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Popes with the longest and shortest reigns

Posted August. 09, 2014 00:41,   


The Pope is the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. How is the Pope appointed and what authority does he have?

When the seat of the Pope becomes vacant, the Holy See according to church laws holds a conclave (meeting of the College of Cardinals convened to elect a new Pope) to elect a new Pontiff between 15-20 days following the vacancy. The conclave is held in stringent security, completely cut off from the outside world.

The cardinals gather in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Italy. Before the vote, they vow on secrecy and exclusion of external intervention. The Sistine Chapel also goes through a sweep for wiretaps, and an electronic wave block is operated. This is a tradition that began from the days in the past where external forces including Roman aristocrats tried to exert influence over the Papal election.

The vote is anonymous and continued until a candidate wins more than two-thirds of the vote. Although it generally takes two to five days, when electing Pope Gregorio X in 1268, voting continued for two years, nine months, and two days after the first meeting was held. Also in 1851, voting was held for 54 days. When a new Pope is elected, white smoke is emitted through the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

Pope Francis became Pope upon the voluntary resignation of Benedict XVI in March 2013. It is rare for a Pope to step down or forgo his post while he is still alive. They mostly hold the position until they die. Yet there is no way to stop a Pope, who exercises the most power in the Catholic Church, from stepping down on his own. Popes who stepped down were Pontian, Gregory VI, Benedict IX, Celestine V, and Gregory XII.

The Pope is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and has absolute power over the entire Church. His word cannot be disobeyed and all laws and decrees must be authorized by the Pope. He is also the leader of the Vatican City State, which is an independent, autonomous nation.

Seen by nationality, 210 Popes were from Italy, the most from a single nation. They on average keep the post for eight years. The longest holder of the position was the first Pope, St. Peter, who served for 34 years. In 1590, Pope Urban VII died of malaria 12 days since being elected, and was unable to even attend his own inauguration. Leo VIII is the first layman in history to become Pope. He was named a bishop first before taking office.

Popes named “The Great” owing to his religious spirituality and political governance were just two, Leo I and Gregory I. Leo I laid the foundations of the ancient Catholic Church. His books and homilies are evaluated as being significant in Latin literature. Gregorio I, who solidified the medieval Papacy, compiled mass liturgical hymns and other hymns, thereby helping supply Gregorian chants.