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PAPACY . The papacy is the central governing institution of the Roman Catholic church under the leadership of the pope, the bishop of Rome. The word papacy (Lat., papatus ) is medieval in origin and derives from the Latin papa, an affectionate term for "father."

The Early Period

This era, extending from the biblical origins of Christianity to the fifth century, was marked by the ever-increasing power and prestige of the bishop of Rome within the universal church and the Roman empire.

Scriptural foundation

Traditional Roman Catholic teaching holds that Jesus Christ directly bestowed upon the apostle Peter the fullness of ruling and teaching authority. He made Peter the first holder of supreme power in the universal church, a power passed on to his successors, the bishops of Rome. (See table 1.) Two biblical texts are cited to substantiate this claim. In Matthew 16:18 there is the promise of Jesus: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." In John 21:1516, this promise is fulfilled in the admonition of Jesus to Peter: "Feed my lambs. Look after my sheep." Modern Roman Catholic biblical scholars affirm the genuine authority of Peter among the Twelve but make the following observations: there is no New Testament evidence that Peter was ever a bishop or local administrator of any church (including Rome and Antioch); there is no direct biblical proof that Jesus established the papacy as a permanent office within the church; but there is other cogent evidence that Peter arrived in Rome late in his life and was martyred and buried there.

Catholic scholars insist, however, that even though the idea of an abiding Petrine ministry is not explicitly found in scripture, it is not contrary to the biblical tradition and indeed is implicitly rooted in it. Peter had a preeminent role in the New Testament, where he is described as the most prominent apostolic witness and missionary among the Twelve. He is the model of the shepherd-pastor, the receiver of a special revelation, and the teacher of the true faith. Gradually Christians, through the providential direction of the Holy Spirit, recognized the papacy, the office of headship in the church, to be the continuation of that ministry given by Christ to Peter and exercised through the historic Roman episcopate. Although other Christian scholars would accept many of these conclusions, they would generally deny the Roman Catholic belief that the papacy is an absolutely essential element of the church.

First three centuries

The early Christian churches were not organized internationally. Yet Rome, almost from the beginning, was accorded a unique position, and understandably so: Rome was the only apostolic see in the West; it was the place where Peter and Paul were martyred; and it was the capital of the empire. Ignatius of Antioch, in his letter to the Romans (c. 110), called the Roman church the church "presiding in love" (4.3), and Irenaeus, in his Against Heresies (c. 180), referred to its "more imposing foundation" (3.3.2). Although these controverted texts may not be a proof of Roman primacy, they at least indicate the lofty stature of the see of Rome.

The exact structure of the very early Roman church is not known, but it seems that by the middle of the second century monepiscopacy (the rule of one bishop) was well established. The memory of Peter was kept alive in Rome, and its bishops were often involved in the affairs of churches outside their own area. Clement I (c. 90c. 99), for example, sent a letter from the church of Rome to the church of Corinth to settle a dispute over the removal of several church officials. Victor I (c. 189c. 198) sought, under threat of excommunication, to impose on the churches of Asia Minor the Roman custom for the celebration of Easter. Finally, Stephen I (254257) reinstated two Spanish bishops who had been deposed by their colleagues and also decided, contrary to the custom in Syria and North Africa, that repentant heretics did not have to be rebaptized. Although Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (d. 258), objected to Stephen's decisions, he was able to call Rome the "principal church" (letter 59, addressed to Cornelius, bishop of Rome) and to insist that for bishops to be legitimate they must be in communion with Rome.

The bishops of Rome in the third century claimed a universal primacy, even though it would be another 150 years before this idea was doctrinally formulated. Rome attracted both orthodox and heterodox teacherssome to have their views heard, others to seek confirmation. More and more, the bishop of Rome, either on his own initiative or by request, settled doctrinal and disciplinary disputes in other churches. Roman influence was felt as far away as Spain, Gaul, North Africa, and Asia Minor. The see of Peter was looked upon as the guarantor of doctrinal purity even by those who found fault with its leadership.

Fourth and fifth centuries

With the Edict of Milan (313) the empire granted toleration of all religions and allowed Christians to worship freely. This policy ended the era of persecution, increased the number of Christians, and shaped the institutional development of the papacy. Once Emperor Constantine decided to move the seat of the empire to Constantinople in 324, the papacy began to play a larger role in the West. By the time Christianity became the official religion of the empire in 381, several popes were already affirming papal primatial authority. The critical period in the doctrinal systematization of Roman primacy took place in the years between Damasus I (366384) and Leo I (440461). In that period, the popes explicitly claimed that the bishop of Rome was the head of the entire church and that his authority derived from Peter.

Damasus I, the first pope to call Rome the apostolic see, made Latin the principal liturgical language in Rome and commissioned Jerome to revise the old Latin version of the New Testament. At the Council of Rome (382), he declared that the primacy of the bishop of Rome is based on continuity with Peter. He deposed several Arian bishops. His successor, Siricius (384399), whose decretal letters are the earliest extant, promoted Rome's primatial position and imposed his decisions on many bishops outside Italy.

It was Leo I, the first of three popes to be called the Great, who laid the theoretical foundation of papal primacy. Leo took the title Pontifex Maximus, which the emperors no longer used, and claimed to possess the fullness of power (plenitudo potestatis). Governing the church through a tumultuous period of barbarian invasions and internal disputes, he relentlessly defended the rights of the Roman see. He rejected Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon (451), which gave the bishop of New Rome (Constantinople) privileges equal to those of the bishop of Old Rome and a rank second only to that of the pope. A favorite theme for Leo was the relationship between Peter and the pope. This idea had been advanced by earlier popes, but Leo elaborated it, in his sermons calling himself "Peter in Peter's see" (2.2) and his "unworthy heir" (3.4). Thus, as he noted, a particular pope may be sinful, but the papacy as such still retains its Petrine character. The Leonine distinction between person and office has proved to be of immense value and has helped the papacy survive unsuitable popes. Leo believed that Peter's successors have "the care of all the churches" (Sermons 3.4), and he exercised his authority over Christian churches in Italy, Africa, and Gaul. The Western Roman empire ended in 476. The successors of Leo, especially Felix III (483492) and Gelasius I (492496), applied his principles, but the imperial government in Constantinople exerted continual pressure on the papacy.

For centuries the popes did not change their names. The first name change occurred when a Roman called Mercury, having been elected pope, chose the more suitable appellation of John II (533535). From the time of Sergius IV (10091012)his name had been Peter Buccaporca (Peter Pigmouth)the taking of a new name has continued to the present, with two exceptions: Adrian VI (15221523) and Marcellus II (1555). The most popular papal names have been John, Gregory, Benedict, Clement, Innocent, Leo, and Pius. There has never been a Peter II or a John XX. John Paul I was the first pope to select a double name. The legend that a woman popePope Joanreigned between Leo IV (847855) and Benedict III (855858) has long been rejected by historians.

The accompanying list is based generally on the catalog of popes given in the Annuario pontificio, the official Vatican yearbook, with some changes dictated by recent scholarly research. It should be noted that the legitimacy of certain popesfor example, Dioscorus (530), Leo VIII (963965), Benedict V (964), Gregory VI (10451046), and Clement II (10461047)is still controverted. Although Stephen (752) is mentioned in the list, he died three days after his election without being consecrated a bishop.

The Medieval Papacy

The eventful period from the sixth to the fifteenth century demonstrated the unusual adaptability of the papal office. Successive popes opposed imperial control, attempted to reform the papacy and the church, and brought papal authority to its peak in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. A severe decline followed.

The struggle for independence

The popes of the sixth and seventh centuries resisted excessive encroachments but were still subservient to the power of the emperor. The most notable pope at this time was Gregory I, the Great (590604), a deeply spiritual man who called himself "the servant of the servants of God." A skilled negotiator, he was able to conclude a peace treaty with the Lombards, who threatened Rome; the people of Rome and the adjacent regions considered him their protector. Gregory was respectful of the rights of individual bishops, but he insisted, nevertheless, that all churches, including Constantinople, were subject to the apostolic see of Rome. He realized that direct confrontation with the emperor would be futile, and so he concentrated on developing the church in territories outside imperial jurisdiction. He established links with the Frankish monarchs that proved to be of great significance in the later Middle Ages; he also sent forty missionaries to Britain. The break with the East began when Gregory II (715731) condemned the iconoclastic decrees of Emperor Leo I, who had prohibited the use of images in liturgical ceremonies. The gap widened when Stephen II (752757), the first pope to cross the Alps, met with Pépin, king of the Franks. Pépin agreed to defend the pope against the invading Lombards and apparently promised him sovereignty over large areas in central Italy. The Donation of Pépin was an epoch-making event; it marked the beginning of the Papal States, in existence until 1870. Stephen became the first of a long line of popes to claim temporal rule. Through his alliance with the Frankish kingdom, Stephen was virtually able to free the papacy from the domination of Constantinople. The last step in the division of Rome from the Eastern Empire was when Pope Leo III (795816) crowned Charlemagne emperor of the West at Saint Peter's Basilica in 800. As a result of their new status, the popes minted their own coins, and they no longer dated papal documents according to imperial years. The primatial prominence of Rome increased when the Muslim conquests destroyed the church in North Africa and ended the strong influence of Rome's great rivals: the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. By the middle of the ninth century, Nicholas I, the Great (858867), was able to act as the supreme judge and lawmaker for the entire church. He resisted Carolingian interference and dealt severely with recalcitrant archbishops, deposing several and overruling the decisions of others. In his relations with the Byzantine church he was less successful because he failed to resolve adequately the dispute with Photios, the patriarch of Constantinople. The assertion of primatial claims by John VIII (872882) also met Byzantine opposition. The tenth century was a bleak one for the papacy. After the Carolingian rulers lost power, the papacy was scandalously dominated, first by the Roman nobility and then by the German emperors Otto I and his successors. The so-called Ottonian privilege restricted the freedom of papal electors and allowed the emperor the right of ratification. There were some two dozen popes and antipopes during this period, many of low moral caliber. Depositions and impositions of popes became commonplace. Clearly, then, by the beginning of the eleventh century, the need for radical reform was urgent.

The reform movement

Advocates of reform found a dedicated leader in Leo IX (10491054). He traveled extensively throughout Italy, France, and Germany, presiding over synods that issued strong decrees dealing with clerical marriage, simony, and episcopal elections. Only six months of his entire pontificate were spent in Rome. Further reforms

Name Date
St. Peter ?-64/7
St. Linus 64/7-79?
St. Anacletus (Cletus) 79?-90/2
St. Clement I 90/2-99/101
St. Evaristus 99/101-107?
St. Alexander I 107?-116?
St. Sixtus I 116?-125?
St. Telesphorus 125?-136?
St. Hyginus 136?-140/2
St. Pius I 140/2-154/5
St. Anicetus 154/5-166?
St. Soter 166?-174?
St. Eleutherius 174?-189?
St. Victor I 189?-198?
St. Zephyrinus 198?-217?
St. Callistus I 217?-222
[St. Hippolytus] [217?-235]
St. Urban I 222-230
St. Pontian 21 Jul. 230-28 Sep. 235
St. Anterus 21 Nov. 235-3 Jan. 236
St. Fabian 10 Jan. 236-20 Jan. 250
St. Cornelius Mar. 251-Jun. 253
[Novatian] [251-258?]
St. Lucius I 25 Jun. 253-5 Mar. 254
St. Stephen I 12 May 254-2 Aug. 257
St. Sixtus II 30 Aug. 257-6 Aug. 258
St. Dionysius 22 Jul. 259-26 Dec. 268
St. Felix I 5 Jan. 269-30 Dec. 274
St. Eutychian 4 Jan. 275-7 Dec. 283
St. Gaius (Caius) 17 Dec. 283-22 Apr. 296
St. Marcellinus 30 Jun. 296-25 Oct. 304
St. Marcellus I 27 May 308-16 Jan. 309
St. Eusebius 18 Apr.-17 Aug. 309
St. Miltiades 2 Jul. 311-11 Jan. 314
St. Sylvester I 31 Jan. 314-31 Dec. 335
St. Mark 18 Jan.-7 Oct. 336
St. Julius I 6 Feb. 337-12 Apr. 352
Liberius 17 May 352-24 Sep. 366
[Felix II] [355-22 Nov. 365]
St. Damasus I 1 Oct. 366-11 Dec. 384
[Ursinus] [366-367]
St. Siricius 15 Dec. 384-26 Nov. 399
St. Anastasius I 27 Nov. 399-19 Dec. 401
St. Innocent I 22 Dec. 401-12 Mar. 417
St. Zosimus 18 Mar. 417-26 Dec. 418
St. Boniface I 28 Dec. 418-4 Sep. 422
[Eulalius] [27 Dec. 418-419]
St. Celestine I 10 Sep. 422-27 Jul. 432
St. Sixtus III 31 Jul. 432-19 Aug. 440
St. Leo I, the Great 29 Sep. 440-10 Nov. 461
St. Hilary 19 Nov. 461-29 Feb. 468
St. Simplicius 3 Mar. 468-10 Mar. 483
St. Felix III (II) 13 Mar. 483-1 Mar. 492
St. Gelasius I 1 Mar. 492-21 Nov. 496
Anastasius II 24 Nov. 496-19 Nov. 498
St. Symmachus 22 Nov. 498-19 Jul. 514
[Lawrence] [498; 501-505]
St. Hormisdas 20 Jul. 514-6 Aug. 523
St. John I 13 Aug. 523-18 May 526
St. Felix IV (III) 12 Jul. 526-22 Sep. 530
Boniface II 22 Sep. 530-17 Oct. 532
[Dioscorus] [22 Sep.-14 Oct. 530]
John II 2 Jan. 533-8 May 535
St. Agapitus I 13 May 535-22 Apr. 536
St. Silverius 1 Jun. 536-11 Nov. 537
Vigilius 29 Mar. 537-7 Jun. 555
Pelagius I 16 Apt. 556-4 Mar. 561
John III 17 Jul. 561-13 Jul. 574
Benedict I 2 Jun. 575-30 Jul. 579
Pelagius II 26 Nov. 579-7 Feb. 590
St. Gregory I, the Great 3 Sep. 590-12 Mar. 604
Sabinian 13 Sep. 604-22 Feb. 606
Boniface III 19 Feb.-12 Nov. 607
St. Boniface IV 25 Aug. 608-8 May 615
St. Deusdedit (Adeodatus I) 19 Oct. 615-8 Nov. 618
Boniface V 23 Dec. 619-25 Oct. 625
Honorius I 27 Oct. 625-12 Oct. 638
Severinus 28 May-7 Aug. 640
John IV 24 Dec. 640-12 Oct. 642
Theodore I 24 Nov. 642-14 May 649
St. Martin I July 649-16 Sep. 655
St. Eugene I 10 Aug. 654-2 Jun. 657
St. Vitalian 30 Jul. 657-27 Jan. 672
Adeodatus II 11 Apr. 672-17 Jun. 676
Donus 2 Nov. 676-11 Apr. 678
St. Agatho 27 Jun. 678-10 Jan. 681
St. Leo II 17 Aug. 682-3 Jul. 683
St. Benedict II 26 Jun. 684-8 May 685
John V 23 Jul. 685-2 Aug. 686
Conon 21 Oct. 686-21 Sep. 687
[Theodore] [687]
[Paschal] [687]
St. Sergius I 15 Dec. 687-8 Sep. 701
John VI 30 Oct. 701-11 Jan. 705
John VII 1 Mar. 705-18 Oct. 707
Sisinnius 15 Jan.-4 Feb. 708
Constantine 25 Mar. 708-9 Apr. 715
St. Gregory II 19 May 715-11 Feb. 731
St. Gregory III 18 Mar. 731-Nov. 741
St. Zachary 10 Dec. 741-22 Mar. 752
Stephen (II) 23-25 Mar. 752
Stephen II (III) 26 Mar. 752-26 Apt. 757
St. Paul I 29 May 757-28 Jun. 767
[Constantine II] [28 Jun. 767-769]
[Philip] [31 Jul. 768]
Stephen III (IV) 7 Aug. 768-24 Jan. 772
Adrian I 1 Feb. 772-25 Dec. 795
St. Leo III 26 Dec. 795-12 Jun. 816
Stephen IV (V) 22 Jun. 816-24 Jan. 817
St. Paschal I 25 Jan. 817-11 Feb. 824
Eugene II Feb. 824-Aug. 827
Valentine Aug.-Sep. 827
Gregory IV 827-Jan. 844
[John] [Jan. 844]
Sergius II Jan. 844-27 Jan. 847
St. Leo IV Jan. 847-17 Jul. 855
Benedict III Jul. 855-17 Apr. 858
[Anastasius] [Aug.-Sep. 855]
St. Nicholas I, the Great 24 Apt. 858-13 Nov. 867
Adrian II 14 Dec. 867-14 Dec. 872
John VIII 14 Dec. 872-16 Dec. 882
Marinus I 16 Dec. 882-15 May 884
St. Adrian IIl 17 May 884-Sep. 885
Stephen V (VI) Sep. 885-14 Sep. 891
Formosus 6 Oct. 891-4 Apr. 896
Boniface VI Apr. 896
Stephen VI (VII) May 896-Aug. 897
Romanus Aug.-Nov. 897
Theodore II Dec. 897
John IX Jan. 898-Jan. 900
Benedict IV Jan. 900-Jul. 903
Leo V Jul.-Sep. 903
[Christopher] [Jul. 903-Jan. 904]
Sergius III 29 Jan. 904-14 Apr. 911
Anastasius III Apt. 911-Jun. 913
Lando Jul. 913-Feb. 914
John X Mar. 914-May 928
Leo VI May-Dec. 928
Stephen VII (VIII) Dec. 928-Feb. 931
John XI Feb. 931-Dec. 935
Leo VII 3 an. 936-13 Jul. 939
Stephen VIII (IX) 14 Jul. 939-Oct. 942
Marinus II 30 Oct. 942-May 946
Agapetus II 10 May 946-Dec. 955
John XII 16 Dec. 955-14 May 964
Leo VIII 4 Dec. 963-1 Mar. 965
Benedict V 22 May-23 Jun. 964
John XIII 1 Oct. 965-6 Sep. 972
Benedict VI 19 Jan. 973-Jun. 974
[Boniface VII] [Jun.-Jul. 974; Aug. 984-Jul. 985]
Benedict VII Oct. 974-10 Jul. 983
John XIV Dec. 983-20 Aug.'984
John XV Aug. 985-Mar. 996
Gregory V 3 May 996-18 Feb. 999
[John XVI] [Apr. 997-Feb. 998]
Sylvester II 2 Apr. 999-12 May 1003
John XVII Jun.-Dec. 1003
John XVIII Jan. 1004-Jul. 1009
Sergius IV 31 Jul. 1009-12 May 1012
Benedict VIII 18 May 1012-9 Apr. 1024
[Gregory] [1012]
John XIX Apt. 1024-1032
Benedict IX (first time) 1032-1044
Sylvester IIl 20 Jan.-10 Feb. 1045
Benedict IX (second time) 10 Apt.-1 May 1045
Gregory VI May 1045-20 Dec. 1046
Clement II 24 Dec. 1046-9 Oct. 1047
Benedict IX (third time) 8 Nov. 1047-17 Jul. 1048
Damasus II 17 Jul.-9 Aug. 1048
St. Leo IX 12 Feb. 1049-19 Apr. 1054
Victor II 16 Apt. 1055-28 Jul. 1057
Stephen IX (X) 3 Aug. 1057-29 Mar. 1058
[Benedict X] [5 Apt. 1058-24 Jan. 1059]
Nicholas II 24 Jan. 1059-27 Jul. 1061
Alexander II 1 Oct. 1061-21 Apr. 1073
[Honorius II] [28 Oct. 1061-1072]
St. Gregory VII 22 Apt. 1073-25 May 1085
[Clement III] [26 Jun. 1080-8 Sep. 1100]
Bl. Victor III 24 May 1086-16 Sep. 1087
Bl. Urban II 12 Mar. 1088-29 Jul. 1099
Paschal II 13 Aug. 1099-21 Jan. 1118
[Theodoric] [1100]
[Albert] [1102]
[Sylvester IV] [18 Nov. 1105-1111]
Gelasius II 24 Jan. 1118-28 Jan. 1119
[Gregory VIII] [8 Mar. 1118-1121]
Callistus II 2 Feb. 1119-13 Dec. 1124
Honorius II 5 Dec. 1124-13 Feb. 1130
[Celestine II] [Dec. 1124]
Innocent II 14 Feb. 1130-24 Sep. 1143
[Anacletus II] [14 Feb. 1130-25 Jan. 1138]
[Victor IV] [Mar.-29 May 1138]
Celestine II 26 Sep. 1143-8 Mar. 1144
Lucius II 2 Mar. 1144-15 Feb. 1145
Bl. Eugene III 15 Feb. 1145-8 Jul. 1153
Anastasius IV 12 Jul. 1153-3 Dec. 1154
Adrian IV 4 Dec. 1154-1 Sep. 1159
Alexander III 7 Sep. 1159-30 Aug. 1181
[Victor IV] [7 Sep. 1159-20 Apt. 1164]
[Paschal III] [26 Apt. 1164-20 Sep. 1168]
[Callistus III] [Sep. 1168-29 Aug. 1178]
[Innocent III] [29 Sep. 1179-1180]
Lucius III 1 Sep. 1181-25 Sep. 1185
Urban III 25 Nov. 1185-20 Oct. 1187
Gregory VIII 21 Oct.-17 Dec. 1187
Clement III 19 Dec. 1187-Mar. 1191
Celestine III 30 Mar. 1191-8 Jan. 1198
Innocent III 8 Jan. 1198-16 Jul. 1216
Honorius III 18 Jul. 1216-18 Mar. 1227
Gregory IX 19 Mar. 1227-22 Aug. 1241
Celestine IV 25 Oct.-10 Nov. 1241
Innocent IV 25 Jun. 1243-7 Dec. 1254
Alexander IV 12 Dec. 1254-25 May 1261
Urban IV 29 Aug. 1261-2 Oct. 1264
Clement IV 5 Feb. 1265-29 Nov. 1268
Bl. Gregory X 1 Sep. 1271-10 Jan. 1276
Bl. Innocent V 21 Jan.-22 Jun. 1276
Adrian V 11 Jul.-18 Aug. 1276
John XXI 8 Sep. 1276-20 May 1277
Nicholas III 25 Nov. 1277-22 Aug. 1280
Martin IV 22 Feb. 1281-28 Mar. 1285
Honorius IV 2 Apt. 1285-3 Apt. 1287
Nicholas IV 22 Feb. 1288-4 Apt. 1292
St. Celestine V 5 Jul.-13 Dec. 1294
Boniface VIII 24 Dec. 1294-11 Oct. 1303
Bl. Benedict XI 22 Oct. 1303-7 Jul. 1304
Clement V 5 Jun. 1305-20 Apr. 1314
John XXII 7 Aug. 1316-4 Dec. 1334
[Nicholas V] [12 May 1328-25 Aug. 1330]
Benedict XII 20 Dec. 1334-25 Apt. 1342
Clement VI 7 May 1342-6 Dec. 1352
Innocent VI 18 Dec. 1352-12 Sep. 1362
Bl. Urban V 28 Sep. 1362-19 Dec. 1370
Gregory XI 30 Dec. 1370-26 Mar. 1378
Urban VI 8 Apt. 1378-15 Oct. 1389
Boniface IX 2 Nov. 1389-1 Oct. 1404
Innocent VII 17 Oct. 1404-6 Nov. 1406
Gregory XII 30 Nov. 1406-4 Jul. 1415
[Clement VII, Avignon] [20 Sep. 1378-16 Sep. 1394]
[Benedict XIII, Avignon] [28 Sep. 1394-23 May 1423]
[Clement VIII, Avignon] [10 Jun. 1423-26 Jul. 1429]
[Benedict XIV, Avignon] [12 Nov. 1425-1430]
[Alexander V, Pisa] [26 Jun. 1409-3 May 1410]
[John XXIII, Pisa] [17 May 1410-29 May 1415]
Martin V 11 Nov. 1417-20 Feb. 1431
Eugene IV 3 Mar. 1431-23 Feb. 1447
[Felix V] [5 Nov. 1439-7 Apr. 1449]
Nicholas V 6 Mar. 1447-24 Mar. 1455
Callistus III 8 Apt. 1455-6 Aug. 1458
Plus II 19 Aug. 1458-15 Aug. 1464
Paul II 30 Aug. 1464-26 Jul. 1471
Sixtus IV 9 Aug. 1471-12 Aug. 1484
Innocent VIII 29 Aug. 1484-25 Jul. 1492
Alexander VI 11 Aug. 1492-18 Aug. 1503
Pius III 22 Sep.-18 Oct. 1503
Julius II 31 Oct. 1503-21 Feb. 1513
Leo X 9 Mar. 1513-1 Dec. 1521
Adrian VI 9 Jan. 1522-14 Sep. 1523
Clement VII 19 Nov. 1523-25 Sep. 1534
Paul III 13 Oct. 1534-10 Nov. 1549
Julius III 7 Feb. 1550-23 Mar. 1555
Marcellus II 9 Apt.-1 May 1555
Paul IV 23 May 1555-18 Aug. 1559
Plus IV 25 Dec. 1559-9 Dec. 1565
St. Pius V 7 Jan. 1566-1 May 1572
Gregory XIII 13 May 1572-10 Apr. 1585
Sixtus V 24 Apr. 1585-27 Aug. 1590
Urban VII 15 Sep.-27 Sep. 1590
Gregory XIV 5 Dec. 1590-16 Oct. 1591
Innocent IX 29 Oct.-30 Dec. 1591
Clement VIII 30 Jan. 1592-3 Mar. 1605
Leo XI 1 Apt.-27 Apt. 1605
Paul V 16 May 1605-28 Jan. 1621
Gregory XV 9 Feb. 1621-8 Jul. 1623
Urban VIII 6 Aug. 1623-29 Jul. 1644
Innocent X 15 Sep. 1644-7 Jan. 1655
Alexander VII 7 Apt. 1655-22 May 1667
Clement IX 20 Jun. 1667-9 Dec. 1669
Clement X 29 Apt. 1670-22 Jul. 1676
Bl. Innocent XI 21 Sep. 1676-12 Aug. 1689
Alexander VIII 6 Oct. 1689-1 Feb. 1691
Innocent XII 12 Jul. 1691-27 Sep. 1700
Clement XI 23 Nov. 1700-19 Mar. 1721
Innocent XIII 8 May 1721-7 Mar. 1724
Benedict XIII 29 May 1724-21 Feb. 1730
Clement XII 12 Jul. 1730-6 Feb. 1740
Benedict XIV 17 Aug. 1740-3 May 1758
Clement XIII 6 Jul. 1758-2 Feb. 1769
Clement XIV 19 May 1769-22 Sep. 1774
Pius VI 15 Feb. 1775-29 Aug. 1799
Pius VII 14 Mar. 1800-20 Aug. 1823
Leo XII 28 Sep. 1823-10 Feb. 1829
Pius VIII 31 Mar. 1829-30 Nov. 1830
Gregory XVI 2 Feb. 1831-1 Jun. 1846
Pius IX 16 Jun. 1846-7 Feb. 1878
Leo XIII 20 Feb. 1878-20 Jul. 1903
St. Pius X 4 Aug. 1903-20 Aug. 1914
Benedict XV 3 Sep. 1914-22 Jan. 1922
Pius XI 6 Feb. 1922-10 Feb. 1939
Pius XII 2 Mar. 1939-9 Oct. 1958
John XXIII 28 Oct. 1958-3 Jun. 1963
Paul VI 21 Jun. 1963-6 Aug. 1978
John Paul I 26 Aug.-28 Sep. 1978
John Paul II 16 Oct. 1978-

were made under Nicholas II (10591061), whose coronation, perhaps the first ever, was rich in monarchical symbolism. His decree on papal elections (1059), which made cardinal bishops the sole electors, had a twofold purpose: to safeguard the reformed papacy through free and peaceful elections and to eliminate coercion by the empire or the aristocracy. By not granting the emperor the right of confirmation, he directly opposed the Ottonian privilege. Nicholas also introduced feudalism into the papacy when he enfeoffed the Normans; the papacy invested them with the lands they had conquered and received the oath of fealty. This feudal contractactually made to the apostle Peter through the popewas the first of many. By the twelfth century, the papacy had more feudal vassals than any other European power.

The most famous of the reform popes was Gregory VII (10731085), surnamed Hildebrand. Endowed with great gifts, he had learned much about the papacy from his years of service under Leo IX, Nicholas II, and Alexander II (10611073). His ambitious program of reform focused on three areas. The first task was to restore prestige to the papacy, to resurrect it from the sorry state to which it had descended in the previous two centuries. In his letters and especially in his Dictates of the Pope, Gregory, like Leo I before him, identified himself with Peter; claimed universal authority over bishops, clerics, and councils; and asserted his right to make law, to render judgments that allow no appeal, and even to depose emperors. The second area of reform was directed against clerical corruption, particularly simony and incontinence. The third area concerned lay investiturea practice whereby feudal lords, princes, and emperors bestowed spiritual office through the selection of pastors, abbots, and bishops. Gregory's determination to root out this evil brought him into direct conflict with Emperor Henry IV, whom he consequently excommunicated (and later absolved in the famous winter scene at Canossa in 1077). The Gregorian reform movement met fierce resistance and achieved only limited success, but it was an important milestone in papal history. For the first time the extensive theoretical principles of papal power were tested in practice. Henceforth, the papacy exercised a new style of leadership: The pope emerged not only as the undisputed head of the church but also as the unifying force in medieval western Europe.

The height of papal authority

The papacy reached its zenith in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Six general councils between 1123 and 1274 issued many doctrinal and disciplinary decrees aimed at reform and left no doubt that the popes were firmly in control of church policy. During the pontificate of Innocent III (11981216), one of the most brilliant of all the popes, the papacy reached the summit of its universal power and supervised the religious, social, and political life of the West. Some of the greatest popes at this time were canonists who proclaimed a pontifical world hegemony. Under Innocent III, the first official collection of canon law was published (1209), and the kingdoms of Bulgaria, Portugal, and England were made papal fiefs. Honorius III (12161227) further centralized papal administration and finances and approved the establishment of the Franciscan and Dominican orders. In theory, papal authority extended also to non-Christians. Innocent IV (12431254) believed that every creature is subject to the popeeven infidels, Christ's sheep by creation though not members of the church. This idea of a world theocracy under the popes was to be part of the theological and political justification for the Crusades.

The medieval popes took stringent action against such heretics as the Waldensians and the Cathari. Gregory IX (12271241) made the Inquisition a permanent tribunal to combat heresy, selecting Dominicans and Franciscans to serve as inquisitors, or judges. Heresy was considered not only a grave sin but also a crime against the state. Thus Innocent IV approved the use of torture by the state to force heretics to confess.

Two significant changes were made in the procedures for papal elections. At the Third Lateran Council (1179), Alexander III (11591181) decreed that all cardinalsnot just cardinal bishopscould vote and that a two-thirds majority was required. The Second Council of Lyons (1274), under Gregory X (12711276), established the law of the conclave, whereby the cardinal electors had to assemble in the papal palace and remain in a locked room until the election was completed.

Decline of the papacy

The death of Boniface VIII (12941303) marked the end of the grandiose idea of a theocratic world order with all power, spiritual and temporal, emanating from the pope. Several factors contributed to the decline of the papacy: high taxation, the inappropriate conferral and control of benefices, corruption in the Roman bureaucracy, and, above all, the failure of the popes to foresee the effect of nationalism on church-state relations. The effort to construct a Christian commonwealth under papal leadership was unsuccessful, but it must be judged in context. The popes struggled to protect the independence of the church, but their temporal involvements complicated the situation. Europe at that time was a mosaic of feudal territories; nations, as they are known today, were only in the process of formation. It was a turbulent time. Yet in the Middle Ages, the papacy was the only institution in the West with the authority and stability to provide law and order. At times it went to excess, but medieval Europe owed it a considerable debt.

In 1308, Clement V (13051314) moved the papal residence to Avignon, which then belonged to the king of Naples, a vassal of the pope. Several factors prompted this decision: the upcoming general council of Vienne (13111312); the tension between the pope and the king of France; and the unsafe and chaotic political situation in Rome and Italy. The popes remained in Avignon for seventy years. During their so-called Babylonian Captivity, the popes were French, but the papacy was not a puppet of the French rulers. Centralization and administrative complexity increased, especially under John XXII (13161334). The cardinals assumed greater power that at times bordered on oligarchy. They introduced the practice of capitulationan agreement made by electors of the pope to limit the authority of the person chosen to be popeand thus tried to restrict papal primacy. The Avignon popes worked to reform the clergy and religious orders; they also promoted missionary activity in China, India, and Persia.

No sooner had Gregory XI (13701378) returned to Rome in 1377 than the papacy faced another crisis, the great Western schism. The election of Urban VI (13781389) was later disputed by some of the cardinals, who claimed coercion. Five months after Urban's election, they rejected him and elected Clement VII (13781394), who went back to Avignon. The two popes had their own cardinals, curial staffs, and adherents among the faithful. A council was held at Pisa in 1409 to resolve the problem, but instead still another pope was elected, Alexander V, who in less than a year was succeeded by John XXIII (14101415). The general council of Constance (14141418) confronted the scandal of three would-be popes and pledged to reform the church in head and members. Unity was restored with the election of Martin V (14171431). The council deposed both Benedict XIII (13941423) of Avignon and John XXIII of Pisa; Gregory XII (14061415) of the Roman line abdicated. What makes the Council of Constance important in the history of the papacy is the theological principle that dictated its actions, namely conciliarism, enunciated in the council's decree Haec sancta, the dogmatic validity of which is still debated. The theory of conciliarism, that a general council is the supreme organ of government in the church, was later condemned by several popes, but it did not die. It resurfaced again in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the form of Gallicanism and Febronianism.

From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment

Papal authority was severely challenged between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. It had to face the massive religious and societal repercussions brought about by the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and the Enlightenment.

The Renaissance

Martin V tried to fulfill the provisions of the decree Frequens (1417) that emanated from the Council of Constance, which mandated that a general council should be held in five years, another seven years later, and then one regularly every ten years. He convened a council at Siena that later moved to Pavia (14231424), but the plague forced its dissolution. Seven years later another council was held, meeting first at Basel and later at Ferrara and Florence (14311445), under Eugene IV (14311447). Greek and Latin prelates attended, and they were able to agree on several thorny doctrinal issues including the primacy of the pope. The decree Laetentur caeli (1439), the first dogmatic definition of papal primacy by a council, stated: "We define that the holy apostolic see and the Roman Pontiff have primacy over the whole world, and that the same Roman Pontiff is the successor of Saint Peter, prince of the Apostles, the true vicar of Christ, the head of the church." Unfortunately, the union between the Greeks and Rome was short-lived.

Nicholas V (14471455) and his successors made Rome a center of the arts and scholarship. Humanistic concerns and involvement in Italian politics dominated their pontificates. Pius II (14581464), one of the most notable examples of papal humanism, in the bull Exsecrabilis (1460) prohibited any appeals to future general councils, thus striking at conciliarism. The same oligarchic spirit of the earlier Avignon cardinals appeared again at the election of Paul II (14641471). The cardinals drew up a capitulation requiring consultation with them before any major papal appointment, but after his election Paul promptly rejected this limitation. Sixtus IV (14711484) concerned himself mostly with the restoration of Rome and the expansion of the Papal States; he is responsible for building the magnificent Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. The Borgian pope, Alexander VI (14921503), has gone down in history as one of the most notorious of the Renaissance popes although his exploits have been exaggerated. The papacy, moreover, was engaged in almost continual warfare. The most famous of the warrior popes was Julius II (15031513), known as Il Terribile. A capable and energetic leader, Julius became the patron of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Bramante; he commissioned the construction of the new basilica of Saint Peter's. Adrian VI (15221523) was an exception among the Renaissance popes; in his short pontificate he tried to introduce reform measures, but these met persistent opposition from both civil rulers and highly placed ecclesiastics. In sum, the Renaissance popes were generally more interested in politics, the arts, and the ostentatious display of wealth than in providing genuine religious leadership. Their artistic achievements were outstanding, their neglect of spiritual concerns tragic.

The Reformation and Counter-Reformation

By the beginning of the sixteenth century the papacy was severely weakened by internal decay and a loss of supernatural vision. The faithful throughout Europe were asked to contribute alms to the extravagant building projects in Rome. These factors, coupled with deep-seated religious, social, and economic unrest in Europe, set the stage for the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther's challenge in 1517 caught the papacy unprepared. Leo X (15131521) and his successors badly underestimated the extent and intensity of antipapal sentiment in Europe. The popes neither adequately comprehended the religious intentions of Luther nor understood the appeal that the reformers' ideas had for many who were outraged at both the policies and the conduct of church leaders. What began in the Reformation as a movement to restore genuine apostolic integrity to the church of Rome ended with the creation of a separate church. Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli eventually repudiated all papal claims. By the time of Clement VII (15231534), millions of Catholics in Germany, Scandinavia, the Low Countries, Switzerland, and Britain had departed from the Roman communion. A new era in church history had dawned.

The rapid rise of Protestantism had a sobering effect on the papacy: It forced the popes to concentrate on church affairs. Paul III (15341549), for example, appointed competent cardinals to administrative posts, authorized the establishment of the Society of Jesus (1540), and reformed the Roman Inquisition (1542). The church's most wide-ranging answer to the Protestant Reformation was the Council of Trent (15451563), convoked by Paul III and concluded by Pius IV (15591565). In its twenty-five sessions, the council discussed the authority of scripture and of tradition, original sin and justification, the sacraments, and specific reform legislation. It did not, strangely enough, treat explicitly the theology of the church or the papacy. The council refused to accept demands for a married clergy, Communion under both species, and a vernacular liturgy. The principles of conciliarism did not affect the Council of Trent, at which the reigning popes were in control of the proceedings.

One of the effects of the Tridentine reform was a reorganization of the church's central administrative system. The Curia Romana, which had existed, at least functionally, since the first century, was plagued by nepotism, greed, and abuse of authority. Sixtus V (15851590), who was committed to a reform of the Curia, established fifteen congregations of cardinals to carry out church administration. The popes endeavored to consider moral character and ability in selecting cardinals, whose number was set at seventy in 1588. Under Gregory XIII (15721585), papal nuncios to Catholic countries proved most valuable in implementing the ideals of Trent and in supervising the activities of the local bishops. For forty years after Trent, zealous popes strengthened papal authority and prestige. They increased centralization, mandated uniformity in liturgical ritual, and renewed priestly life and seminary training. The bishops of dioceses, who now had to submit regular reports to Rome and visit it at specified intervals, became much less independent. The success of the Counter-Reformation resulted from sound papal governance and the extraordinary contributions of the Jesuits and other religious orders. Yet union with the Protestants was not accomplished; the Christian church in the West had a divided membership.

Seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

The papacy had to face new problems caused by radical shifts in the political and intellectual climate of Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Skepticism, rationalism, and secularism became pervasive during the Enlightenment, and many intellectuals were violently opposed to the Catholic church and the papacy. As a result, the popes were often on the defensive. In actions reminiscent of the medieval papacy, Paul V (16051621) in 1605, in the wake of the Gunpowder Plot, forbade Catholics to take a loyalty oath to the king of England, and in 1607 he put Venice under interdicta penalty largely ignored. The lengthy and often acrimonious debate between Dominicans and Jesuits over grace and free will, a question not settled at Trent, was terminated during Paul's reign. In 1597 Clement VIII (15921605) had established a special papal commission (the Congregatio de Auxiliis) to examine the orthodoxy of the two views. Paul received the final report, and in 1607 he declared that both orders could defend their positions, that neither side should censure the opposite opinion, and that all should await the final decision of the Holy See. This decision has not yet been made.

The Thirty Years War (16181648), a series of religious and dynastic wars that involved most of Europe, embroiled the papacy in conflict. Paul V and Gregory XV (16211623) had little influence on the conduct of Catholic rulers. Innocent X (16441655) protested, albeit futilely, against the Peace of Westphalia (1648), because he felt that Catholics were treated unjustly. This war and its aftermath showed how ineffective the papacy had become in European politics. The spirit of patriotism contributed to the problem. Furthermore, conciliarism revived in France in the form of Gallicanism, in Germany in the form of Febronianism, and in Austria in the form of Josephism. Although each of these movements had its own particular characteristics, all had two things in common: a strong nationalistic feeling and an antipapal bias. All reflected resentment of Roman centralism, urged greater autonomy for national churches, and advocated state control of ecclesiastical matters. The Holy See had also to contend with the absolutist ambitions of Louis XIV of France. Innocent XI (16761689) engaged in a protracted struggle with Louis over the king's claim to the right of revenues from vacant benefices (the régale ) and over royal support of Gallicanism. Innocent's major achievement was his diplomatic role in preventing the fall of Vienna to the Turks in 1683, thus halting Muslim expansion into Europe.

During the following decades the popes were active in many areas. Innocent XII (16911700) forbade nepotism and Clement XII (17301740) condemned Freemasonry. Benedict XIV (17401758) finally ended the so-called Chinese and Malabar rites controversy, which had lasted nearly two centuries. Jesuit missionaries in China and South India had adapted certain indigenous customs and rites to Christianity. Benedict XIV condemned this practice and required the missionaries to take an oath rejecting the rites. The oath remained in force until the pontificate of Pius XII (19391958).

In the theological area, Innocent X repudiated five propositions on the theology of grace found in the writings of the Flemish bishop Cornelis Jansen; Alexander VII (16551667) rejected laxism as a moral system; and Alexander VIII (16891691) acted similarly against rigorism. The spiritual teaching of Quietism also received papal disapproval, when Innocent XII proscribed the views of Miguel de Molinos. The most dramatic papal action of the eighteenth century occurred when Clement XIV (17691774), bending to pressure from the Bourbon monarchies and fearing possible schism in France and Spain, suppressed the Society of Jesus in 1773.

The Modern Period

Dramatic shifts in the prestige and authority of the papacy have occurred between the era of the French Revolution and the twentieth century. The popes of this period, faced with the demanding challenges of a new age, have attempted to restore their spiritual authority.

Revolution and restoration

The French Revolution, which began in 1789, and the subsequent actions of Napoleon created a new political order in Europe that adversely affected the Roman Catholic church. With nationalistic fervor, France's new revolutionary government became an instrument of dechristianization, secularization, and anticlericalism. Pius VI (17751799), who had little sympathy with the ideals of the revolution, was unable to deal effectively with such vehement defiance of the Holy See and such massive threats to the very existence of religion. At times it seemed as if the papacy itself would be destroyed. The octogenarian and infirm Pius was taken prisoner by Napoleon and died in exile on his way to Paris. Resistance to Napoleonic aggression continued during the pontificate of Pius VII (18001823). The Concordat of 1801 with Napoleon, which for over a century regulated the relationship between France and the church, revealed that Pius was willing to make concessions for the sake of peace. Yet in 1809 Napoleon captured Rome, annexed the Papal States, and arrested the pope and held him prisoner until 1814. The Catholic restoration began after the defeat of Napoleon: the Congress of Vienna (18141815) returned most of the papal territory to the church, and in 1814 Pius restored the Society of Jesus.

The fall of the monarchy in France and its impact on the rest of Europe weakened Gallicanism, Febronianism, and Josephism. Ultramontanisma propapal movement that began early in the nineteenth centuryadvocated greater centralization of church government and a vigorous exercise of papal primacy. It gained strength under Gregory XVI (18311846), who opposed all revolutionary movements and defended papal primacy, infallibility, and the independence of the church from the state. A great missionary pope, Gregory fully controlled Catholic mission work.

The thirty-two-year pontificate of Pius IX (18461878), the longest in history, was significant. Initially hailed as a liberal, he soon showed his advocacy of ultramontanism. Pius believed that rationalism and secularism eroded both the faith and human society, and he considered a constitutional government for the Papal States to be a threat to the independence of the Holy See. Although many of his ideas isolated the church from the world, he gave the Roman Catholic faithful, with whom he was immensely popular, a new sense of spiritual identity. He restored the Catholic hierarchies of England (1850) and the Netherlands (1853), began a renewal of Marian devotion by his definition of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (1854), and supported extensive missionary activity. His greatest disappointment was the loss of the Papal States in 1870, which ended a millennium of temporal sovereignty. The popes became voluntary prisoners in the Vatican for the next sixty years. Pius's greatest triumph was the First Vatican Council (18691870), which ended abruptly when Italian troops occupied Rome. It produced two constitutions: Dei filius, a reaffirmation of the centrality of revelation, and Pastor aeternus, a definition of papal primacy and infallibility.

Vatican I and modernity

The most formal and detailed exposition of papal prerogatives is found in Pastor aeternus. In regard to primacy it taught that Jesus conferred upon Peter a primacy of both honor and jurisdiction; that by divine right Peter has perpetual successors in primacy over the universal church; that the Roman pontiff is the successor of Peter and has supreme, ordinary (not delegated), and immediate power and jurisdiction over the church and its members; and that the Roman pontiff is the supreme judge who is not subject to review by anyone. In regard to infallibility, Vatican I taught that by divine assistance the pope is immune from error when he speaks ex cathedra that is, when "by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the universal church." Such definitions are "irreformable of themselves and not from the consent of the church." This last phrase is directed against Gallicanism, even though by 1870 it was no longer a major problem. The formidable conception of the papacy at Vatican I was a victory for ultramontanism. Using juridical and monarchical language, it asserted the universal spiritual authority of the pope. The council, however, did not, because of its premature termination, present the papacy within the full context of the theology of the church, and it failed to discuss the relationship between the pope and the bishops.

The popes between Vatican I and Vatican II, individuals of superior quality, had much in common. First, they were all committed to the spiritual restoration of Catholicism, using their magisterial and jurisdictional authority to that end. A profusion of encyclical letters, addresses, and disciplinary decrees helped shape Catholic thought. Second, the popes continued to centralize church administration in Rome by increasing the power of the Roman Curia and the diplomatic corps. The movement toward uniformity in theology, liturgy, and law discouraged particularism. Third, the papal office actively promoted missionary endeavors; newly converted Catholics and immigrants to North America displayed great loyalty to the Holy See. Fourth, the popes, at times reluctantly and unsuccessfully, tried to respond to the demands of a changing world. They sought amicable relations with secular governments, especially through concordats, and worked devotedly for social justice and peace.

The popes of this period continued the ultramontanist policies of the nineteenth century, but with a difference. Leo XIII (18781903), for example, was more open to the positive aspects of modernity. Although he denied the validity of Anglican priestly orders in 1896, he was a pioneer in ecumenism. He supported the revival of Thomism (Aeterni patris, 1879), encouraged Catholic biblical studies (Providentissimus Deus, 1893), and presented the church's position on labor (Rerum novarum, 1891). His successor, Pius X (19031914), desired to renew the interior life of the church, as is shown by his teachings on the Eucharist, the liturgy, and seminary education. The most serious crisis he faced was modernisma complex movement supported by Catholic thinkers in France, England, Germany, and Italy who sought to adapt Catholic doctrine to contemporary intellectual trends. Calling modernism "the synthesis of all heresies," Pius condemned it in Pascendi (1907). During World War I, the complete impartiality of Benedict XV (19141922) brought criticism from all sides. In 1917 he promulgated the first Code of Canon Law. The pope of the interwar years was Pius XI (19221939), noted for his encyclicals on marriage (Casti connubii, 1930) and social thought (Quadragesimo anno, 1931), for his promotion of missionary work, and most importantly, for concluding the Lateran Pacts (1929). Under these pacts Italy recognized the temporal sovereignty of the pope over Vatican City. Finally, Pius XII (19391958), a trained diplomat with broad interests, addressed almost every aspect of church life, and in a prodigious number of pronouncements applied Catholic doctrine to contemporary problems. In Humani generis (1950), Pius XII gave a wide-ranging critique of the theology that followed World War II. Although he encouraged theological speculation, he reaffirmed, for example, the traditional Catholic interpretation of creation, original sin, and transubstantiation and warned against the relativizing of dogma, the neglect of the teaching authority of the church (magisterium), and scriptural exegesis that ignored the tradition of the church. Under Pius, the modern papacy reached an unprecedented level of respect.

Vatican II and postconciliar developments

John XXIII (19581963), elected when he was nearly seventy-seven, began a new era for Roman Catholicism. His open style of papal leadership, enhanced by his appealing personality, was warmly welcomed by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Although he is well known for his efforts in promoting ecumenism and world peace (Pacem in terris, 1963), the pope's greatest accomplishment was the unexpected convocation of the Second Vatican Council (19621965). John designed the council to foster reform and reunion, believing that a contemporary reformulation of the Christian tradition would revitalize the Catholic church and ultimately benefit all humankind. Paul VI (19631978) skillfully maintained the council's pastoral orientation. To implement its program, he established the Synod of Bishops, internationalized and increased the number of cardinals, reformed the Curia, and promoted liturgical reform. He made nine trips outside Italy.

Vatican II supplied what was lacking in Vatican I. Its doctrine of collegiality described the relationship between the pope and the bishops. The Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium ) stated: "Together with its head, the Roman Pontiff, and never without this head, the episcopal order is the subject of supreme and full power in relation to the universal church. But this power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff" (Article 22). The college of bishops, then, exists only under the leadership of the pope, himself a bishop. The pope is not the executor of the bishops' wishes (Gallicanism), nor are the bishops vicars of the pope (papal absolutism). Both the papacy and the episcopacy have their own legitimate authority, and the purpose of collegiality is to unite the bishops with the pope. Yet there remains the difficult theological problem of reconciling papal primacy with episcopal authority. Many theologians argue that there is only one subject of supreme authority in the churchthe college of bishopsand that it can operate in two ways: through a collegial action or through a personal act of the pope as head of the college. Thus every primatial action of the pope is always collegial. The council did not establish any legal norms that would require the pope to consult with the bishops, but nevertheless it posed the moral ideal of cooperation and collaboration that should govern the relationship between the pope and the bishops.

The theory of collegiality has altered the style of papal leadership, making it far less monarchical. The closer relationship between the pope and the bishops is best exemplified by the Synod of Bishops, a consultative body that meets once every three years. Collegiality has made the papacy less objectionable to other Christians since it fosters the idea of authority as service and not domination. This aspect has been noted in the fifth dialogue of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic discussions (1974) and in the Final Report of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (1982). Both groups recognized the value of a universal Petrine ministry of unity in the Christian church and foresaw the possibility of the bishop of Rome exercising that function for all Christians in the future.

Vatican II significantly changed the Catholic Church. Along with progressive reforms, however, there were also reactions that resulted in doctrinal and disciplinary confusion. Thousands of priests and nuns left the active ministry, and some misguided experiments occurred. Dissent over Paul VI's prohibition against artificial birth control in Humanae vitae (1968) caused acute pastoral problems and raised serious questions about the credibility of the papal office.

In 1978 two popes died and two were elected. The pontificate of John Paul I, the successor of Paul VI, lasted only thirty-three days. Breaking a tradition that had endured for more than nine hundred years, John Paul I was not installed by a rite of coronation or enthronement. He rejected the obvious symbols of temporal and monarchical authority and was inaugurated at a solemn mass. Instead of the tiara, he was given the pallium, a white woolen stole symbolizing his spiritual and pastoral ministry. His successor, John Paul II, became the first non-Italian pope in 456 years, the first Polish pope, and the first pope from a Communist country. The most-traveled pope in history, John Paul II earned huge popular appeal with his international pastoral visits. As of May 2003, he had made ninty-nine trips outside of Italy. He personalized the papal office to an extent never before attempted. He had also written fourteen encyclicals, three of which were devoted to social justice and peace, major themes in his teaching: Laboren exercens (1981); Sollicitudo rei socialis (1987), and Centesimus annus (1991). One of the main goals of his pontificate has been the restoration of traditional Roman Catholicism and the promotion of Christian unity. Uneasy with theological dissent (he has censured some theologians), moral laxity, and arbitraty innovations, John Paul II has taken forceful steps to invigorate the Catholic Church. In 1983 he promulgated the revised Code of Canon Law. In an effort to encourage collegiality, he has presided over twenty-one international Synods of Bishops. In October 2003 at the age of eighty-three he celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of his election to the papacy. He has survived two assasination attempts and has become severly affected by Parkinson's disease. John Paul II will undoubtably be judged as one of the most illustrious holders of the Chair of Peter.

The papacy has had a complex but intriguing history. For nearly two millennia, showing remarkable resiliency, it has continued through times of growth and decline, glory and shame, internal and external conflicts, and radical social upheavals. In an age of widespread unbelief and unsettling technological change, the papacy can work to rekindle the spiritual aspirations of humanity.

See Also

Canon; Church; Councils, article on Christian Councils; Crusades, article on Christian Perspective; Ecumenical Movement; Gallicanism; Inquisition, The; Modernism, article on Christian Modernism; Reformation; Schism, article on Christian Schism; Trent, Council of; Ultramontanism; Vatican Councils.


Historical Works

Two standard works on papal history are Johannes Haller's Das Papsttum : Idee und Wirklichkeit, 5 vols. (19501953; reprint, Esslingen am Neckar, 1962), and Franz Xaver Seppelt's Geschichte der Päpste von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts, 5 vols. (Munich, 19541959). Dated in some respects but still very useful are two monumental studies: Horace K. Mann's The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages, 18 vols. in 19, 2d ed. (London, 19251969), which covers the period from 590 to 1304; and Ludwig von Pastor's The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages, 40 vols. (London, 18911953), which concerns the years from 1305 to 1799. Walter Ullmann's A Short History of the Papacy in the Middle Ages (London, 1972) and Guillaume Mollat's The Popes at Avignon, 13051378, translated from the 9th French edition by Janet Love (London, 1963), can be recommended. The papacy in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries is discussed in Owen Chadwick's The Popes and European Revolution (Oxford, 1981); Roger Aubert's Le pontificat de Pie IX, 18461878, 2d ed. (Paris, 1964); and J. Derek Holmes's The Papacy in the Modern World, 19141978 (New York, 1981). More recent histories of the papacy and of the popes include: J. N. D. Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (Oxford, N.Y., 1986); Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (New Haven, Conn., 1997); Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to John Paul II (New York, 1997); and Bruno Steiner and Michael G. Parkers, eds., Dictionary of Popes and the Papcy (New York, 2001). General histories of the church contain much information on the papal office. One of the most comprehensive and reliable is Histoire de l'Église depuis les origines jusqu'à nos jours, 21 vols. (Paris, 19341964), edited by Augustin Fliche et al. There is valuable material on papal documentation in Carl Mirbt's Quellen zur Geschichte des Papsttums und des Rö-mischen Katholizismus, 5th ed. (1895; reprint, Tübingen, 1934), and James T. Shotwell and Louise R. Loomis's The See of Peter (New York, 1927).

Theological Works

An analysis of the biblical evidence is found in Raymond E. Brown et al., Peter in the New Testament (Minneapolis, 1973). For a detailed study of the theology of the papacy see my two works, The Papacy in Transition (Garden City, N. Y., 1980), and The Church Limits of the Papacy: Authority and Autonomy in the Church (New York, 1987). Both books contain full bibliographies. Various theological points are discussed in Papal Primacy in the Church, Concilium, vol. 64 (New York, 1971), edited by Hans Küng; in Karl Rahner and Joseph Ratzinger's The Episcopate and the Primacy (New York, 1962); in Gustave Thils's La primauté pontificale (Gembloux, 1972); and in Jean-Marie R. Tillard's The Bishop of Rome (Wilmington, Del., 1983). For a discussion of the ecumenical dimension of the papacy, see Das Papstamt: Dienst oder Hindernis für die Ökumene? (Regensburg, 1985), by Vasilios von Aristi et al. Excellent articles on the same topic are contained in the following: Papal Primacy and the Universal Church (Minneapolis, 1974), edited by Paul C. Empie and T. Austin Murphy; Teaching Authority and Infallibility in the Church (Minneapolis, 1980), edited by Paul C. Empie et al.; The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission : The Final Report, Windsor, Sept. 1981 (London, 1982); and John Meyendorff et al., The Primacy of Peter (London, 1963).

Patrick Granfield (1987 and 2005)

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  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.