Papabili Names — What They Mean, Part I (of II)

Given that I am associated with the analysis of Papal names, it would be remiss of me if I did not study the names of my top ten papabili list for 2009 and make some comments on names.

My top ten, in order, as they appear in are: Odilo Pedro Scherer (Archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil), Ennio Antonelli (President, Council for the Family, Vatican curia), Marc Ouellet (Archbishop of Québec, Canada), Wilfrid Fox Napier (Archbishop of Durban, South Africa), Angelo Scola (Patriarch of Venice, Italy), Philippe Xavier Barbarin (Archbishop of Lyon, France), Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga (Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras), Christoph Schönborn (Archbishop of Vienna, Austria), Agostino Vallini (Vicar General of Rome, Italy), and José da Cruz Policarpo (Patriarch of Lisbon, Portugal).

I published my list on December 11, 2008 and documented some of my justifications here. That was two months ago. Since then I have done a ton more of research on my top ten, and written up my findings. I am relieved to say that I am still ‘OK’ with my list – though I will confess to being torn between Cardinals Maradiaga and Scherer as to who is best qualified to be the leading Latin American candidate. For now, I will stick with my original rankings.

At one point I was even weighing the pros and cons of being from Brazil vs. Honduras. My father worked for UNESCO for 17 years and during that time I got to learn that there are times when it pays to be from a smaller country. Lets wrap this up by remembering that we have had eight Secretaries-General of the UN, since its formation in 1945. They have come from: Norway, Sweden, Burma, Austria, Peru, Egypt, Ghana and South Korea.

This out of the way, let’s start looking at the names. None of them, as far as I can tell, are related to prior popes. So I will begin with the birth names of the first five – in order. I will write about the next five and my ideas about what assumed names they may select in two other posts – within the next few days.

‘Odilo,’ is Germanic, and means rich [with Cardinal Scherer’s family being of Germanic origin]. That is a good name for the Cardinal who has indeed led a rich life of devotion and service. We have not had any popes whose birth name was ‘Odilo.’ But we have had two ‘Odos’, viz. Urban II and Martin V, were ‘Odo’ comes from the German for waelthy.

Since I do not study middle names, nor put too much stock in the so called St. Malachy prophecies (though I did mention them in my Pope Names book), I had not given any attention to his middle name being ‘Pedro’ – i.e., ‘Peter.’

Even if you subscribe to St. Malachy’s contested (believed to be a later addition), last prophecy about ‘Peter the Roman,’ it is going to be quite a stretch to associate that appellation to Odilo Scherer. For a start it is his middle name. Though he did live in Rome between 1994 and 2001, working for the Congregation of Bishops, one could hardly call him ‘Roman.’ He is Brazilian, of German origin. That would be like calling me French because I lived in Paris for awhile!

‘Ennio,’ from the Latin ‘Ennius,’ means predestined or favorite of God. We haven’t had any popes with this name or those whose names in Greek or Hebrew meant the same. But we have had a famous ‘Enea,’ viz. Pius Pius II.

‘Marc’ is the shortened French form of the Latin ‘Marcus’ – a name derived from, and honoring, the Roman god of war Mars. We have had four popes whose names invoke Mars. They are: St. Marcellinus, St. Marcellus I, St. Mark and Marcellus II. The first two on this list were consecutive popes, while Marcellus II [1555] has the distinction of being the last pope not to have assumed a new name – his birth name having been ‘Marcello.’ Marcellinus, Marcellus and Mark, in the case of the first three, were either birth or priestly names. Since the reigns of these three popes were between 296 and 336 we really do not have anything more specific as to their names. I know that most Catholic parent’s oft for Mark in honor of St. Mark, but I often wonder if they know the real derivation of the name.

As I talk about in my Pope Name book, the first known pope to have assumed a papal name, i.e., John II, did so because his birth name ‘Mercurius’ referred to the Roman messenger god. He thought the name was inapporiate for a pope. But the last pope, to date , retain his birth name propogated, without any apparent sense of irony, the name of the Roman war god.

Pictures of Ripon Cathedral from my 2003 Calendar
Pictures of Ripon Cathedral from my 2003 Calendar

‘Wilfrid’ is a variant of ‘Wilfred’ and means desiring peace. We haven’t had a pope with this name or its equivalent, in any language. It is a promising name. If elected pope, maybe he will opt to retain it given its germaneness in today’s world [John Paul I, in 1978, demonstrating that it is ‘OK’ to be innovative when it comes to papal names]. There is a well revered English Saint, St. Wilfrid — associated with one of my favorite places in the world, Ripon. The cardinal probably got his name from this Saint. There are many British organizations and charities associated with this Saint — some of which have strong relations with South Africa. So this may be the connection. ‘Fox’ is also new to the papal lexicon, where this name is believed to have been given to babies born with red hair.

‘Angelo’ means angel and refers to the messenger of God. Most people probably know that the beloved, Blessed John XXIII was Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. But most probably don’t know that Gregory XII [1406-1415] was Angelo Correr (or Corrario). Pius IV [1559-1565] was Giovanni (Gian) Angelo de Medici. Innocent XIII [1721-1724] was Michelangelo dei Conti while Pius VI [1775-1799] was Giovanni Angelo Braschi. Just in case you were wondering Cardinal Angelo Scola was born in November 1941, seventeen years before Angelo Roncalli became pope.

Part II dealing with the other five papabili to follow shortly. Promise.

Thank you for your time.

Grace, and may peace be with you.

Anura Guruge


2 thoughts on “Papabili Names — What They Mean, Part I (of II)”

  1. Must be my irritabile gens awakening before sunrise today but I have my question about all the Marks and Marcos and Marcelli etc being derived from Mars or Ares god of war in the Roman or Greek pantheon probably Etruscan too but I cant recall their version like Aplu for Apollo or Menvra for Minerva etc.
    After all of the four evangelists one is called Marcus Marc Mark Marco etc and if the other three are Hebraic or Aramaic names Matthew Luke John then it stand to reason that Marc must be also. Matthaios Lukas Ioannes. All greekified hebrew names n’est pas?
    There are many other Greek and Latin names which by coincidence or design are identical or near cognate of Hebrew or Aramaic, so there is nothing spectacularly odd about Marc being both.

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