List of popes

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The list of popes chronologically lists the men who have been given the title Pope (or Bishop of Rome) by the Catholic Church. While there is actually no official list of popes, the Annuario Pontificio, published every year by the Vatican, contains a list that is generally considered to be the most authoritative. The Annuario Pontificio lists Benedict XVI as the 265th Bishop of Rome. That list is the one given here; it lists 263 men serving 265 pontificates (periods of Papal office), if Pope-elect Stephen is excluded (see below). The difference in these numbers is due to the fact that Benedict IX reigned during three non-consecutive periods between 1032 and 1048.

The term pope (Latin: papa "father", "dad") is used in several Churches to denote their high spiritual leaders (for example Coptic Pope). This title in English usage usually refers to the head of the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic pope uses various titles by tradition, including Papa, Summus Pontifex, Pontifex Maximus, and Servus servorum Dei. Each title has been added by unique historical events and unlike other papal prerogatives, is not incapable of modification.[1]

Hermannus Contractus may have been the first historian to number the popes continuously. His list ends in 1049 with Pope Leo IX as number 154. Several changes were made to the list during the 20th century. Antipope Christopher was considered legitimate for a long time. Pope-elect Stephen was considered legitimate under the name Stephen II until the 1961 edition, when his name was erased. Although these changes are no longer controversial, a number of modern lists still include this "first Pope Stephen II". It is probable that this is because they are based on the 1913 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain. In the year 2001 a rigorous study was made by the Catholic Church into the history of the papacy which "prompted almost 200 corrections to the existing biographies of the popes, from St. Peter to John Paul II."[2]

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