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"A handy reference work stunningly illustrated."—National Catholic Reporter. Updated to include Pope Benedict XVI.
For nearly two thousand years the popes have not only shaped the course of one of the world's great religions but have also played a part—sometimes a dominant part—in the history of Europe. Martyrs, monks, noblemen, Franciscans, Dominicans, hermits, and even unordained laymen have occupied the throne of St. Peter. This book recounts the lives and deeds of all 266 ...
"A handy reference work stunningly illustrated."—National Catholic Reporter. Updated to include Pope Benedict XVI.
For nearly two thousand years the popes have not only shaped the course of one of the world's great religions but have also played a part—sometimes a dominant part—in the history of Europe. Martyrs, monks, noblemen, Franciscans, Dominicans, hermits, and even unordained laymen have occupied the throne of St. Peter. This book recounts the lives and deeds of all 266 popes, from Peter to Benedict XVI.
With timelines, datafiles, quotations, and copious illustrations, Chronicle of the Popes is an essential reference book and a source of discovery and inspiration about one of the richest and most diverse institutions on earth.
The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Papacy from St. Peter to the Present
Copyright © 2006 P. G. Maxwell-Stuart
All right reserved.
THE RISE TO POWER
The papacy began with a personal conversation between Jesus and Peter. Peter figured prominently during Jesus's ministry and after Jesus was crucified, Peter's role of leader became ever more clearly acknowledged so that those who succeeded him consistently tried to identify themselves with him and the position he had held in the infant Church. The new Church's initial concern was to survive, and to cope with both the indifference and hostility of the Roman State. Each successor of Peter -- or 'bishop of Rome' -- was forced to seek some kind of accommodation with the secular power while maintaining his claim to supremacy over all other figures in the growing Church. The Church tried to centralize itself in Rome, the seat of secular power and the place where St Peter had died, and in doing so inevitably made the bishop of Rome, or 'pope' as he was becoming known, a political figure and, to some extent, a secular ruler in his own right.
When the Roman empire split into a Western half and an Eastern half with Christianity the State religion of both, it was the pope alone, with his claims to supremacy over the whole Church, who might providea unifying force in a disintegrating and changeable world. Under Pope Leo I (440-461), the Western emperor recognized that the pope enjoyed primacy over all bishops of the empire. But Leo's successors had to fight to maintain this pre-eminent position until the accession of one of the greatest of the early popes, Gregory I (590-604), ensured that the papacy once again revived its flagging spirits and prestiges.
As [Peter] went out of the gate he saw the Lord entering Rome; and when he saw him, he said, Lord where are you going? And the Lord said to him, I am coming to Rome to be crucified. And Peter said to him, Lord, are you being crucified again? He said to him, Yes, Peter, I am being crucified again. And Peter regained his senses; and he saw the Lord ascending into Heaven. Then he returned to Rome rejoicing and giving praise to the Lord, because he said, I am being crucified [since] this was to happen to Peter.
Acts of Peter 35
St Peter is an important figure in the history of the Christian Church. While Jesus was alive, Peter was prominent among the rest of the disciples, often singled out by Jesus for special attention. He seems to have been a head-strong, emotional man, but one of deep faith and fearlessness once Jesus had finally departed. During the early years of the Church he took the lead in preaching and spreading the Christian message both in and beyond the Levant. He successfully defended himself and others when they were arrested and brought before the religious authorities of the day; and so potent was his reputation as a healer that people carried their sick to him on stretchers and laid them on the ground, hoping that his shadow might fall on them, and thus cure them, as he passed.
The bones found in the grave beneath St Peter's Basilica (see p. 16) are those of someone in his late 60s. If they do belong to Peter, it suggests that he and Jesus were about the same age, although if theories about Christ's being born in 7 or 5 BC are correct, Peter may have been somewhat younger. He came from Bethsaida, a town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, not far from the River Jordan. Its name means 'the house of fishing' or 'the house of the fisherman'. His father's name was Jonas and he himself was called Symeon or Simon until Jesus changed his name to 'Peter'. With his brother Andrew, and in partnership with James and John, sons of Zebedee, he earned his living as a fisherman.
By the time Jesus began his ministry, however, Peter had married and moved to Capernaum to live with his mother-in-law. After being called to discipleship he travelled with Jesus, gradually acquiring the foremost place among the Twelve Apostles, a place which seems to have been rendered unassailable when, according to Matthew (16.13-20), Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was and Simon answered, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God'. Jesus's reply to that has echoed down the ages and his words have formed the basis of all subsequent papal claims to supremacy: 'Thou art Peter [Greek for 'rock'], and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'
Henceforth Peter, despite his impulsive nature, clearly plays the leading role among the growing band of the disciples. Three times Jesus committed them to his care. Peter was the first to enter the empty tomb, the first of the Apostles to whom the resurrected Jesus showed himself, the first to perform a miracle of healing. It was Peter who explained the meaning of Pentecost to the crowd; who took the lead in electing Matthias to fill the place of Judas; who sat in judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira who had tried to cheat the Church. Warm-hearted, prickly, impulsive, but profoundly faithful, he possessed a leader's charisma. As the early Church struggled to find its feet, Peter travelled widely, preaching, converting, curing the sick, raising the dead and ministering to fledgling Christian communities throughout the northern Levant. Specific details of his movements, however, become increasingly sketchy. In 43, he was arrested by King Herod Agrippa I but released from prison by miraculous means. In 49, he presided over a Church council in Jerusalem where he decided that Gentiles should be admitted to full membership of the Church without needing to submit themselves first to the full rigour of the Jewish ritual law. Thereafter he seems to have gone to Antioch which, according to tradition, claimed him as its first bishop.
Finally, he went to Rome. In spite of the silence of the New Testament on this point, early Church writers are in agreement that he worked and died there; and according to the historian Eusebius (c. 260-c. 340) he was executed during the reign of Nero (54-68). This probably indicates that he died during the persecution of 64, following the immense fire which destroyed three of the capital's 14 districts and damaged seven more, and for which, rightly or wrongly, the Christians were blamed. Jesus had prophesied long before that Peter would be crucified (John 21.18). The tradition that he asked to be crucified upside down (presumably to avoid invidious comparison with the crucifixion of Jesus), goes back to the Alexandrian theologian Origen (c. 184-c. 253). It could be true. But the legend, recorded by the apocryphal 2nd-century Acts of Peter, that he was executed because he induced the concubines of the city prefect Agrippa to leave him and henceforth remain chaste, need not be taken seriously.
The Acts go on to say that when Peter died, an important Roman convert, Marcellus, took down his body from the cross, washed him in milk and wine, and buried him in a marble coffin full of mastic (a type of resin), myrrh, aloes and Attic honey. Within 20 years, we are told, Pope Anacletus, third in the pontifical succession, had raised a memorial shrine over the grave: and thus the scene was set for a long and tangled archaeological history which was to lead to Pope Paul VI's announcement and the reburial of a man's skeleton beneath St Peter's Basilica (see p. 16).
There follows a sequence of more or less shadowy popes, all based in Rome, about some of whom not a great deal is known beyond pious legend. All have been canonized.
Linus (c. 66-c. 78) is supposed to have been appointed pope by Peter and Paul acting in concert, and if these dates are anywhere near correct, he will have been pontiff when Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus in August 70, and may have seen the hordes of prisoners in Rome, labouring on the massive new Flavian amphitheatre (the Colosseum). He was succeeded by Anacletus (c. 79-c. 91), to judge by his name a Greek and perhaps originally a slave. Dubious tradition says that he, like Linus, was martyred for his faith. Next in the line of succession is Clement I (c. 91-c. 101). There is a tradition that he was ordained by St Peter and acted as a kind of auxiliary bishop to Linus and Anacletus. But suggestions that he was a cousin of Emperor Domitian, martyred for his adherence to Christianity, must be counted simply as legend. Excavations in Rome, however, raise the possibility that the Church of San Clemente may actually have been built on the site of his house. Of the various writings attributed to him, only one seems to be authentic, the Epistle to the Corinthians, written because there had been some kind of a revolution among the Christian community at Corinth; and we may perhaps conjecture that it was Clement's personal prestige in the early Church which caused later historians to attribute other works to him. Accounts of his martyrdom are equally late and equally legendary.
Then come Evaristus (c. 100-c. 109), whose Greek name means 'pleasing' or 'acceptable'; the completely obscure Alexander I (c. 109-c. 116); and Sixtus I (c. 116-c. 125), who may have got the name 'Sixth' because he was counted as being the sixth in line after St Peter. With Peter as the first pope, however, his name does not quite fit. Nor does it go with what seems to have been a trend at this time for Greek names among the popes. The alternative for 'Sixtus', however, is 'Xystus', a Greek word meaning 'shaved', and perhaps the epithet indicates a personal peculiarity. For Sixtus lived during the reign of Emperor Hadrian who, after a long time during which shaven cheeks had been the norm, had brought back into fashion the full beard. Telesphorus (c. 125-c. 136) is another Greek name meaning 'bringing fruit to perfection' or 'accomplishing one's purpose'. There appears to be a gap of two years between his reign and that of Hyginus [c. 138-c. 142), but all dates of this period are highly conjectural. Hyginus means 'wholesome, sound, healthy'. Irenaeus, the Catholic theologian, tells us that during his reign the heretic Valentinus came to Rome. Valentinus was the most prominent leader of a group of Gnostics -- people who claimed superior knowledge of things spiritual -- who counted themselves as members of the Church but worshipped a Mother Goddess and acknowledged a complex hierarchy of heavens and angelic powers. Christ, in this system of belief, was a redeemer but not one recognizable by orthodox Christian theology. Valentinus himself was keen to remain within the Church, but it is scarcely surprising that circumstances eventually compelled him to leave it. He stayed, however, in Rome, a potential thorn in the flesh not only for Hyginus but for the next two popes as well.
There followed Pius I (c. 142-c. 155), whose Latin name means 'dutiful' and is unusual in that it is only the second Latin name or title in the list of the first 12 popes. Could he have chosen it because he was elected pontiff during the reign of Emperor Antoninus (138-161) who acquired the sobriquet 'Pius' as a title of respect? Pope Pius, however, unlike the emperor who had a remarkably peaceful reign, had a great deal to contend with during his pontificate. Not only was Valentinus still active in Rome; so also were other highly unorthodox teachers such as Cerdo, a Syrian, who taught that there were two equal gods, one good, the other evil, and that Jesus was the son of the former: and Marcion who said that the Church was wrong to pay any attention to the Old Testament (or, indeed, to most of the New), and that Jesus was not the Messiah foretold by the Jewish prophets. Anicetus (c. 155-c. 166) -- the Greek name means 'unconquered' -- was followed by Soter (c. 166-c. 174), whose Greek name means 'deliverer' or 'preserver', and we have a letter which records the pastoral care given by Rome, and by Soter in particular, to poor and unfortunate Christians wherever they were in the empire. After him came Eleutherius (c. 174-189). The Greek means 'free-spirited, frank'. Hegesippus, the 2nd-century historian, tells us he had been deacon to Anicetus. During Soter's pontificate the heretic Montanus had made an appearance in Phrygia. He and his followers were notable for their religious raptures during which they spoke in strange tongues and uttered prophecies. Convulsions and mass hysteria seem to have been hallmarks of Montanist meetings, and the notion that these enthusiasts were under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit and constituted an elite whose task was to restore the primitive simplicity of the Church proved immensely popular in both eastern and western parts of the empire. Eleutherius, according to Tertullian -- an important Church writer and a convert to Montanism -- was at first favourably inclined to the sect but later rejected it. In doing so, he made a significant choice. Henceforth it would be seen that spiritual governance was to be done by a hierarchical institution rather than by the dictates of individual feeling, however charismatic.
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