25 Interesting Facts about Vatican Popes

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1 Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

When Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation in Latin, the Vatican reporter who broke the story was the only one in the room who could actually understand the announcement.

2. Pope Fabian served as Pope from 236-250 A.D. During the election, he was not under any serious consideration until a dove landed on his head which signaled to everyone present that the Holy Spirit had marked him as the next Pope.

3. Pope Pius XII, who is often criticized for not speaking forcefully against Hitler, supervised a rescue network which saved nearly 860,000 Jewish lives, which is more than all the international agencies combined.

4. In 2013, Pope Francis opted out of the classic Popemobile and chose a blue Ford Focus.

5. Pope Leo X had a pet elephant named Hanno. He treated it like a prince. The elephant ate the scraps of the papal banquets thrown by Leo. However, this didn’t support Hanno’s natural diet and he soon suffered from digestive problems. To treat him doctors gave Hanno a gold-infused enema which killed him.

6 Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI doesn’t know how to drive and never got a driver’s license. But he does have a helicopter pilot’s license and even liked to fly the papal helicopter when he was Pope.

7. 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.

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

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

10. 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.

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11 Pope 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.”

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. Pope Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests for abusing children.

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16 John 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.

17. Pope John XII is said to have died either during sex with a married woman or was beaten to death by her husband. It was among many other scandalous acts he performed, some of which included affairs, toasting to the devil, ordaining 10-year-old boys as a bishop, etc.

18. Pope Stephen VI once dug up the body of a previous Pope (Pope Formosus), put it on trial for bribery and rule-breaking and mocked him for being silent in front of the entire Vatican. The defendant lost the case.

19. Before becoming Pope, Pius II wrote in 1448 an erotic novel, which became the best-selling book of the 15th century. The book named “Historia de amantibus” translates to “The Tale of the Two Lovers.”

20. Pope Leo XIII outlined the rights of workers to a fair wage, safe working conditions, and the formation of labor unions while affirming the rights of property and free enterprise, opposing both Atheistic Marxism and laissez-faire capitalism.

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21 Pope Urban VIII

Pope Urban VIII

Pope Urban VIII forbade Catholics from using the powdered form of tobacco known as snuff because of its tendency to cause sneezing, which he viewed as dangerously akin to sexual ecstasy.

22. Pope Gregory IX considered cats to be the ‘incarnation of Satan,’ which led to a mass killing of cats, which resulted in the rat population to swell. This therefore quickened the spread of the Black Death in Europe.

23. Pope Sylvester II allegedly built an autonomous brazen head and ascended to the papal throne by making a deal with a demon. 

24. Pope John Paul II liked Yoo-hoo chocolate milk. As Popes do not give commercial endorsements, a subsequent statement from his spokesman denied that the pontiff had any particular preference among American milk drinks.

25. Pope Julius II was a military man who led the papal armies to battle frequently. When he saw Michelangelo carving his statue with a bible in hand he exclaimed “What do I know of Bibles? I am a warlord, give me a sword instead.”

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