14 things you didn’t know about being pope
Have you watched The Young Pope or The New Pope on Showmax and thought, “Hang on – surely the pope can’t sin like that!” in just about every scene, you’d be surprised to learn that the holy father isn’t always as squeaky clean in real life as people think.
Sure, he’s leading a global religion and promotes the Word of God, but in the past, popes were as corrupt and sinful as the people begging them for divine forgiveness.
While it is nice being the main man of a religion, living in a country that’s basically yours (the Vatican City is 0.44km2 in size, is in the centre of Rome and has a population of 1 000) and being respected by the most powerful people in the world (as well as millions of your followers), being pope is also one of the most fascinating and dangerous jobs on the planet.
You won’t believe half of what you’re about to read about the pope…
There’s no age limit
While most popes have been elected at the age of 50 and above, the youngest was Pope John XII who was 18 when he was appointed in 955.
Statistically, it’s one of the most deadly jobs on the planet
Forty-two of the 266 popes in history have been martyred and assassinated. Methods include crucifixion (Saint Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ, 67AD); drowning with an anchor tied to their neck (Pope Clement 1, 99AD); forced to work to death in mines (Pope Pontian, 235AD); poisoned and beaten to death (Pope John VIII, 882AD) and strangled (Popes Stephen VI in 897AD and Leo V in 903AD).
You need to be fluent in Italian and Latin
The pope is also the Bishop Of Rome, so he’s got to be fluent in Italian. That’s the easy part – mass has to be officially conducted in Latin, a language that hasn’t been spoken since the Roman Empire (27BC-1453AD).
Even the pope has to go to confession
While it’s not a requirement, the pope is expected to attend the sacrament of confession on a monthly basis. The late Pope John Paul II had weekly confessions until his death in April 2005.
Healthcare is extremely affordable in the Vatican
Popes pay $0.75 (R11.51) for any prescription, X-rays and other medical procedures thanks to The Vatican’s Health Assistance Fund program.
Pope Alexander VI was one of the most corrupt in history
Pope Alexander VI created cardinal positions within the church during his reign from 1492 to 1503 for wealthy “donors” who helped fill The Vatican’s coffers.
The Vatican may be wealthy but the pope has zero possessions
The Vatican has assets and over 33 000 bank accounts with a net value of over $33 billion (R490 billion), but the Pope doesn’t actually have any material possessions. And if he wants anything, he simply has to ask for it and The Vatican supplies it. He’s also head of The Vatican Bank.
A pope is pope until his death
When the pope dies, there’s no more pope… until a new one is voted on. The Papal Conclave is made up of the College Of Cardinals, who’re locked in the Sistine Chapel and they vote by ballot. A chimney outside the chapel will either show black smoke (no successful vote) or white (a new pope has been appointed).
Feeding the pope is a tricky business
The pope isn’t allowed to eat in public and he has a team of chefs who travel with him to make sure that not only is his preferred food served, that it’s also not poisoned.
The shortest papal reign lasted 24 hours
Pope-elect Stephen suffered a fatal stroke a day after being elected head of the church in March 792, following the death of Pope Zachary, and wasn’t officially installed to the title.
Popemobiles aren’t confined to the Vatican
There are 20 official popemobile cars around the world that are kept under lock and key for visits by the pope.
The pope’s shoes are made by exactly one person
The official papal cobbler is Milan-based shoemaker Adriano Stefanelli, who handmakes the €400 (R6 500) shoes himself.
You don’t want to mess with the Swiss Guard
The Swiss Guard are the official ceremonial “army” of the pope, although they are highly trained in small arms, close-quarter and unarmed combat following Pope John Paull II’s attempted assassination in 1981 when he was shot by Turkish hitman Mehmet Ali Agca (the pope absolved and forgave him for the crime). The Swiss Guard is also the world’s oldest continuous military unit, having been protecting the pop since 1471.
An ancient prophesy declares that there will only be one more pope after Pope Francis
According to the Prophecy Of Popes, current Pope Francis will be the second-last leader of the church – after him, Peter The Roman is prophesied to take the papal throne, leading to the destruction of Rome and the Catholic church.