Habemus Papam! (That’s Latin for “We have a Pope!”)

March 15, 2013

This week 76-year-old Argentinean Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope on the fifth papal conclave vote. Fun fact: Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, is the first pontiff from Latin America. To mark the occasion, here are a few more bits of pope-culture.

Pope vote: The vote usually doesn’t take long. Over the past century, the conclave has never lasted more than five days. Longest on record: 33 months, spanning 1268 to 1271. An angry mob got so fed up with the indecision that they literally tore the roof off the building the college of cardinals was staying in and limited their meals to bread and water to inspire them to pick up the pace. (They picked Pope Gregory X, who reigned for four years.

Youngest pope. John XII was only 18 when he was named pope in 955. How’d he swing that? He was part of the Theophylact family, which dominated both Roman and Catholic Church politics at the time.

Oldest pope. Pope Celestine III (elected 1191) and Celestine V (1294) were both 84 when they got the job.

Repeat pope. The only man who got to be pope more than once: Benedict IX. Another member of the Theophylacts, his first term lasted from 1032 (when he was 20) to 1044. His political foes forced him out, but he returned to the papacy in 1045. Political controversies led to him being deposed by a church council again in 1046, but allowed him to regain power in 1047, before ultimately being excommunicated a year later.

Clean-shaven pope. Until the reign of Pope Steven VII, from 928-931, all pontiffs had sported long, flowing beards. Steven was the first to break with tradition.

Pope alarm. Most people found out about the new pope from TV news or the Internet. But FOCUS, a Catholic outreach organization, offered to “The Pope Alarm.” The subscription service sent out text and email messages to thousands of users the moment white smoke emerged from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney.

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