officials "Errr, what His Holiness ''really'' meant to say was..."
    • In the days before he died, tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray for his health. When he was told of this, Pope John Paul II said "I have searched for you, and now you have come to me, and I thank you."
    • John Paul II has also been credited for helping to end the Cold War. On the other hand, he has also been accused of strengthening the hold of the Catholic Church on Polish society to almost asphyxiating degrees (not for nothing do we say that Poland's politics are "a few ticks to the right" of the rest of Europe).
    • He was also known to be a very, very avid technophile.

  • John Paul I (1978) : Real name Albino Lucianinote , former Patriarch of Venice. The first Pope who chose a composite name (to honor his two immediate predecessors), and the first one with an original name (well, quasi-original, given that it's composite) that actually affixed "the First" to it. Threw out tradition right and left: refused to wear jewel-encrusted tiara or be carried around in a chair, insisted on an installation instead of a coronation, wouldn't use Royal "We". Taught against private property and that God was both Mother and Father. As an archbishop, used to direct his priests to sell gold and jewel church decor donated by parishioners and give the money to the poor. Wanted to give comparatively scandalous donations to the Third World and threatened to expose (actual) Church corruption related to Vatican Bank (you don't get to be Patriarch of Venice by being stupid.)note  Lasted just 34 days. Reports about his death, earlier health and even personal life were very confusing, so assassination conspiracy theories abound. Nicknamed "The Smiling Pope" for his sweet and cheerful personality. After a lot of bureaucratic slowness, his cause for sainthood was finally turned in on his 100th birthday, October 19, 2012. Pope Francis recognized his Heroic Virtues Nov. 7, 2017. Two possible miracles credited to him are being investigated.note  If you want to help him to be recognized as a saint, go here.

He was a fan of The Adventures of Pinocchio, to the point that he sent a letter to its protagonist. This was one of a series of sermons in the form of whimsical letters to fictional and historical figures including Charles Dickens, G.K. Chesterton and Mark Twain, later published as a book, Illustrissimi (The Illustrious Ones).

  • St. Paul VI (1963-78): Real name Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, Archbishop of Milan, who had already been this close to be The Pope due to having been a close collaborator of Pius XII. An intellectual type, he oversaw the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II for short), which introduced numerous sweeping reforms to Church practices, and he also was an advocate for social justice. Also famous for being the first Pope in centuries to travel outside the Vatican more or less regularly, starting with a trip to the Holy Land in 1964. He's also famous for releasing the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which reiterated the Church's opposition to artificial birth control (birth control that's not NFP or total abstinence). Was beatified in October 2014 and subsequently canonized in October 2018.

  • St. John XXIII (1958-63): Real name Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, originally a Country Mouse and Impoverished Patrician. Also was the Patriarch of Venice by the time he was elected. Considered more liberal and progressive in his time, compared to his immediate predecessors. 76 years old when elected, he was expected to rule for only a short, uneventful term, but revolutionized the office by his warm down-to-earth approach to the job. He called the Second Vatican Council, which would end up renewing Catholicism as a whole, and was finished by his successor Paul VI. Generally known as "The Good Pope" for his easy smile and gentleness. In what they described as a 'very specific' case , the Vatican waived the requirement for a second miracle and canonized him in April 2014, alongside his successor, John Paul II.

  • Pius XI (1922-1939) Real name Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti (try saying that three times fast). A brilliant scholar and diplomat. Fired off some beautiful tirades against Hitler and Nazism. Before that as Papal Nuncio to Poland, he became the first representative of the Church in centuries to face down Catholicism's enemies on the battlefield, when he blessed Polish troops in the trenches outside Warsaw during the Polish-Soviet War. Spoke out in favor of fair wages, social justice and even civil rights in America (he'd read Uncle Tom's Cabin) - President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke very favorably of him and often quoted his encyclicals. Brought radio to the Vatican in 1931 with the installation of shortwave, callsign HVJ, which now broadcasts around the world in dozens of languages. Signed the Lateran Treaty with Mussolini's government, which established the Vatican as a sovereign nation and ended the "Prisoner in the Vatican" era.

  • Benedict XV (1914-1922) Real name Giacomo della Chiesa, pretty much the Only Sane Man in Europe during World War I, repeatedly calling for peace and doing all he could to help the conditions of the prisoners of war and other refugees. He issued the first ever Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church in 1917. His last concern was the emerging persecution of the Church in Soviet Russia and the famine there after the revolution. Benedict XV was an ardent mariologist, devoted to Marian veneration and open to new perspectives of Roman Catholic Mariology. He also supported the mediatrix theology and added the phrase "Queen of Peace" to the litany of Mary. Devotees of Our Lady of Fatima point out a famous letter in which he practically begged her to do something. The apparitions — in which she specifically discussed Russia and the horrors of war — began eight days after this letter was published, although the kids who saw her had had visitations of Portugal's guardian angel the year before.

  • Leo XIII (1878-1903), real name Count Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci. The oldest Pope, he died at age 93 and had the third longest pontificate. A big devotee of the Virgin Mary, his nickname was "the Rosary Pope". Very concerned for social welfare and justice, his best known encyclical is Rerum Novarum, in which he strongly defends the rights of workers. Also, the first Pope whose voice was recorded, the first Pope ever caught on film, and probably the earliest-born person caught on film EVER (being born during the The Napoleonic Wars in 1810). A rather nice and funny guy, too.

  • Bl. (Blessed) Pius IX (1846-78): Born Giovanni Mastai-Feretti. Longest ruling pope ever (32 years) and the last pope to be secular ruler over Rome and its surroundings. Pius IX's reign, during which the Italian government conquered Rome and ended the Church's temporal authority, marked the beginning of a nearly 60-year period in which the popes, referring to themselves as "Prisoners in the Vatican", refused to leave the Apostolic Palace in order to avoid being treated as subjects of the Italian crown. Often known as "Pio Nono", even by non-Italian speakersnote  (and allegedly giving name to a Spanish sweet and a Chilean street). Called the First Vatican council, which confirmed the Pope's supremacy over the Church and Papal infallibility. He officially declared the Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conceptionnote , based on the Lourdes apparitions. Often accused of being quite the Hot-Blooded jerk in person. He is also a Blessed and the first pope to have been photographed.

  • Gregory XVI (1831-46): Born Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari. Elected during a time of violent political upheaval in southern Europe, much of the early months of Gregory XVI's reign was spent dodging bombings, shootings and other assassination attempts. A deeply conservative and traditionalist pope, Gregory XVI fought tooth and claw to oppose reform movements to the church across Europe, both within the church and in the governments of Catholic nations seeking democracy. He was also noteworthy for opposing technological innovation such as gas lamps and the railroad system. That said, in 1839, he did write a scathing condemnation of the Atlantic slave trade, declaring that opposition to slavery was an inherently Christian value and denying the aid of the church to anyone involved in the slave trade.
  • Pius VIII (1829-30): Born Francesco Saverio Castiglioni, Pius VIII reigned for just over a year and a half. During his reign, Pius VIII held suspicious views over the perceived perversion of Catholic teachings, especially in common language, fearing that differing from the church's Latin may result in information being Lost in Translation or, worse, allow for subversive teachings. He also cast a critical eye towards the marriage of Catholics and Protestants, only permitting priests to perform ceremonies when the children of the unions would be raised Catholic. A Conspiracy Theory holds that the Pope's death was brought on by poison.
  • Leo XII (1823-29): Born Annibale Francesco Clemente Melchiore Girolamo Nicola Sermattei della Genga. Said to be elected due to his poor health, even supposedly warning other cardinals that they "would be electing a dead man," Leo XII made a full recovery and was able to lead an unpopular Papacy. Those around him remembered him as being a notably frugal man who lived a simple life, though was noted for allegedly killing a man in an argument over sports and leaving the treasury a confused wreck. Papal bulls issued by Leo XII included the limiting of traditionally Jesuit studies, requiring them to be under the direct supervision of the church and performed in Latin, as well as severely limiting the property rights of the Jewish population, leading to their emigration from Rome and rekindling the medieval attitude towards Judaism in the church for some time.
  • Pius VII (1800-1823): Born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti. Perhaps most famous for presiding over Napoleon's self-coronation, and subsequently being imprisoned by the Emperor of the French. His dignity of bearing during his imprisonment convinced the Congress of Vienna to restore the papal estates which had been seized by Napoleon. Remarkably tolerant of the idea of Democracy, and once remarked that the United States "had done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages." He said this after the American Navy defeated Muslim pirates along the Barbary Coast almost single-handedly, after the major powers of Europe sat back and let the pirates control the seas for over a century.
  • Urban VIII (1623-44): Real name, Maffeo Barberini. Pope during the height of the Baroque period in art and patron of famous architects Bernini and Borromini. His name and crest can be seen on numerous monuments in Rome today, including the decorations on St. Peter's Basilica. Member of the powerful Barberini family, whose house is now the Italian National Gallery of Art. Personal friend of Galileo, until there was a falling out over the astronomer's Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo.
  • Clement VIII (1592-1605): Real name Ippolito Aldobrandini. The Coffee Pope. When the coffee craze hit Europe, Clement (a scholarly type who must have pulled plenty of all-nighters) became a fan. He was urged to condemn coffee because it came from the Islamic world, but he blessed it instead. Today, you can get mugs with his picture on them. He also accepted Henry IV of France's return to the Catholic Church.
  • Innocent IX (1591): Real name, Giovanni Antonio Facchinetti. Chosen to replace Gregory XIV, he was another pro-Spanish Pope, who'd been a major figure in Gregory XIV's administration. Spain hoped that he would keep up their anti-French program, and he did—but only for a month before dying.
  • Gregory XIV (1590-1): Real name, Niccolò Sfondrato. Sickly and old, he was chosen from a list of seven candidates supplied by the King of Spain. He didn't want the job, and was fairly certain he wouldn't be up to it. This proved to be the case; he died within a year, and left much of the running of the Church to his subordinates. Sided with Philip against Henry IV of France, thus prolonging the French Wars of Religion.
  • Urban VII (1590): Real name Giovanni Castagna. Was elected on on September 15, 1590, but died only 13 days later, making him the shortest-reigning pope in history. Was responsible for the world's first public smoking ban, as he threatened anyone who took tobacco near a church with excommunication.
  • Sixtus V(1585-1590): Real name, Felice Peretti. A Franciscan monk, he was a member of the order's hardliner faction. As in, he was the Inquisitor General of Venice before he became Pope. And was so severe the Venetians threw him out. On becoming Pope, he made his first order of business bringing order to the Papal States, and did so with gusto, with numerous decapitations. His foreign policy was likewise very much "us against them", with the "them" being Protestants and Muslims—Sixtus supported the Spanish Armada, and spent a lot of time trying to get a crusade against the Ottomans off the ground. Neither were successful. His other big project was beautifying and improving Rome, which he did, albeit frequently by demolishing the houses of the meddlesome poor who were cluttering the place up. He was, however, also responsible for a lot of public works, such as the first modern aqueduct in Rome. He also ruled that abortion, rather than merely being a grave sin, was automatic grounds for excommunication. On his death, mobs tore down his statue. This says a lot about his popularity. So does the fact that he was the last pope to take the name 'Sixtus'.
  • Gregory XIII (1572-85): Real name, Ugo Boncompagni. Promulgated the calendar used in the western world to this day and worked hard to put into practice the principles of the Council of Trent.
  • St. Pius V (1566-72): Real name, Antonio Ghislieri. Standardized the Mass for about four centuries in the Council of Trent and excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I. Presided over the great naval victory over the Muslims at Lepanto. Probably one of the most badass Popes due his part in assembling the Christian coalition against the Turks, and that the battle greatly revived the prestige of the politically faltering Church. His nickname was the Hound of God.
    • His nickname is also a play on his order—St. Pius V was a Dominican. Domini Canes, a play on that term, means "Hounds of the Lord."
  • Pius IV (1559-1565): Real name Giovanni Angelo Medici. Not a relative of THE Medicis. Started his papacy by trying Paul IV's nephews for their various crimes, then restarted the Council of Trent. A reasonable man, and an effective reformer. Like many popes, made a nephew a cardinal. Unlike most popes, that nephew was genuinely competent AND went on to become a saint. Arguably, an underrated pontiff.
  • Paul IV (1555-1559): Real name Gian Pietro Carafa. A former head of the Roman Inquisition, Paul IV was chosen in hopes that he would prove an effective reformer. Unfortunately, he proved to be a rather grim killjoy, making him unpopular in Rome, and, more dangerously, hated the Spanish who ruled most of Italy, to the point of starting a war against them. It didn't go well, and cemented Paul's historical reputation as a man who didn't know how to choose his battles. Making a bunch of his nephews cardinals likewise damaged his reformer credentials—the fact that most of them proved horribly corrupt sunk them. Oh, and he started the Vatican Index of Forbidden Books. So, not a guy making many papal top ten lists.
  • Marcellus II (1555): Born Marcello Cervini degli Spannochi. Not particularly important in himself, but somewhat significant for three reasons: (1) He is the last Pope so far to use his birth name as his regnal name. (2) He had a very short reign, which was rather unfortunate, as he was noted as a real reformer who could have brought change to the Vatican had he lived. (3) Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina dedicated one of the crowning achievements of Renaissance polyphonic music to him.
  • Julius III (1549-1555): Real name Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte. A compromise candidate, who it was hoped would continue Paul III's reforms. Instead, he largely ignored them and spent his times occupied with Italian politics and a young teenage boy named Innocenzo who he adopted as a nephew (according to rumors, after he saw him fighting on the street with a peddler's monkey pet) nd made a cardinal despite him being illiterate. Needless to say, this did not help the stature of the Papacy. It helped it even less when Cardinal Innocenzo killed two men for insulting him, though Julius was thankfully dead by that point. On the whole, not a papal high point.
  • Paul III (1538-1549): Real name Alessandro Farnese. Became a cardinal as a result of the efforts of his famous sister Giulia, Alexander VI's mistress. After trying for the top spot for decades, finally got it as the Catholic Church was in the middle of a bit trouble popularly known as the Protestant Reformation. Paul responded by calling the Council of Trent and starting the Counter-Reformation in earnest, which he proved to be quite good at, with his papacy seeing groups like the Jesuits starting up. He also spent his time making sure his family got filthy rich, something else he was quite good at, with one of his grandsons winding up the Duke of Parma. On the whole, a complicated guy.
  • Clement VII (1523-38): Real name Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici. He brought to the papal throne a high reputation for political ability and possessed in fact all the accomplishments of a wily diplomat. However, he was considered worldly and indifferent to the perceived dangers of the Protestant Reformation by the people of the papacy. The glorious sacrifice of the Swiss Guards against the Imperial Landsknechte during the sack of Rome in 1527 allowed him to take refuge in Castel Sant Angelo. His refusal to rule on the validity of Henry VIII of England's marriage to Katherine of Aragon despite years of arguments set the stage for the English Reformation.
  • Adrian VI (1522-23): Real name Adriaan Floriszoon Boeyens. Born in Utrecht, he was the last non-Italian pope until John Paul II was chosen 475 years later. Launched the Counter-Reformation. One of only two popes in the past thousand years (along with Marcellus II 32 years later) to keep their birth name as their papal name.
  • Leo X (1513-21): Real name, Giovanni de' Medici. The son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, mainly remembered for promoting the sale of indulgences for money to such an extent that it sparked the Lutheran reformation in the 16th century. Supposedly called the Reformation "some quarrel of monks". Patronized art and literature in Rome to an extraordinary extent, establishing a papal court that was the envy of Renaissance Italy.
  • Alexander VI (1492-1503): Formerly Rodrigo Borgia (or Borja), he was from Spain, in an Italy that did not take kindly to that fact. Bought the vote and appointed a lot of relatives to Church jobs. He let Rome fall into a state of decay, and (supposedly) had a little party called the Banquet of Chestnuts (which, to borrow the words of Stephen Fry, revolved around a night of naked prostitute racing in the Vatican). His son Cesare's transformation of the Romagna district into a tyrannical, yet ordered state inspired a writer by the name of Niccolò Machiavelli, and his states were viewed by the people as an improvement over the tyrants that had come before. Also fathered a daughter, Lucrezia, widely (but wrongly) rumored to have poisoned her husbands and several lovers (she would've had a much better life had the rumors been true). He was not that far from the norm in those days, to be fair. He handed King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile the Inter Caethera documents that let them start colonizing America, but also allowed Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal into the Papal States with all of their legal rights and privileges. After dying, his body was removed off the crypts of St. Peter's because he was thought to be too wicked for such a holy ground. Altogether, an average man of the times who was mired in rumors. He was subject to a Historical Villain Upgrade for Assassin's Creed II and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, with Cesare joining him for the latter in said upgrade. In The Borgias, he's played by Jeremy Irons and in Borgiaby John Doman.
    • Alexander's descendants include most of the noble and royal families of Catholic Europe. One of his descendants was a Jesuit named St. Francis Borgia; another is actress Brooke Shields, whose paternal grandmother was an Italian princess.
  • Innocent VIII (1484-1492): Real name Giovanni Batista Cibo. The Pope of the Burning Times. Wrote Summis desiderantes which blamed all natural and man-made disasters on witches. Appointed Inquisitors to hunt down and kill all witches. (He did not, however, condemn cats, as popularly reported.) The book Malleus Maleficarum came out of this. First pope to openly acknowledge having a mistress. Had 16 illegitimate kids, marrying them off to nobility to start a dynasty. When he was dying and in a coma, supposedly was made to drink the blood of three young boys to try and heal him (though this could just be an antisemetic rumor, as his doctor was Jewish) and was rumored to have demanded a wet nurse to breastfeed him in his deathbed.
  • Sixtus IV (1471-1484): Real name, Francesco della Rovere. A benefactor of the Spanish Inquisition, though worried about preventing abuses therein. Famed by his nepotism and number of lovers, among them his sister, he created a special tax on prostitutes and priests who had their own lovers. In a better light, he was famously tolerant towards homosexuals.
  • Gregory XI (1370-1378) Real Name, Pierre Roger de Beaufort. The last universally accepted French-born Popenote , he was an early opponent of the reformer John Wycliffe but also took action against the most corrupt monasteries. He is far more famous for moving the Papacy from Avignon back to Rome in the winter of 1377-78 in large part due temporal conflicts with Florence and Milan. His death the following March led to a 40 year schism.
  • Clement VI (1342-52): Real name, Pierre Roger. Also a French pope. The Black Death reached Europe during his papacy and killed somewhere around half of the continent's population, which devastated Europe for centuries. Miraculously, he never caught it himself. Oversaw some planning to care for the sick, absolved the sins of all who died of the plague, and defended the Jews against accusations that they caused it. At one point, because so many people were dying that they couldn't bury them all, he had to bless the Rhone River so people could throw the dead bodies into it. In a less awesome moment, he lived a very lavish lifestyle (calling himself "a sinner among sinners") even while so many poor people around him were dying; he had an undisclosed but probably amazing number of lovers and got infected with gonorrhea at one point.
  • Benedict XII (1334-1342): Real name, Jacques Fourier. The "Accidental" Pope. During Papal Conclaves, it was common for the cardinals to vote for someone who has no chance of actually winning the papacy on the first ballot, solely to gauge the leaning of the other voters. The strategy backfired miserably as 15 of the 16 electors (except Fourier) all independently voted for Fourier on the first ballot ("And the last shall be first" indeed). As pope he did a pretty good job too.
  • Clement V (1305-14): Real name, Raymond Bertrand de Got. The French pope who had The Knights Templar condemned for heresy, mainly as a favor to the French king, Philip the Fair, and they both died within the year (allegedly, he and the King were cursed by the last Templar Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, while was burning at the stake). Moved the Papal court away from Rome and eventually settled in Avignon, where the Papacy would stay until 1403.
  • Boniface VIII (1294-1303): Real name, Benedetto Caetani. Remembered as the Pope who started the tradition of jubilees, special years of remission of sins and universal pardon, in the year 1300. Perhaps accordingly, he infamously orderred the city of Palestrine to be destroyed and its inhabitants killed due to an aristocratic enmity, supposedly claimed that indulging in pederasty "wasn't any more sinful than rubbing a hand against the other," and was rumored to have an incestuous relationship with his daughter. A strong supporter of the idea that the Pope held supremacy over all Christian monarchs; said monarchs disagreed strongly, and he was dramatically taken captive by the Chief Minister of the French king shortly before the end of his life. A political enemy of Dante Aligheri, who included a few take thats against Boniface, regarding his post mortem destination, in his The Divine Comedy.
  • St. Celestine V (1294): Real name, Pietro Angelerio. Born a simple but intelligent farmer, Pietro became a hermetic monk who was famous in Rome for the great lengths to which he went to punish himself for sin. After the College of Cardinals spent two years arguing about who to elect (between the scions of two powerful Roman families), he sent them a letter warning them of divine retribution if they didn't hurry up. Fed up with the fighting, the dean of the College of Cardinals nominated Pietro and the conclave quickly agreed. As three bishops brought him the good news, he promptly tried to run away. Out of his element from the start, he fell under the sway of the King of Naples and was detested by most Italian nobility. On the other hand, he was very much beloved by the Italian people, being the first "spiritual" Pope after centuries of "political" Popes. He famously issued a decree that said the Pope was allowed to resign, and then did just that after only five months as Pope. After he resigned, he attempted to return to a solitary monastic life, but was imprisoned by his successor, Boniface VII, who feared he would be reinstalled as Pope (and had been the one who counseled Celestine to resign). He was imprisoned for the last year of his life and died under suspicious circumstances. Canonized only 18 years after his death, when his supporters outvoted those of the family of Boniface.
  • Bl. Gregory X (1271-1276): Real name, Tedaldo Visconti. Most notable for the cardinals taking almost three years to elect him due a combination of political divisions, two compromise candidates deciding they weren't worthy and running away as fast as they could and just plain laziness, until the people of Viterbo (where the election w as being held) took things in their own hands and locked them in the Popes' Palace, forced a bread-and-water diet on them, and removed the roof. After being elected, Gregory decided that the people of Viterbo had the right idea and codified their solution (minus the roof removing) in the Papal bull-enforced Conclave, still in force with minor adaptations.
  • Innocent IV (1243-1254): Real name, Sinibaldo dei Fieschi. Was famous for opposing antisemitism in his time and infamous for approving the usage of torture to obtain heresy confessions.
  • Innocent III (1198-1216): Real name, Lotario de'Conti. His papacy was the height of the Popes' temporal power. He was the last Pope who could give orders to any king in Europe and expect to be obeyed without question. Only thirty-seven years old when he (reluctantly) accepted the decision of the College of Cardinals, he was a highly intelligent and dynamic man who played Medieval Europe like a chessboard. He convoked the Fourth Lateran Council; confirmed the foundation of the Dominican and Franciscan orders; excommunicated King Philip Augustus and laid France under Interdict for rejecting for Philip's rejection of his wife Ingeborg; received England as a Papal fief from King John; excommunicated the entire crusading army of the Fourth Crusade when it sacked Constantinople. Played by Alec Guinness in Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Available as an Action Figure.
  • Adrian IV (1154-1159): Real name, Nicholas Breakspear. To date the only English pope, he may or may not have issued the possible papal bull Laudabiliter which might have given the okay for Henry II to invade Ireland.
  • Calixtus III (1119-1124): Real name, Guy of Burgundy. Inspired by the massacre of Jews during the First Crusade, issued the bull Sicut Judaeis, which sought to protect Jews from violence, forced conversion, or other forms of hatred. This would last several hundred years.
  • Bl. Urban II (1088-99): Started the First Crusade at Clermont in France, inspiring his audience to pronounce the words "Deus vult!" ("God wills it!"). (There is a report, much beloved by Larry Gonick, that the two Orthodox priests the Byzantine Emperor had sent to watch the proceedings fainted on the spot from so much air coming out of the unwashed mouths of the Franks).
  • St. Gregory VII (1073-1085): Real name, Hildebrand of Sovana. A well-known scholar from the famous Order of Cluny, he was involved in the Investiture Controversy with Emperor Henry IV of Germany, dealing him a spectacular Humiliation Conga by excommunicating the whole Empire along with him and forcing Henry to wait for forgiveness barefoot and almost naked by the palace gates at Canossa, where the Pope was staying. Later double-crossed by Henry and died in exile.
  • St. Leo IX (1049-1054): Real name, Bruno von Egisheim-Dagsburg. Selected as successor at a convention, but only accepted the office after the population and Cardinals voted for him. His legate to Constantinople started the Great Schism by excommunicating the Patriarch of Constantinople, which he shouldn't have been able to do since Leo had died a few months earlier.
  • Benedict IX (1032-1048): Real name, Theophylactus of Tusculum. Possibly the youngest Pope, he served three terms (the only pope to serve more than once), beginning from the age of about 18. His main qualification was being connected to an extremely powerful family. Once installed as Pope, he used his power to satisfy his reportedly insatiable and depraved carnal desires; contemporary reports accuse him of adultery, rape, pedophilia and bestiality. His first term ended in 1044 when he was forced out of Rome. He returned briefly, only to sell the office of Pope to his godfather. He returned for a third term until finally deposed for good and excommunicated for good measure.
  • Sylvester II (999-1003): Real name, Gerbert d'Aurillac, the first French Pope. He had studied science with Arabic scholars, spoke Arabic and introduced a lot of Arabic knowledge in Europe, including, some say, the Arabic numerals (0-9), which replaced the Roman ones (I, II, III, etc.). This gave him a reputation of being a sorcerer in league with the Devil; rumors that his family had until recently been Jewish didn't help (this might well have been true, not that it really matters). It is said that the rattling of his bones in his grave in St. John Lateran heralds the ruling pope's imminent demise. He developed the first clock. The day 31-st December is named after him. The tradition of playing and firing fireworks that day was initiated after the End of the World had not came in the year 1000 and the pope appeared in his window as usual (the belief that the World would End that year was not propagated officially by church, but most people believed it anyway).
  • John XII (955-964): Real name, Octavianus, son of Prince Alberic II of Rome. His dad engineered his "election" at 18, when he also inherited his dad's title. Characterized as a dissolute teenager by historians, he did have it together enough to get actual work done. However, he was more of a prince than a Pope. Contemporaries complained about his hunting, gambling, boozing and possibly incestuous relationships, and at the Roman Synod they threw the book at him. Nonetheless, a lot of people liked him. Deposed in favor of Leo VIII, he returned with an army and retook the papacy. He actually put his girlfriend Rainera in charge of some papal decisions. He died at 27 while having sex with another (married) friend, either as the result of apoplexy or at the hands of the outraged husband. What a way to go!
  • John XI (931-935): Real name, Johannes. Quite probably the illegitimate son of a prior pope to become one himself (his mother Marozia was The Mistress of Pope Sergius III, although some chroniclers preferred to identify his father as her first husband Alberic I of Spoleto). His acclimation at age 20 or 21 was certainly engineered by his mother who at that point controlled Rome and it's environs, and according to some he officiated at her third wedding.
  • Lando (913-914): The last Pope prior to John Paul I to use an original name (which was his birth name, not an adopted name), and, before Pope Francis, the most recent pope to not have his regnal name reused by a subsequent pope.
  • Sergius III (904-911): As violent and convoluted as the times he lived in, this Pope kept the Church together in a time of warring aristocratic factions by any means. Among other methods, he ordered the murder of his two immediate predecessors, Leo V and Christopher; his pontificate was called "efficient and ruthless." His illegitimate son would became the next Pope under the name of John XI.
  • Stephen VI (896-97): Real name: also Stephennote . Largely infamous for the Cadaver Synod, where he put his predecessor Pope Formosus on trial for a number of crimes... despite the fact that Formosus had been dead for about a year. He was later incarcerated and soon found dead by strangulation.
  • Pope-Elect Stephen (March 23, 752 - March 26, 752): As the dates may indicate, the shortest-reigning Pope. Three days after his election, he died of a stroke. Due to the fact that he was never formally installed (and in fact, as a priest, had not even been ordained a Bishop), this causes a bit of a problem over whether he actually was officially Pope or not, and so depending on whose count you use, Pope Francis is either the 266th or 267th Bishop of Rome.
    • If he is included in the list of Popes, he is Pope Stephen II, and all later Popes named Stephen have their regnal numbers increased by one (for instance, the above-mentioned Pope of the Cadaver Synod would be identified as Stephen VII).
  • Honorius I (625- 638): If you're looking for the evidence that popes aren't quite infallible, look no further. Honorius was sympathetic to the Monothelites - who believed that Jesus, despite having two natures (human and divine), had only one will (divine) and not two (also human and divine). While today it doesn't seem to be a big deal, back in the seventh century that was enough to enrage exactly everybody. Honorius got anathematized after his death for his negligence.
  • St. Gregory I the Great (590-604): One of the four great Latin Fathers of the Church (along with St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and St. Jerome). Thoroughly reformed and strengthened the church. Started missions in England to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxons, whom he famously called "non Angli, sed Angeli" ("not Angles, but Angels"). He also reformed Catholic liturgy and the music to be used during Masses. "Gregorian chanting" is named after him (although it is a later invention).
  • John II (533-535): Worth a mention for being the guy who started the tradition of Popes taking a new name upon getting the job since he thought his birth name (Mercurius, the Roman god Mercury) would be inappropriate.
  • St. Gelasius I (492-496) Apparently that was his real name. Prolific writer and strict traditionalist who stressed the importance of a single central Church authority. Legend has it that he was black, because he came from Africa. More likely, he was born in the part of the Roman Empire that extended into northern Africa.
  • St. Leo I (440-461): Most famous for successfully convincing (possibly by citing a serendipitous plague-outbreak) Attila the Hun not to sack Rome.
  • St. Zosimus (417-418): Alphabetically the last of the popes.
  • St. Innocent I (401-417). Tried to mediate between the visigoths and the emperor of Rome to avoid the looting of 410, without succeeding. The effort makes him a nice guy.
  • Liberius (352-366). The first pope who isn't a Catholic saint. He is, however, an Orthodox saint.
  • St. Sylvester I (314-335). Died during New Year's Eve, which caused the day to be named after him in some countries. In Brazil, there's a running race held on his homage every New Year's Eve.
  • St. Fabian (236-250). Elected when a dove flew down on his head. He was initially well regarded, and managed to return the bodies of Pope Pontian and Antipope Hippolytus (both saints) for burial, but he eventually died in prison during the Decian persecution.
  • St. Evaristus (99-107). The last Jewish pope (born in Bethlehem, even).
  • St. Clement I (88-99). Was credited with writing two letters that were highly regarded by the early church, but which were passed over for inclusion in The Bible. Nowadays, it's dubious as to whether he wrote either of them.
  • St. Linus (c.67-76): The second Pope, and according to some early Christian writings, may have been mentioned in the Bible in Paul's second letter to Timothy. Not nearly as famous as his predecessor...
  • St. Peter (c.30-67): An Apostle of Jesus and traditionally the first pope. Originally named Šimʕōn (Simon), was nicknamed Kêfâ‎ ("rock") by Jesus, translated into Greek as Petros, hence "Peter". Said to have fled Nero's Rome, but saw a vision of Christ and asked, "Domine, quo vadis?"("Lord, where are you going?") and was answered, "I am going to be crucified again." Immediately, he returned to the City; and was crucified upside down, according to his legend, both feeling that he was not worthy to be martyred the same way that Jesus died and wishing to give a subtle dying snark at Nero without saying it out loud. Because of this an upside-down cross in Catholic and Christian tradition is called "The Cross of St. Peter" and represents submission and humility before God. note 
    • According to a legend he was not executed during a persecution but due him not thinking things through: Simon Magus had challenged him to a magic contest before Nero, his court and the Senate, and when Simon used demons to make himself fly Peter banished them, killing Simon... And violating the law against using magic to cause harm, that carried an automatic death sentence, in presence of the most important authorities of Rome. Nero had him promptly captured and executed.

Popes Who Never Existed

  • Due to numbering errors, mistakes on the part of the historians of the times and in one case the pope-elect himself, there are some papal names (and numbers) assigned to people who never existed, or are simply wrong names for popes.
  • The most famous of these is probably John XX. Pope John XXI thought he was being clever by skipping a number to acknowledge a short-reigning Pope John XIV (who supposedly shared the number with the previous Pope). As it turns out, the history book was writing about two periods of time in the same pope's reign.
  • Earlier still was John XVI, an antipope who was installed as pope by a coalition of Italian noblemen in concert with the Byzantine emperor after Gregory V was forcibly deposed. The next pope to take the name John numbered himself John XVII, however, and successive popes continued the trend, meaning that there was never a legitimate pope named John XVI.
  • The others are Popes Donus II, and Martin II and III. The Popes Stephen have some odd numbering issues (see Pope-Elect Stephen above), but no nonexistent popes.
  • Alexander V used to exist but doesn't any more. He was elected by a council at Pisa that was trying to heal the Great Western Schism, which had divided Western Christendom between two rival popes, based in Rome and Avignon. Unfortunately, the council failed to remove the other popes, creating a third papacy instead. A second council at Constance succeeded where the Pisan council had failed by deposing all three rival popes before electing theor new candidate. Fine, but who had been the real Pope in the meantime? The Avignon line was obviously illegitimate, but had the Pisan line replaced the Roman? Rodrigo Borgia thought so, and so styled himself as Alexander VI. But it was later ruled that the Roman line was legitimate all along, and so Alexander V was retconned out of the line of popes.
  • Pope Joan (see below).

Popes Who Haven't Existed Yet

  • No pope since the first has taken the name "Peter". The Prophecy of the Popes, a famous document that is either a prophecy from the 12th century or a hoax from 1595 (the latter is generally considered more likely), states that "Peter the Roman" will be the final pope. If you see a "Pope Peter II" in a work, it's a good sign that The End of the World as We Know It is near.

The Pope In Fiction

  • The Agony and the Ecstasy: As already mentioned, Rex Harrison plays Julius II as he supervises Michaelangelo (Charlton Heston) painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
  • Battle Pope focuses on the eponymous Pope, who was anything but the traditional "kind old Holy man".
  • Angels & Demons revolves around the election of a new Pope and an attempt to blow the Conclave with an anti-matter bomb. As well as abducting and killing the four leading candidates in symbolic ways. Of course, it's written by Dan Brown. The novel gives the dead pope's name as Celestine IX, and the film shows the papal ring bearing the name Pius XVI. In the book, the new Pope takes the name "Luke".
  • Another religious thriller, The Third Secret by Steve Berry (summary here), features Clement XV, elected after a presumably short-lived successor to John Paul II. He is a gentle, poetic Bavarian. Upon his death, unscrupulous Alberto Cardinal Valendrea contrives to get himself elected Pope and chooses the name Peter II. The world doesn't end, but the Church begins to prepare for radical changes.
  • Irving Wallace's 1984 novel The Miracle has John Paul III, described as a cheerful and "worldly man" with a relaxed attitude. When his adviser says "There is grave risk in this," he just says "God will know the odds."
  • Family Guy:
    Cardinal: Pope?...Pope! Is time to get up and put on your hat.
    Pope: Is a stupid hat!
    • And there was this other time when Peter kidnapped the Pope in an attempt to solve some father issues. Upon meeting Francis Griffin, His Holiness declares that Peter has the patience of a saint.
  • In the Hey Arnold! episode "Baby Oskar," the Pope visits Hilwood City, much to the chagrin of Oskar, whose rush to bring his wife's nephew to a hospital is delayed by significant traffic of people wanting to see the Pope.
  • In The Ren & Stimpy Show episode "Powdered Toast Man," Muddy Mudskipper kidnaps the Pope (voiced by Frank Zappa).
    • "Powdered Toast Man" was met with controversy when the episode was first aired, so afterwards, the cross was removed from his hat, and his character name was changed to "The Man With the Pointy Hat".
  • Irregular Webcomic! features Popes Paul V, Urban VIII, and Pius XI. See also the "not infallible" link above.
    • All these popes are portrayed by the same LEGO minifigure. note  The author notes that "[This Pope's] resemblance to any earlier or later Popes is purely coincidental."
  • The Robbie Coltrane movie The Pope Must Die (in some countries renamed The Pope Must Diet)
  • In an episode of The Pretender, Jarod meets an old man who wants to meet the Pope before he dies, which with Jarod's help he does (the Pope is seen only briefly and from behind, in the final scene of the episode).
  • In 7Days, the main character's Applied Phlebotinum misfires and he winds up in the body of the Pope. He winds up beating the crap out of a guy who tried to shoot him while being allowed in the interrogation room. Once it's set right, the real Pope tries again... and gets the guy to confess all by just being that holy and good.
  • The Shoes of the Fishermen by Morris West, published in 1963, describes the election and early part of the reign of the first non-Italian pope in centuries (said pope being Kiril I, formerly Kiril Pavlovich Lakota, hailing from Ukraine) Fifteen years later, the first real-life non-Italian pope in centuries turned out to have several striking attributes in common with the fictional one. Played by none other than Anthony Quinn in The Movie based on the book.
    • Kiril I was an expy of two Real Life Ukranian Greek-Catholic Cardinals, Blessed Hyohojij Lakota and Josyf Slipyj. The first was jailed under orders of Stalin and died in prison in 1950 (and is considered a martyr by the Catholic Church), the second spent years in The Gulag but was released just in time to join the Second Vatican Concil.
  • Trinity Blood - His Holiness Alessandro XVIII, 399th Pope of Rome, is... a kid. A cute little kid.
  • The Pope becomes a relatively major character in 20th Century Boys and the subject of a plot to assassinate him (actually an Evil Plan by the bad guys to take credit for saving him) becomes one of the major driving forces of the latter half of the story.
  • Popes of various stripes show up in Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos:
    • Father Paul Dure becomes Pope Teilhard I at the end of The Fall of Hyperion
    • Father Lenar Hoyt is the evil Popes Julius and Urban XIII in the sequel novels Endymion and The Rise of Endymion through the resurrection powers of the cruciform parasite; he had multiple reigns as Julius. He is very important, but mostly off-camera, since under him, the Church has come to rule most of humanity...and become quite corrupt while it was at it.
  • Pope Joan, a legendary female pope who supposedly reigned in the 850s. Oddly enough there were no references to her of any kind until the 13th century.
  • The Big Bad of Assassin's Creed II is Rodrigo Borgia, who is the leader of the Templars in-game. The final confrontation against him occurs after he becomes Pope Alexander VI.
    • Perhaps it is worth noting that, in the boss battle against him, you get to fistfight the freakin' Pope!
    • Even better, if you time it right, you can crotch stomp the Pope. Too bad he had his kids before that incident.
  • The first part is probably fictional: The Prophecy of the Popes claims to predict the Popes from the 12th century to the present, although the list didn't show up until the 16th century and everything prior to then is unusually accurate (TOW says it was a forgery to help get someone elected pope, but it didn't work). Nonetheless, it's fascinating to see the coincidences pile up; it's also interesting Paranoia Fuel: Benedict XVI seemed to be the penultimate pope, and Francis is rumored to be the last one, and the last one will guide the church through The End of the World as We Know It. note 
    • Technically, it only says it'd be the end of Rome as we know it. And there are other cities built on seven hills, including Bamberg, Jerusalem, Istanbul and Moscow. But let's face it, if any world city such as Rome were to "end" or be outright destroyed, it probably wouldn't mean anything good. Francis has helped the paranoia along by repeatedly calling himself "the Bishop of Rome" starting immediately after his election.
    • The visionaries of Garabandal claim that Mary told them "three more popes after John XXIII, then it will be the end of an era, but not the end of the world."
  • Benedict appears as the Big Good mentor figure in The Legend of Koizumi, organizing a Five-Man Band of mahjong-master world leaders to combat the moon-based fourth Reich. He seems to have a personal grudge against them, possibly as a reference to his having grown up in the Third Reich and being forced to be in the Hitler Youth. Or for unwittingly smuggling a heavily bandaged Hitler out of Germany thinking he was saving a wounded soldier.
  • Several dead Popes appear in Dante's The Divine Comedy, both in Heaven and Hell.
  • Sylvester appears in a short story by Richard Garnett called "The Demon Pope". The story posits that he made a Deal with the Devil as a student in order to become Pope, but manages to frame the bargain so he comes out on top and avoids losing his soul. The story also focuses on his great secular knowledge and contrasts him with the rest of the Vatican, which is portrayed as venal and ignorant.
  • Hadrian VII by Frederick Rolfe is a novel about an English priest who unexpectedly becomes pope. Because the so far only English pope was an Adrian or Hadrian, that name was a natural choice for the fictional pope.
  • Julius II is the subject of the posthumous 1514 fantasy Take That! Julius Exclusus ("Julius Excluded from Heaven") usually credited Desiderius Erasmus, where the late Pope tries to persuade St. Peter to let him into heaven. Erasmus was specifically annoyed at his wine supplies being disrupted by the War of the League of Cambrai.
  • South Park:
    • In "Do the Handicapped Go to Hell?", then-current pope John Paul II appeared with his loss of mental faculties comically exaggerated. He also appeared in Red Hot Catholic Love.
    • Benedict XVI appeared in "Fantastic Easter Special". In the South Park universe, the position of Pope was intended to be held by a rabbit, but it was stolen by power-hungry humans (which is why Jesus did not want a human Pope and chose the Incorruptible Pure Pureness of rabbits instead). This explains why the Nice Hat is so tall (to accommodate a rabbit's ears), and why rabbits are associated with Easter. Oh, and St. Peter was the first Pope. Peter Rabbit.
      • Ultimately, Benedict is deposed by his ally Bill Donohue (leader of the American Catholic League) after Jesus himself attempts to intervene; Kyle kills Jesus so the latter can resurrect and escape the holding cell Donohue locked them in, and then turns Donohue into Half the Man He Used to Be with a shuriken-thing. Snowball is then installed as Pope at the end of the episode.
    • Benedict XVI also appeared in "Bloody Mary", about a statue of the Virgin Mary bleeding... from a private place. He did not have any lines but in the end it's stated that he didn't rule the event as a miracle because "chicks bleed from their vagina all the time". He made one more appearance in "A Scause for Applause" (apparently having somehow resumed the role of Pope from Snowball).
    • Francis also appeared once, getting an award before being pushed aside from Kanye West.
  • In an episode of The Golden Girls, John Paul II (played by Eugene Greytak, who's made a lifetime career out of his uncanny resemblance) visits Miami and Sophia wants to ask him to bless her sick friend in the hospital. The credits are rolled over a scene where JP plays gin rummy with Sophia in the kitchen. "All the cute guys are either married or Popes."
  • The closing segment of the 1974 Porn with Plot film Contes Immoraux (Immoral Tales) portrays a fictionalized Alexander VI, his daughter Lucrezia and his son Cesare (all of the notorious Borgia family) engaging in an incestuous threesome that parodies the Roman Catholic liturgy.
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz features a number of post-apocalyptic Popes over the centuries. None of them are particularly warlike and the one who accepts Brother Francis' relic is a Nice Guy.
  • In Children of God, the sequel to Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, the Pope is an African, Gelasius III. Unlike his namesake, he really is black.
  • The Pope is a game mechanic in Medieval II: Total War, and you will hate him. If you're Catholic, he will nag you to convert more of your population to the One True Faith, tell you to build churches when you'd really like to be setting up defenses, or declare a random crusade to Backwateropolis. He will also get upset if you're fighting another Catholic nation (even if you weren't the aggressor), and will demand a ceasefire just when you're ready to launch your counter-invasion. And if you displease him, he will send Inquisitors to try your royal family members and generals for heresy, or excommunicate your faction, sending your public approval tumbling and making you fair game for your neighbors. And if you try to escape the Pope's badgering by playing an Orthodox, Pagan, or Muslim faction, you have the ever-present threat of crusades being called on you. The only upsides are 1) getting your own Cardinal elected Pope and 2) if the Pope becomes too annoying, you can order him assassinated.
  • The Tudors has Peter O'Toole as the Pope (Paul III) in the second season. He's shown as being involved in the plot to assassinate Anne Boleyn so that Henry VIII will give up on his Great Matter.
  • Jeremy Irons plays another pope in another Showtime series: Alexander VI in The Borgias.
  • After Rome is captured by the Seljuks in the Chaos Timeline, he moves to France. Then, in the 18th century, when France becomes a secular republic, he has to flee to Spain, then to Britain when France conquers Spain... and finally to Antipodia (our Australia) when Britain becomes Socialist.
  • Black Adder parodies the ... complex religious politics of the medieval period, by having Edmund excommunicated by "all three Popes".
    • This is actually a Historical In-Joke. At one point there were actually two people claiming to be Pope. They both "officially" excommunicated each other, among other things. After a while the rest of the church leadership got fed up with it and elected a third man as "official" pope, who excommunicated the other two, and managed to make it stick.
    • In Blackadder II we're told that a horse has become Pope in undisclosed circumstances, and in Blackadder The Third that a previous Pope, somewhat unexpectedly, married a milkmaid and became Amy Hardwood's Uncle Isaiah.
  • In Babylon 5, the Pope is referred to as "her". In Crusade, she is given the name Bernadette.
  • In Transhuman Space the Pope is Zachary II, a Filipino who is sensitive to pan-sapien rights, while very conservative about transhumanism. There's also the more liberal Catholic Church (Reformed), led by Pope Martha from the Reformed Papal Seat in Chicago.
  • In Armageddon: The Musical by Robert Rankin, Pope Joan is one of the three religious leaders who control the world through television. The others are Dalai Dan and L. Ron Hubbard the 23rd.
  • Futurama has the reptilian Space Pope, Crocodylus Pontifex.
  • The Dragon Age series has the Pope-in-all-but-name of the Chantry dubbed "the Divine". In a twist, though, all Divines are female. There is also the "Black Divine" (Does This Remind You of Anything?) of the Imperial Chantry.
  • An automobile version of the Pope can be seen in the Italy scenes from the Pixar film Cars 2, complete with an anthoropomorphic Popemobile.
    • "Is the Popemobile Catholic?"
  • The short-lived animated series Popetown features a Pope bordering on Psychopathic Manchild and Father Nicholas, the priest who has to watch the Pope and keep him out of trouble. It got banned in some parts of Latin America, specially in Chile (with a high-class lawyer who looks hilariously like Yoda as the main promoter of the Chilean ban.)
  • Surprisingly enough, considering the role of the Roman Catholic Church as a primary antagonist during much of A Certain Magical Index, the Pope himself is actually somewhat of a Reasonable Authority Figure. When he learns of Fiamma of the Right's plans to plunge the world into war to obtain the Holy Right, he tries but fails to stop him. Later on, he retakes control of the Catholic Church from God's Right Seat and cooperates with the Anglican and Russian churches to bring down the Star of Bethlehem, knowing full well that Fiamma's defeat would signal the end of God's Right Seat and the era of Catholic supremacy over Christianity.
  • Pope John Paul II briefly appears as The Faceless in Father Ted. Bishop Brennan has an audience with him and is catatonic up until the moment he is introduced to the Pope, where he exclaims "He ''did'' kick me up the arse!" and knocks the Pope over before screaming into a mobile phone, "Get me on the first plane back to Ireland! NOW, GOD DAMN IT!"
  • The short story "Habemus Papam" by Desmond Warzel takes place in the Sistine Chapel during a papal election.
  • In Kim Newman's Dark Future novels, Nelson Mandela was elected Pope in 1970.
  • The Leviathan series doesn't actually show the Pope on screen, but a letter from the Pope is a key plot point, bordering on a McGuffin.
  • In the second series of American Flagg!, black-market Blood Sport basketball player Jules "Deathwish" Folquet becomes the Pope after a series of improbable events.
  • While he doesn't usually make an appearance, Chick Tracts often mention the Pope. He's basically portrayed as Satan's earthly lieutenant at the head of the satanic Roman Catholic conspiracy to rule the world and prevent the salvation of as many souls as possible (said conspiracy having its origins in ancient egyptian sun worship, and being responsible for the creation of Islam and communism, which both escaped its control soon after). Despite the claims of the author, that idea fortunately tends to be considered pure paranoid fiction by anyone not a fanatical Evangelical Christian. (And many fanatical evangelical Christians aren't buying it either.)
  • The rapidly addictive Coffee Shop Game updated version here! has you calculate how much you can spend on coffee, cups, milk and sugar, make a blend that customers will like, then charge enough to profit without alienating them. Among the regular customers, the Pope (looking a lot like John Paul II) occasionally stops by. If he likes your coffee, he will bless it and you. This may be a Shout-Out to a legend about Clement VIII, a coffee-loving Pontiff.
  • The Road to Gandolfo by Robert Ludlum features a plan by Hawk to kidnap the beloved Pope Francesco I (a fictional character, not to be confused with the current Pope Francis) and replace him with his kneebreaking cousin until the ransom is coughed up. Hawk never gets his ransom and Francesco is glad to be rid of the job, while his cousin has apparently decided to apply what he learned in the mob to reform the church.
  • In an episode of My Name Is Earl, Earl mentions that Randy is afraid of the Pope, more specifically his hat, because he believes there is a chicken under it. (Randy does not like birds.)
  • The Kingsley Amis novella The Alteration is set in an Alternate History timeline where the Catholic Church and the Papacy retains its political power and influence (the Reformation never happened and since Prince Arthur Tudor produced an heir, the English reformation didn't happen either). The current Pope in the story is a Yorkshireman who wants the young choirboy protagonist turned into a eunuch in order to preserve his singing voice. Previous popes mentioned in the narrative include Martin Luther and Thomas More.
  • Dallas Barr (set in the late 21st century) featured a black Pope who okayed condom use.
  • In The Godfather Part III John Paul I gets killed for being a dangerous Internal Reformist willing to clean his own house.
  • In The Naked Gun 33 1/3, John Paul II and his entourage show up in the middle of a parodic shoot-out in the crowded stairs of a rail station. Bill Clinton follows behind.
  • In Tropico the people rejoice when an unnamed pope tours the island. The event is modelled after 1998 John Paul II's visit to Cuba.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Gregory IX gets referenced in the episode "The Big Bang" as having had possession of the Pandorica at one point.
    • In the Series 10 episode "Extremis", the Pope asks the Doctor for help regarding an old, suicide-inducing book kept in the Vatican library... and ends up interrupting companion Bill's date.
    • In All-Consuming Fire, Leo XIII employs Sherlock Holmes to track down some stolen Tomes of Eldritch Lore.
    • The Third Doctor short story "Prisoners of the Sun" refers to an Alternate Universe Gallifreyan religious leader called the Supreme Pontiff of Time, or the Time Pope.
  • Pius XII appears in the German/French film Amen.
  • The novel Rama II features an appearance of a future Pope John Paul V.
  • The Night of Wishes: The events take place during a New Year's Eve and it's Saint Sylvester who provides the heroes with the means to save the day. St. Sylvester has never been described in the book as being a former Pope but it's unlikely for the character not to be him. In the Animated Adaptation of the book, he was renamed Father New Year and became a Distaff Counterpart to Santa Claus, or "Father Christmas" as Father New Year likes to call him.
  • Pax Romana has the Gene Pope of the Unified Church of the Holy Roman Empire, the result of a time-travel mission reluctantly authorized by the pope of 2053, Pius XIII.
  • Sixtus IV is a character in Da Vinci's Demons. He's portrayed as a Sinister Minister, ruthless, corrupt and with a penchant for young boys.
  • Benedict XVI shows up in Rat-Man. Due to the nonsensical nature of the comic, he was seen fighting off an alien invasion using Palpatine's lightsaber and Force Lightings.
  • In Bill Rotsler's To The Land Of The Electric Angel, the hero is hastily elected Pope so he can lead La Résistance. This becomes embarrassing after the revolution, when he has to answer "Is the Pope Catholic?" with "No."
  • In Robert Shirley's TEENOCRACY, there has been a schism resulting in the "Old Catholic" (not to be confused with real life Old Catholics) Italian Pope John XXIV in Dublin, a Spanish "Middle Catholic" Pope in Rome, and the weirdo who has proclaimed himself "Pope Rock II" in the United Teenocracy. Pope John's representative finds this not so problematic after all, since "the Teen Pope is the only one who has the guts to pontificate.... He's infallibly pronounced in favor of divorce, trial marriage, contraception and abortion, so he just CAN'T be kosher."
  • A pope visits Johnny Dangerously, and like everyone else in the city, is in on who he really is.
  • In the Archer episode "Papal Chase", ISIS is hired to protect the pope from assassins who turn out to be Vatican insiders.
  • In the Italian satiric comic book Suore Ninja (that's Italian for Ninja Nuns), the new Pope Constantin Vitalian is a main character, and, while quite intelligent, he and most cardinals are represented as corrupt and non-believing (to the point that, upon being informed that the Pope actually met God, a cardinal leaves the Church). A number of historical Popes appear in person (mostly through flashbacks, with Benedict XVI popping up in the present after his resignation), and they tend to be represented as either corrupt, Trolls or cowards (the exception is John Paul I, that Constantin Vitalian believes was assassinated. It turns out he was eaten by a time-travelling Tyrannosaurus rex due Constantin Vitalian trying to cheat at a lottery, with the heart attack story suggested by Constantin Vitalian himself). The Pope, and we mean any reigning Pope, is also a limited Reality Warper: if it's about the Catholic religion they can use the power of the Dogma to take any nonsense and transform it into reality, with the Pope defeating the apparently undefeatable Saint Frankenstein by declaring he was a tango dancer and then sending him to Heaven this way (they also lose this power if God comes to Earth).
    • Jorge Mario Bergoglio gets a Cameo for one scene, represented as the only decent cardinal and a Cloud Cuckoo Lander, with Constantin Vitalian elected in his place.
  • Pope Benedict XVI makes several minor appearances in Worldwar: War of Equals.
  • Naturally appears in the 1632 Alternate History series; in this case, Pope Urban VIII, who makes his first appearance in 1634: The Galileo Affair before becoming a major character in 1634: The Cannon Law and 1635: The Papal Stakes. Naturally, Grantville's arrival changes quite a few things...
  • The Pope in The Genesis Code (published in 1997) is implied to be an ailing John Paul II.
  • In The Dresden Files while not identified by name, the Pope is said to know about the supernatural world, the work of the Knights of the Cross, and the Ordo Malleus (who were behind the Inquisition).
  • The Italian satiric comic Jenus has Benedict XVI as the Big Bad, who, like the popes before him, used the church as a way to rule the world and enrich himself and his cardinals. This is the reason for the Second Coming of Jesus... And Jesus, while amnesiac because God made him flesh while he was still coming down, evicts him and the Cardinals from the Vatican for being jerks who are illegally living in his home (as Agnus, the Lamb of God, had just told him any church was technically his home), and nukes the cardinals when they try to kill him, forcing Ratzinger to run and launch increasingly crazier attacks in the attempt to recover his power.
  • A few popes appear in the Italian remake of Battle Fantasia Project:
  • Francis appears (a la archival footage) in Hellsing Ultimate Abridged (despite not appearing in the series proper) in Episode 6. In his big Motive Rant, Enrico Maxwell condemns Francis' progressive views and displays of humility, claiming them to be affronts to the Catholic church. He plans, after taking care of the Nazi Vampire army attacking England, to rid England of all the heretics (read: non-Catholics) and eventually install himself as Pope.
  • A throwaway line in Girl Genius refers to a monograph by Baron Wulfenbach being banned by "all seven popes".
  • In the Guilty Gear Xrd games, the Pope is a beautiful woman named Ariels, who has been christened as the Sanctus Maximus Populi and acts as Bedman's client. She is working to create an "absolute world". In -REVELATOR- it is revealed that she is the true identity of an entity known as the "Universal Will". She is the one responsible for ushering in the Age of Magic by rendering all technology useless in the year 1999, as well as the existence of the Valentines (who consider her as thier "Mother", even when she treats them horribly. It's also further explained that she's a machine created by The Original to help humanity achieve ultimate happiness. She was given two directives: make humanity prosperous, and do it without harming them. Unfortunately, these directives led to her reaching the conclusion that humans don't exist, and that the beings inhabiting the earth are merely failed dolls, or redundancies as she herself refers to them. With this in mind, she has set a grand plan in motion known as the "Merciless Apocalypse", which will destroy humanity and replace them with her own breed of "perfect humans".
  • In the final arc of The Adventuresof Dr Mc Ninja, the title character throws Pope Francis at King Radical, recently turned into a vampire after being bitten by Dracula. The latter explodes, while Francis is left dazed but otherwise unhurt.
  • Memetic "popstar" Zladko released a metal song called "I Am The Antipope" which is about the dreaded pope Beelzebub I's reign which nearly started the apocalypse until he was defeated by "white horseman, Defender of God". He then warns that the next Antipope is 'Zladko the 666th'. Said song was said to have caused Molvania to be disqualified from entering Eurovision.
  • On the Gilmore Girls episode, "Rory's Birthday Parties," the Pope is said to be invited to the party thrown by Rory's grandparents, but he has other plans.
  • In the Chevy Chase-Goldie Hawn movie Foul Play, the duo get involved in preventing the assassination of a fictional pope. It's funnier than it sounds.
  • Patrick Marrin's Newspaper Comic Francis portrays Pope Francis as a saintly Bunny-Ears Lawyer. In later strips, he sometimes cedes the limelight to his (fictional) sidekicks, a childlike friar and a Muslim woman.
  • John Wick: Though the Pope doesn't appear directly in John Wick: Chapter 2, he is referenced, with Julius assuming that the only person in Rome worth John Wick's attention is the Pope himself. A deleted scene also has John officially getting sanction from the Pope and the Vatican for his upcoming mission.
  • The novel Vampires is about a Vatican-sanctioned team of vampire hunters. Several scenes take place in the Vatican, including at least one in which John Paul II appears and has dialogue with the protagonist.
  • The Young Pope features a fictional pope, Pius XIII (born Lenny Belardo, played by Jude Law), the first pope from the United States of America, elected in his late forties, taking up the quest of revolutionizing the Church while he's fighting his own personal crisis of faith.
    • The New Pope introduces the equally fictional John Paul III (born John Brannox, played by John Malkovich), who's elected as a replacement for Pius XIII, who's fallen into a coma. Things get complicated when Lenny awakens from his coma and wants the Holy See back.
      • And he's not even his immediate successor. After Pius XIII falls into coma, cardinals elect his former confessor - cardinal Viglietti - who takes the name of Francis II and almost immediately begins to follow the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assissi and begins sort of a revolution in the Vatican - i.e. inviting refugees into the Apostolic Palace, taking from the cardinals their jewellery and bank accounts. Only when Francis II mysteriously dies, Brannox is elected pope.
      • In the finale - after John Paul III resigns and Pius XIII seemingly dies - cardinal Voiello gets his wish and is elected pope himself, although his papal name is not revealed.
  • Jonathan Pryce plays Jorge Mario Bergoglio/Francis and Anthony Hopkins plays Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI in Netflix's The Two Popes. For years, many people have noted a resemblance between Pryce and Francis, and Pryce's role as the High Sparrow in Game of Thrones as an austere man of faith who challenges the rigid clergy and pretty much redefines piety has helped the comparison. So The Two Popes just made this come full circle.
  • Francis: Pray For Me is an Argentine film about Pope Francis (or, more specifically, Jorge Bergoglio before being appointed Pope).


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