18 Shocking Facts About Vatican Popes and Their Controversies

1Pope Peter

Pope Peter

Pope Peter, the first Pope, had ulnar nerve damage, giving his papal blessings the distinctive look with the pinky and ring fingers bent down because he couldn't straighten them. All the other Popes copied him.

2Pope Joan

Pope Joan

According to legend Pope Joan served as Pope for several years until her gender was discovered when she had a baby.

3Pope Francis & John Paul II

Pope Francis & John Paul II

Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II are honorary members of the American basketball team - Harlem Globetrotters.

4Pope Alexander VI

Pope Alexander VI

In 1494, Pope Alexander VI decreed that any land inhabited by non-Christians could be colonized by Europeans on the basis of "discovery". In 1823 this decree by the Pope was upheld by the US Supreme Court in the Johnson v. M'Intosh case, setting a legal precedent for Manifest Destiny.

5Pope Innocent III

Pope Innocent III

Pope Innocent III waged a massacre against the Cathars. When he was asked how to tell Cathars apart from the Catholics, the papal legate's reply was “Kill them all, the Lord will recognize His own.”

6Pope Celestine V

Pope Celestine V

Pope Celestine V realized 5 months into his Papacy that he wished to return to his humble pre-papal life, so he resigned from the position. Due to fears that people would continue to think Celestine was the “true pope”, Celestine’s successor imprisoned Celestine until his death in 1296.

7Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II

In 2001, Pope John Paul II entered and prayed in a mosque, and even kissed the Qur'an, in an effort to improve religious relations with Islam.

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8Pope Pius IX

Pope Pius IX

In 1858, Pope Pius IX ordered the kidnapping of a 6-year-old Jewish boy named Edgardo Mortara because the boy had been secretly baptized by a Christian servant, to raise him as a Catholic. The Pope resisted international outrage and pressure, and the kid was never returned to his family.

9Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests for abusing children.

10John Paul I

John Paul I

John Paul I (1912-1978) was the last Pope who avoided the typical papal regalia and tried to make major progressive reforms to Church doctrine. He died just one month into his papacy under mysterious circumstances. The Church has never investigated his death.

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