Longest Serving Popes In The History Of The Catholic Church

Pope John Paul II, one of longest serving popes (1978-2005), riding the Popemobile in St. Peter's Square in 2004.

The title, Pope, is derived from the Latin word, papa, meaning, father, which in Greek is "pappas". The Pope is head or leader of the Roman Catholic Church and resides in the Vatican City in Rome, Italy. The Current sitting Pope is Pope Francis, who belongs to the Jesuit Order. He is also head of state of Vatican City, an independent sovereign state. Pope Francis was elected on March 13, 2013, after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. The Office of the Papacy is considered as one of the most powerful in the world due to its cultural and diplomatic influence.

Longest Serving Popes

The Early Church had no temporal power until 476 in the early Middle Ages. The periods of the Ostrogothic Papacy, Byzantine Papacy, and Frankish Papacy was when the Papacy initially held temporal powers that lasted until Napoleon Bonaparte attacked Rome. But after Napoleon was defeated, the Papacy gained back its powers. Each of these Popes held the title for more than two decades, with the first and most famous Pope carrying the title longest in his reign as Vicar of the Catholic Church.

Saint Peter was the first Pope (30-67 AD) who reigned for 37 years. He was the leader of the Apostles and from Bethsaida, Galilee. Peter was the founder of the Church of Antioch. He was crucified upside down by the Romans under Nero. Pius IX (1846-1878) reigned for 31 years, 7 months and 23 days. He was from Italy and the last pope who held temporal powers. He was proclaimed a saint in the year 2000. Italy (1978-2005) reigned for 26 years, 5 months and 18 days. He was elected after the short 33-day reign of Pope John Paul I. He is from Poland. Leo XIII (1878-1903) reigned for 25 years, 5 months and 1 day. He was from Italy and the oldest pope. Pius VI (1775–1799) reigned for 24 years, 6 months and 15 days. He was from Italy and reigned during the terrible years of the French Revolution. Adrian I (772–795 AD) reigned for 23 years, 10 months and 25 days. He was from Rome, son of a Roman noble. He ordered the minting of the earliest papal coin. Pius VII (1800–1823) reigned for 23 years, 5 months and 7 days. He was from Italy and a candidate for sainthood. Known for his levitation miracle while celebrating mass. Alexander III (1159–1181) reigned for 21 years, 11 months and 24 days. He was from Italy and belonged to a noble family. He was contested by an antipope but prevailed. Sylvester (314–335 AD) reigned for 21 years, 11 months and 1 day. He was from Italy and was known as having cured Constantine the emperor of a disease. Leo I (440–461 AD) reigned for 21 years, 1 month, and 13 days. He was from Italy and persuaded Attila the Hun not to attack Italy. Known for his Tome on western Christology.

Cultural and Historical Significance

World Historical records attest to the importance of the Office of the Papacy throughout the ages. Although at the start, the Office of the Papacy did not have any temporal power. During the reign of Emperor Constantine, temporal power was given to the papacy. These temporal powers are secular and political in nature, separate from the Pope's pastoral and spiritual activity. The four powers became effective in resolving many doctrinal challenges. The most significant influence was in the teaching and conversion of the world's population to Christianity. The Popes in earlier times also acted as a mediator in European conflicts. Today, the Papacy holds pastoral and spiritual powers that reach out to the world by charitable work, ecumenism, interfaith dialog, and human rights defense.

Longest Serving Popes In The History Of The Catholic Church

RankPopeEra of Papal Reign
1Saint Peter30-67 AD
2Pius IX1846-1878
3John Paul II1978-2005
4Leo XIII1878-1903
5Pius XI1775–1799
6Adrian I772–795 AD
7Pius VII1800–1823
8Alexander III1159–1181
9Sylvester I314–335 AD
10Leo I440–461 AD

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