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Q: How the Pope chooses his name ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   8 Comments )
Subject: How the Pope chooses his name
Category: Reference, Education and News
Asked by: mccook-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 07 Jun 2004 20:57 PDT
Expires: 07 Jul 2004 20:57 PDT
Question ID: 357949
Through history, is there any definable method by which a new pope
chooses the name he will use during his papacy? My guess is that a
successor to the current pope will be tempted to choose the name John
Paul III to signify his desire to carry on the policies of John Paul
II. But if he chooses a different name, what criteria -- theological,
political, symbolic -- does history suggest he might he use to select
Subject: Re: How the Pope chooses his name
Answered By: joey-ga on 07 Jun 2004 21:26 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
It seems that there's been no real single standard throughout history
for "pontifical onomastics" (e.g. the reasoning behind papal names.) 
Motives have ranged from honoring those who have helped a new pope, to
recalling those who have helped the new popes' families, or even to
reinforcing "political interests".

This last motive can be seen most prominently during the Great Schism
when the Roman Pope-names recalled prior Roman names, and the Avignon
Popes chose the names of Popes partial to France.

In an article by Bernd-Ulrich Hergemöller for "The Papacy: An
Encyclopedia", we find the following regarding "recent" Popes:

From the 16th century, the name chosen has invariably been inspired by
the principle of pietas: PAUL IV, GREGORY XIV, CLEMENT X, INNOCENT XI,
PIUS VIII, and PIUS XII took the names of those predecessors who had
raised them to the cardinalate.

JULIUS III, PAUL V, and GREGORY XV chose the name of the pope who had
launched them on their curial CAREER.

chose the name of the pope who had actively supported their family.

PAUL IV, PIUS V, SIXTUS V, and ALEXANDER VIII adopted the names of
those predecessors whose nephews had contributed to their election.

Taking a predecessor?s name not only was a way of giving symbolic
thanks but also implied the wish to be faithful to a spiritual
heritage. Hence the stereotypical, conservative character of
pontifical names in the modern era. Julius, Marcellus, and Sixtus were
chosen once; as for the others, the choice of names over the roughly
four centuries from the council of TRENT to VATICAN II boils down to
nine: Paul, Pius, Gregory, Urban, Innocent, Clement, Leo, Alexander,
and Benedict. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the name Clement takes
the lead, and then, until 1958, the name Pius.

John XXIII (A. Roncalli, 1958) was the first to take the name of a
medieval pope, thus symbolically emphasizing the end of the ?papacy of
the Piuses.? His successor PAUL VI?s choice was a subjective one,
inspired primarily by a theological consideration. John Paul I was the
first pope in history to adopt a double name, but his choice still
obeyed the principle of respectful pietas toward his predecessors. The
pontifical name of JOHN PAUL II invokes the memory of his three
immediate predecessors.

For volumes of more detail on this topic, please see the following URL:
   -- scroll down to the second page where the notable article begins
   -- please note that you will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader

Please let me know if you have any more questions.


searching strategies:
  1. papal names choose john paul pius gregory
  2. pontifical onomastics
mccook-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
That's first-class work.

Subject: Re: How the Pope chooses his name
From: blue_dreamer-ga on 16 Sep 2004 07:11 PDT
According to some prophecies the next pope will be Benedict XVI
Subject: Re: How the Pope chooses his name
From: goliathan-ga on 28 Dec 2004 08:56 PST
The next Pope will take the name LEO.  Saturn will be in LEO at the
time and may be doing something special.
Subject: Re: How the Pope chooses his name
From: cretinbob-ga on 02 Apr 2005 12:57 PST
Well saturn is in gemini so I'd say Leo is remote, but still possible.
Here is a good no non-sense link about the subject.
Subject: Re: How the Pope chooses his name
From: popedotcom-ga on 04 Apr 2005 17:32 PDT
If the German cardinal is picked, he might choose the name Adrian.
Adrian VI was the last non-Italian before John Paul II, and he was
Subject: Re: How the Pope chooses his name
From: popedotcom-ga on 04 Apr 2005 21:47 PDT
I see speculation that an African might be chosen. If so, I'll go with Gelasius III.
Subject: Re: How the Pope chooses his name
From: mtgdenise-ga on 19 Apr 2005 10:16 PDT
would love to know from where the prophecies come from as it it now
knows that Benedict XVI it is.
Subject: Re: How the Pope chooses his name
From: viper3256-ga on 19 Apr 2005 11:27 PDT
St. Malachy's Prophecies
Subject: Re: How the Pope chooses his name
From: commonsensesays-ga on 19 Apr 2005 11:37 PDT
The cardinals are aware of these prophecies.  Could it be that they
continue to choose the names that have been prophecized to reaffirm
the validity of the prophecies?

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