Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Modern Era Popes

While we wait for the new pope to be elected, we should also take some time to appreciate the past. I find papal history fascinating.  Some of my favorites are the early modern popes, from the time photography was invented.

Pius IX (reigned 1846 to 1878) was the first pope to be photographed. He also changed the United States' status from a missionary territory, creating American dioceses and archdioceses.

Leo XIII (reigned 1879 to 1903) was the first pope to be filmed with a motion picture camera, and the first pope to have his voice recorded. He is also the oldest pope so far, living to be 93 years old. It's a shame his cause for canonization has not been advanced yet.

Pius X (reigned 1903 to 1914) is the most recent pope to be declared a saint. He is also the most recent pope known to perform miracles while he was alive (there are several documented cases where he healed crippled and dying children).  A very holy man.  We could use another pope like Pius X.

Benedict XV (reigned 1914 to  1922) had a noble and regal look to him.

Pius XI (reigned 1922 - 1939) was pope while America was going from the silent movie era to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Pius XII (reigned 1939 to 1958) has been, over the last couple decades, slanderously vilified for being a Nazi sympathizer.  This is false, revisionist history as the facts show Pius XII did all he could to save Jews from the Holocaust (certainly more than Franklin Roosevelt ever did), and many Jewish leaders of the day, such as Golda Meir, praised Pius XII.

John XXIII (reigned 1958 to 1963) had a short pontificate, but lasting effects to this day.

Paul VI (reigned 1963 to 1978), with his Grinch-like eyebrows, had perhaps the worst pontificate of the 20th Century.  Under him, the Vatican II council went from discussing how the Church should deal with the modern world, to the Church submitting to the modern world. The Missal of John XXIII was replaced only a few years after being promulgated, for the casual and humanist centered Novus Ordo.  Priestly vocations dropped dramatically, while a vast number of clergy renounced their ministries.  The clergy sex abuse scandal and alleged cover up hit its peak during his pontificate.  Jesus Christ promised the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church, but it came awfully close during Paul VI's pontificate. His cause for sainthood should be put on indefinite hold.

John Paul I (reigned 1978) had one of the shortest pontificates in history. However I have very vivid memories of him, as his pontificate happened when I was a child.  I remember being quite sad when he died because I really liked him.

John Paul II (reigned 1978 to 2005) was the superstar pope.  He had the tough task of beginning the process of undoing all the damage caused during Paul VI's reign, while building his own legacy as the pope who traveled to the people.

And of course Benedict XVI (reigned 2005 to 2013), who is considered to be the most brilliant theologian of the last 300 years.

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