Popes in the Episcopal Lineage of Papabili & ‘Recent’ Popes

Concept and ALL the research by Mr. Byron Hoover, Papal Expert from Louisiana.

Earlier this week Byron sent me an e-mail asking whether I realized that Honduran Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, #7 in my 2009 papabili list, had seven popes in his episcopal lineage — and that this was more than what any of the other papabili had in their lineage. I did not know that. So I asked Byron, who had also helped me with research into popes who had ‘third order’ relationships with religious orders, whether he could research this for me — since I was heads-down researching three other papal topics.

Byron very kindly did so.

He noted that Clement XIII, Benedict XIV and Benedict XIII appear in the lineage of many of the recent popes and as well those cardinals in my list of papabili. He also pointed out that per Catholic tradition the Popes are the successors of St. Peter and the bishops are the successors of the Apostles.

I took Byron’s data and created two graphical matrices that show the popes that appear in the episcopal lineages: the first for my top ten papabili and the other for the last 15 popes. This data is all Byron’s work. Thank you, Byron.

But here are some caveats and notes pertaining to this data and the matrices.

1. The lineages shown here focus exclusively on consecrating bishops who would be or were popes.
2. A bold ‘P’ denotes consecration done by a pope. Most were done before they became pope.
3. In most cases there would have been other bishops in the lineage.
4. For complete lineages please refer to the excellent Catholic Hierarchy portal.
Salvador Miranda, the Cardinal expert, also pointed me to this site by Charles Bransom.
5. We do not have data going beyond the 16th century. So the lineages are not complete!

1. I included sequence numbers, e.g., 261, to provide perspective.
2. I also underlined, in bold, gaps in the sequence of popes.
3. In the ‘Pope’ matrix the ‘X’ denotes that pope’s name within the lineage lineup (below).

This study is much too narrow to tell us whether having popes in ones episcopal lineage is a ‘leading indicator’ as to ones chances of becoming pope. Obviously Pius XI, who was an unexpected long shot, didn’t have any in his lineage.

The incidence of Clement XIII, Benedict XIV and Benedict XIII intrigued me. But, I think we now have the answer. You can read the details either at the Charles Bransom Web site or on Wikipedia under ‘Pope Benedict XIII.’ Mr. Branson even gives it a name: ‘Rebiban Succession’ — since it has to do with Sicilian Cardinal Scipione Rebiba who was consecrated a bishop in March 1541 and created a cardinal in 1555. Wikipedia states (and we know much of their data needs to be verified against other sources) that Cardinal Rebiba appears in over 91% of the episcopal lineages of the current Catholic bishops (who number around 4,000)! [I cannot vouch for the veracity of this claim.] Pope Benedict’s lineage included Cardinal Rebiba. He, a Dominican friar to begin with, was consecrated a bishop in 1675. He became pope in 1724 and reigned till February 1730. He was, thus, a bishop for 55 years. During that time he consecrated at a minimum 139 bishops in Italy, Germany, France, England and in the new Latin American countries. Cardinal Rebiba and Pope Benedict XIII between them, thus, redefined episcopal lineages in many sees across the world. So this trend.

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga’s ‘seven popes’ is noteworthy (and I have to add that Byron is hoping that this will prove to be a good omen since he is hoping that this charismatic cardinal does better than what my rankings suggest).

So here are the two matrices.



Hope you enjoyed this. Thank you again Byron.

Grace, and may peace be with you all.

Anura Guruge


2 thoughts on “Popes in the Episcopal Lineage of Papabili & ‘Recent’ Popes”

  1. The second matrix seems to suggest that it may be possible to have too many popes in your lineage though. I am not sure if the data is available, but it would be interesting to see popes compared to the lineage of their rival contenders as well.

  2. I am not sure about the “too many” aspect, but I too was curious as to whether there could be any correlation between the number of popes in ones lineage and the chances of getting elected pope (though I could not see any logical reason as to why this should be). So I did a quick check. Now you must appreciate that one of the problems we will run into here is that there is never agreement as to who a popes rivals (your word) were before or during a conclave.
    So that said.
    2005 conclave that elected Benedict XVI. He had 3 popes in his lineage. Cardinal Arinze was supposedly (especially per the bookmakers) a major contender. He has 4 popes in his lineage … the oft appearing Clement XIII/Benedict XIV/Benedict XIII trio plus Gregory XVI. So Arinze had one more — but did not win. Cardinal Bergoglio is said to have been the runner-up — though this is but speculation. He has the exact same lineage as Benedict XVI.

    I then checked Cardinal Siri who was a leading papabili in 1978 (at both conclaves) and a name oft mentioned in the prior two conclaves. He had the ‘base-line’ Clement XIII/Benedict XIV/Benedict XIII trio. John Paul I & II had one more in their respective lineages. But I am not sure whether anybody could say whether that was really a factor.

    To be on the safe side, I checked Cardinal Baggio who was a favorite prior to the August 1978 conclave. He had 4 popes in his lineage — the ‘customary’ trio plus Pius IX. So he had the same number as John Paul I — but John Paul I was a rarity in that he was consecrated by a reigning pope.

    To wrap this up, I decided to check one last cardinal. Cardinal Rampolla who was such a huge favorite going into the conclave that Austria decided to veto his election. His lineage only had 3 popes — yes, the customary trio. St. Pius X who did get elected, after the veto attempt (the last in history), also had the same lineage.

    So the bottom line here is that there does not appear to be any correlation. Plus we have to always keep in mind that we do not have records going back past the 16th century. That kind of puts a damper to things. Maybe there are some interesting lineages that we just do not know about.

    Hope this helps.

    Anura Guruge

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