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An antipope (Latin: antipapa) is a person who opposes a legitimately elected or sitting Pope and makes a significantly accepted competing claim to be the Pope,[1] the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Roman Catholic Church. At times between the 3rd and mid-15th century, antipopes were typically those supported by a fairly significant faction of religious cardinals and secular kings and kingdoms. Persons who claim to be the pope but have few followers, such as the modern sedevacantist antipopes, are not generally classified as antipopes, and therefore are ignored for regnal numbering.

In the list of popes given in the Holy See's annual directory, Annuario Pontificio, the following note is attached to the name of Pope Leo VIII (963–965):

At this point, as again in the mid-eleventh century, we come across elections in which problems of harmonising historical criteria and those of theology and canon law make it impossible to decide clearly which side possessed the legitimacy whose factual existence guarantees the unbroken lawful succession of the successors of Saint Peter. The uncertainty that in some cases results has made it advisable to abandon the assignation of successive numbers in the list of the popes.[2]



Saint Hippolytus (d. 235) is commonly considered to be the earliest antipope, as he protested against Pope Callixtus I and headed a separate group within the Church in Rome. Hippolytus was later reconciled to Callixtus's second successor, Pope Pontian, when both were condemned to the mines on the island of Sardinia. He has been canonized by the Church. Whether two or more persons have been confused in this account of Hippolytus,[3] and whether Hippolytus actually declared himself to be the Bishop of Rome, remains unclear, especially since no such claim has been cited in the writings attributed to him.

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