This post is in response to a comment earlier this week by one of our readers. Given my interest in papal names it is a topic that I should have covered sooner, so I am grateful to Mr. Hoover for gently prodding me. Thank you Mr. Hoover.
In my opinion there are nine possible ‘top tier’ names that are likely to have considerably appeal to the next pope-elect. These nine names [with the relevant ordinals] being:
1/ John XXIV
2/ John Paul III
3/ Benedict XVII
4/ Pius XIII
5/ Clement XV
6/ Paul VII
7/ Leo XIV
8/ Gregory XVII
9/ Innocent XIV
The ranking shown here, with ‘John’ and ‘John Paul’ at the top, is in the main arbitrary. All nine of these names are august and auspicious.
The name chosen by the next pope is his exclusive prerogative — with no rules, formulas, restrictions or conventions to get in the way.
The name ‘John Paul I’ contained three naming innovations. Thus, there is nothing to stop the next pope from coming up with his own set of naming innovations. I know that there are some that are not ‘thrilled’ with the notion of twofold names. Though it is always an option, one can hope that we might not see the introduction of another twofold name.
I, however, have to say that ‘John Paul III’ is a distinct possibility.
With the exception of Cardinals Daniel Nicholas DiNardo and Sean Baptist Brady, who received their red birettas from Pope Benedict XVI last year, all of the other recognized papabili [at present] were made cardinals by Pope John Paul II [who during his 26 year papacy created an unprecedented total of 231 cardinals]. The two new papabili cardinals also became bishops during Pope John Paul II’s tenure. About 16% of the 125 popes known to have assumed a new papal name have done so to honor a mentor — in particular the pope that made them a cardinal, archbishop or bishop.
With ‘John Paul’ a new pope can, in effect, also pay homage to four much venerated popes: John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI and John XXIII. So ‘John Paul III’ has a head start over most of the other names.
Prior to Pope John XXIII the name ‘John’ had not been used for 624 years — the prior John [Baldassare] (XXIII) having been an antipope with a rather colorful past which had included a stint as a bona fide sea-faring pirate! John XXIII, universally beloved, totally rehabilitated the name — the most prevalent of the papal names [with 21 legitimate popes with that name]. John XXIII was beatified, by John Paul II, on September 3, 2000. This adds further luster to this name. Thus, ‘John XXIV’ has to be a possibility and is likely to please many.
I do discuss other factors that could influence the name of the next pope in my book “Popes and the Tale of Their Names.” So I will conclude this post for now … because I am kind of ‘heads down’ writing another germane book on papal history. If you have any questions, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail.
Many thanks for your time. Grace, and may peace be with you.