Popes I have recalled

For a non-Catholic, I have an irrational interest in the papacy, especially the recent guys. When I was a kid, I always got my World Almanac and once a year, at least, looked at the lists of all of the popes, which included the antipopes, those popes opposed by some faction of the church. As you see from this list from the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were a lot of them, and they tended to be in chronological clusters.

Limiting the discussion to the popes in my lifetime:

Pius XII (1939-58) – I don’t remember him specifically – I was a child when he died – but I had heard for years he had done little or nothing concerning the Holocaust during World War II. Clearly, he said and did far too little, though what he DID say occasionally riled up both the Germans and Mussolini in Italy.

John XXIII (1958-63) – My favorite Pope. I’m shocked, looking back, how short his tenure was. As he was fairly advanced in age, he had the Second Vatican Council convened fairly early on, which “would make a new start toward achieving Christian unity by putting aside the hostilities of the past and acknowledging the Catholics’ share of responsibility for the scandal of a divided Christianity… He received Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant religious leaders with extreme cordiality and made sure they were invited to send observers to the Vatican Council. He removed certain words offensive to Jews from the official liturgy of the church.”

Paul VI (1963-78) – If I were to make a comparison that American political science buffs might appreciate, Paul carried out many of John’s wishes in the same way Lyndon Johnson was able to fulfill John Kennedy’s civil rights agenda. “From the very outset of his years as pope, Paul VI gave clear evidence of the importance he attached to the study and the solution of social problems and to their impact on world peace… Such problems dominated his first encyclical letter…, and later became the insistent theme of his celebrated Populorum progressio (“Progress of the Peoples”), March 26, 1967. This encyclical was such a pointed plea for social justice that in some conservative circles the pope was accused of Marxism.”
The singer Donovan took an unkind swipe at this pope, Poke at the Pope [audio and lyrics].

John Paul I (1978). There was an 88-day New York City newspaper strike in 1978, which shut down the New York Times, the Daily News and the Post from mid-August through early November. It missed, among other things, the Yankees repeating as World Series champions, and the entire papacy of John Paul I. Of course, his short tenure has led to much speculation that he had been poisoned. He was the last Italian pope.

John Paul II (1978-2005) – Over time, I have developed real mixed feelings about him. On one hand, he worked toward bringing down Communism and made efforts towards Christian reconciliation with the Jews. Conversely, he was lousy on the sex abuse issue and is retrograde regarding the status of women. His comic book was quite popular.

Benedict XVI (2005—2013). I worried about him even before he took office, as his conservative rhetoric as cardinal preceded him. My concern proved to be warranted with regard with gays, e.g.

His greatest achievement, besides being the first pontiff on Twitter, and an appreciation of art, was becoming the first pope since the Gutenberg Bible was printed to reign in office, right after he received news of a warrant for his arrest. It already has made it into MAD magazine, and, of course, the Onion.

The first thing I wrote on Facebook after the surprising announcement was to suggest that the next guy will be from the Americas, Africa, or Asia. The cardinal from Ghana had spent time in the Albany area. But will the faithful accept a Hispanic, a black or an asian? I think we’re about to find out.

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6 thoughts on “Popes I have recalled”

  1. As a Protestant born and raised, now non-theist, I couldn’t possibly care less who the old men in the Catholic Church choose to be the next pope. However, from my totally biased perspective, it’s hard for me to see how the next pope could possibly be any worse than Joseph Ratzinger.

    The first pope I remember is Paul VI, along with a poster from the 60s: “The pope says the pill is a no-no”. I didn’t care what the pope said then, and nothing has changed since.

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  2. I don’t give much thought to the papacy as I’m not Catholic, nor do I agree with much of the tenants of Catholicism. I guess the only remaining question is whether St. Malachy’s purported “prophesy of the popes” will prove true or false! 😉

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  3. I think that after viewing the American experience of the first black President the Vatican will avoid African or Oriental; but there are plenty of light-skinned Hispanics who wouldn’t frighten the poor Caucasians too badly while attracting the Latin American world.

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  4. I admit, having been raised Episcopalian (a stone’s throw from Catholicism), that there is no love lost between me and all the Popes, excepting Juan Pablo Dos. JPII was quite the challenge for the old guard, which is why the brought in Benedict… who looked like the Penguin, acted like he was ready to singlehandedly drag the church back to the stone age, and of course, hated women’s reproductive rights. It Benedict had grown up in Sicily and emigrated to America, I have no doubt his nickname would have been “Joey the Rat.” And I do hope he is arrested, because there is a lot of money coverups, abuse, and other shenanigans that he could have curtailed as Bishop. He did NOTHING.

    I also do believe the conspiracy theories about John Paul I. He was apparently ready to sort of the Vatican Bank and its deep ties to the Mafia, and no one wanted that investigated. All it takes is a shot between the toes to silence even a Pope.

    Popes and royalty: Overprivileged, overfed, overdressed. Any person claiming to follow Jesus and living in splendor should be recredentialed. That goes for Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, and a plethora of “spiritual” guys like Wayne Dyer, who was not content to simply be a motivational speaker… Amy

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