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240 Popes Trivia Questions, Answers, and Fun Facts

How much do you know about Popes? This category is for trivia questions and answers related to Popes (Religion). Each one is filled with fun facts and interesting information.
Related Questions & Answers:   Patron Saints    John Paul II    Peter   
1 St. Peter, the first pope, was martyred by the Romans. How was he killed?
Answer: Crucified on a cross upside down

Pope St Peter was appointed by Christ. He was the first pope and ruled about 33 AD to 67 AD. St Peter's Basilica in Rome is named for him. At that time, Roman Emperor Nero persecuted the Christians, having them put to death. (Nero even had his own mother murdered for her lack of loyalty.) It is said that when the Romans sentenced St Peter to be crucified, Peter felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ, so the Romans crucified him upside down.
  From Quiz: Early Popes and Catholic History
2 After a two-year impasse following Pope Nicholas IV's death in April 1292, which event caused the cardinals assembled at Perugia to surprisingly elect Pietro di Morrone, a hermit, as the new pope?
Answer: Pietro sent the cardinals a letter decrying the delay

The cardinals assembled at Perugia to elect a new pope knew that Pietro di Morrone was a Benedictine hermit and unfit for the job. However, when he sent them a letter warning of divine wrath if they procrastinated any longer it was seen as a 'sign' - the catalyst they needed. The dean of the College of Cardinals, Latino Malabranca, immediately declared the hermit as the new pope - and the cardinals concurred.

Ending a two-year impasse, this was the Church's last non-conclave papal election. One of the first issues the reluctant new pope tackled was to reinstitute Gregory X's conclave system (established by the papal bull 'Ubi periculum').
    Your options: [ Pietro sent the cardinals a letter decrying the delay ] [ Hungarian invasion of Naples ] [ Mount Vesuvius erupted ] [ Civil unrest caused by famine ]
  From Quiz: Thymes that Try Men's Soles
3 Everybody knows that Saint Peter the Apostle is regarded as the first Pope, but who was the second one?
Answer: St. Linus

When St. Linus was born is uncertain. Several sources identify him with Linus, the associate of the Apostle Paul, mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21. "The Oxford Dictionary of Popes" states St. Linus was the first bishop of Rome. His papacy began in 67 and ended in 79. Roman Catholics celebrate his feast on September 23, while members of the Eastern Orthodox Church commemorate him on June 7.
  From Quiz: Ten Residents of the Appartamento Pontificio
4 Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected to the Papacy in 2013 under unusual circumstances, though not of his doing. His predecessor made the decision to resign, an act which hadn't occurred in nearly 600 years. Who was it?
Answer: Benedict XVI

Benedict resigned due to age without any external pressure. The last pope to resign was Gregory XII, though he resigned in 1415 due to external pressure. The last pope to resign without external pressure was Celestine V in 1294.

After Benedict resigned, he gained the title "Pope Emeritus".
    Your options: [ Paul VI ] [ John Paul II ] [ Benedict XVI ] [ John XXIII ]
  From Quiz: Francis, The People's Pope
5 What was Alexander VI called before he became pope?
Answer: Rodrigo Borgia

Rodrigo Lanzol was born in Valencia in 1431, and he took his mother's last name Borgia (or Borja) when his maternal uncle became pope. He then took the name Alexander VI upon his own election as pope in 1492.
  From Quiz: The Life of Alexander VI
6 When was Gregory XII elected Pope?
Answer: 1406

Gregory XII was Pope from 1406 through 1415. He resigned his office on July 4, 1415.
  From Quiz: Pope Gregory XII
7 Which pope initiated the Second Vatican Council (aka "Vatican 2"), which encouraged priests to celebrate Mass in the local language rather than Latin?
Answer: John XXIII

John XXIII opened the council in 1962 but died the next year. The work continued under his successor, Paul VI.
    Your options: [ John XXIII ] [ Innocent II ] [ Peter I ] [ Boniface VIII ]
  From Quiz: Historic Popes
8 Pope Francis (Jorge Bergoglio) was born in which South American country?
Answer: Argentina

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. He was one of five children born to immigrant couple Mario José Bergoglio and Regina María Sívori.

Bergoglio was 76 years old when elected Pope on 13 March 2013, which at the time made him the 9th oldest Pope to assume the role. However, he was still almost two years younger than Joseph Ratzinger, his predecessor, was when he became Pope Benedict XVI.
    Your options: [ Argentina ] [ Brazil ] [ Peru ] [ Bolivia ]
  From Quiz: Frankie Goes to the Vatican
9 Why did Pope Benedict XVI say he decided to retire in February 2013?
Answer: lacked the strength to continue

In his address to the Cardinals on 10 February 2013, Pope Benedict stated: "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry."

He also stated that to serve the Church, "...both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me...". He set a retirement date of 8pm, 28 February 2013.

Although, beginning in the 1990s, the Catholic Church had been scandalized by revelations of child abuse perpetrated by clergymen, this was not cited as a reason for Benedict's retirement.
  From Quiz: Benedict, Farewell
10 Pope Linus, who was the second head of the church, issued which adornment decree about women?
Answer: Their heads must be covered in the church

Pope Linus was head of the church from 67-76 AD, and was its second pope. He created the church's first fifteen bishops during his pontificate. It is believed he was a close friend of the apostle Paul, and was no doubt influenced by Paul's attitude towards women as a result. Born in Tuscany, but with his birthdate unknown, he passed away in Rome in the year 76. He died a martyr, but the facts surrounding this death are unclear, or whether this martyrdom even took place at all.
    Your options: [ They must obey their husbands ] [ They should enter the convent if unmarried ] [ They should chastise their children every Sunday ] [ Their heads must be covered in the church ]
  From Quiz: Interesting Facts on the Popes
11 What color shoes does the Pope traditionally wear?
Answer: Red

Pope Benedict resumed the wearing of red shoes. This had been done for centuries until Pope John Paul II was elected in the later part of the 20th century. These red shoes have always been made by the Pope's personal cobbler. Rumors that these shoes are made by Prada are completely false.
  From Quiz: The Papacy
12 The "Fisherman's Ring" is given to the newly elected Pope by whom?
Answer: Cardinal Camerlengo

The ring is usually worn on the right hand and a new ring is cast for each new Pope. The Camerlengo determines the cause of death of the reigning Pope and must remove the "Fisherman's Ring" during this procedure.
  From Quiz: Popes, Past and Present
13 This person is generally recognised as the first Pope, although the title wasn't in use at the time. One of the Twelve Disciples, he died around 67 AD. Who was he?
Answer: St. Peter

Relatively little is known for certain about the early Popes, but it is generally accepted that Peter became the leader of the Christian Church sometime around 30 AD and, like many prominent figures in early Christian history, was eventually martyred for his faith.

According to the Bible, Peter was a Galilean fisherman. His original name was probably Shimon bar Jonah but the name he was given by Jesus, "Peter", is an interesting play on words in both Greek (the language of many early Christian writings) and Aramaic (the language of ancient Israel): in both languages it is almost identical to the word for "rock". The words of Jesus about Peter being the "rock" upon which the Church would be built can be interpreted as both an instruction to Peter to become a foundation of the Christian faith, and an indication to those who followed later to regard Peter as the earthly leader of the faith.

St. Peter is the Patron Saint of many things, including fishermen, net makers, shipwrights, the Papacy and (with St. Paul the Apostle) the diocese of Las Vegas, Nevada.

(On a lighter note... Do you know the Sunday School song, "I will make you fishers of men"? As a mischievous youngster I used to sing "I will make you vicious old men" instead! Tsk, tsk!)
  From Quiz: Pick of the Popes - Part I
14 In 1978 Karol Wojtyla of Poland became Pope John Paul II, but the great majority of popes have been Italian. Before his election, for how many years had the papacy been held by an Italian?
Answer: 455

Before John Paul II, the last non-Italian was Pope Adrian VI (1522-1523) who was Dutch. John Paul II was the 264th Pope and a whopping 217 of his predecessors were Italian.
  From Quiz: A Pot-pourri of Popes
15 For how many years did Pope Leo reign?
Answer: 21

He reigned for 21 years, from 440-461. His reign ended upon his death on November 10, 461. No one knows his exact age as his birth date is unknown.
  From Quiz: Pope Leo I
16 Benedict XVI is the second non-Italian pope in the row. What nationality was the last pope of foreign origin before John Paul II?
Answer: Dutch

Adrian VI was a Dutchman, even if some count him among the German popes. He was born in Utrecht, which at that time belonged to the Holy Roman Empire. He was pope for a short time, from January 1522 till September 1523.
  From Quiz: Foreign Popes
17 Before assuming his papal name, what was Benedict XVI's full name?
Answer: Joseph Alois Ratzinger

Joseph Alois Ratzinger was born in the small town of Marktl am Inn on 16th April 1927 during the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. He was the youngest of three children. His parents, Josef and Maria, were devout Roman Catholics, and both Joseph and his elder brother Georg were influenced by them in their later decisions to become priests.
  From Quiz: Benedict XVI - the 265th Pope
18 John Paul I was born on 17th October, 1912, and was baptized on the same day. Why was he baptized so quickly?
Answer: The midwife who delivered him thought he would not survive.

He was born in Forno di Canale, Italy, and named Albino Luciani at his baptism. The midwife who delivered him believed, from his sickly appearance, that he would not survive so he was quickly baptized. In fact he grew into a strong youth in the mountainous area in which he was raised.
  From Quiz: The Life and times of Pope John Paul I
19 What document was given to the pope that gave him temporal power over Rome?
Answer: Donation of Constantine

This was found by the Frankish King Pepin in A.D. 756. It was supposedly written by Emperor Constantine in the middle of the fourth Century. It gave the Bishop of Rome temporal power over the city of Rome. In the early 1400s, Lorenzo Valla found this article to be fake and it is still considered to be one of the greatest forgeries every written.
  From Quiz: Past Pope Pizzazz
20 How many men held the title of Pope during the 20th Century?
Answer: 9

Nine men held the office of Supreme Pontiff during the 20th Century. They were: Leo XIII (1878-1903), St. Pius X (1903-1914), Benedict XV (1914-1922), Pius XI (1922-1939), Pius XII (1939-1958), Blessed John XXIII (1958-1963), Paul VI (1963-1978), John Paul I (1978) and John Paul II (1978-2005). Leo XIII is included on this list because his papacy overlapped into the early 20th Century.
  From Quiz: 20th Century Popes
21 Which 19th century Pope led the Church for over 31 years?
Answer: Pius IX

His reign lasted from 1846 to 1878. During his reign he initiated the First Vatican Council, during which he made papal infallibility a dogma of the Church.
    Your options: [ Leo XIII ] [ Leo XII ] [ Pius IX ] [ Gregory XVI ]
  From Quiz: Do You Know Your Popes?
22 Pope St. Miltiades of Africa was the first pope to serve free of Roman persecution after Constantine released what document, in 313 AD?
Answer: Edict of Milan

Emperor (Saint) Constantine I, and Licinius of the Balkans met in Milan and gave the Christians legal status. Constantine also directed the building of The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, at the site where it was believed Christ was buried. However, Constantine was not actually baptized until he was on his death bed in 337 AD.
  From Quiz: Early Popes and Catholic History
23 Why did Pietro di Morrone - a Benedictine hermit aged 79 - initially refuse to accept the papacy, only doing so after coercion?
Answer: He was a hermit, craving solitude

Pietro di Morrone's reaction when he was summoned to be crowned the new pope was absolute horror. He craved solitude and did not want to change his simple life. Finally, he was coerced by a deputation of cardinals and the King of Naples to accept the position. It is unclear how they changed his mind. On 5 July 1294 he took the name Celestine V and was crowned at Santa Maria di Collemaggio in the Abruzzo city of Aquila.
  From Quiz: Thymes that Try Men's Soles
24 The basic level of church administration in most Christian denominations is the parish. The creation of parishes is attributed to what Pope, who hailed from Bethlehem, Judea, the birthplace of Jesus Christ?
Answer: St. Evaristus

St. Evaristus was the fifth Pope. His predecessor was St. Clement I, the disciple of St. Peter. St. Evaristus' papacy began in 97. It is suggested that St. John, the "apostle whom Jesus loved" and author of the Revelation, died during the first years of St. Evaristus' term as Pope. Evaristus partitioned Rome into parishes, then called "titles" and assigned a priest for each one of them. He died in 107, when Trajan was the Emperor of Rome.
  From Quiz: Ten Residents of the Appartamento Pontificio
25 In his early life, Francis worked many secular jobs including as a janitor, a chemical technician, and even as a bouncer for a bar before ultimately joining what Catholic group?
Answer: Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

Interestingly, Francis once considered leaving the seminary after he took a liking to a young woman in his youth. However, he continued his studies and joined the Jesuits; he is the first pope to have been a member of the order.
  From Quiz: Francis, The People's Pope
26 Alexander wasn't the first pope from his family. What was the name of his uncle who was pope 35 years before Alexander?
Answer: Callixtus III

Callixtus III was pope from 1455-1458. Callixtus made his nephew Alexander (then still called Rodrigo) a cardinal in 1456.
  From Quiz: The Life of Alexander VI
27 Pope Gregory XII reigned during a period of great turmoil within the Roman Catholic Church. During this time there were often two (sometimes more) men who each claimed to be the true Pope. By what name is this period referred to in history?
Answer: The Western Schism

The Western Schism should not be confused with the Great Schism, which refers to the split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, which began in 1054, and continues to this day. The Western Schism began in 1378, when Urban VI was elected Pope. Many of cardinals who voted for Urban VI soon regretted their choice, and later that same year elected another candidate, who took the name Clement VII. Urban VI refused to resign, and so there were two Popes, each of whom regarded his election as legitimate. Some countries recognized Urban VI, while others, such as France and Scotland, backed Clement VII. The divisions were largely political, rather than theological.
  From Quiz: Pope Gregory XII
28 Legend has it that a woman was pope during the Middle Ages. What was her name?
Answer: Joan

Pope Joan was supposedly a brilliant woman who dressed as a man. Her true sex was discovered only after she became pregnant and gave birth. As ingriguing as the story is, most historians believe it to be fiction.
  From Quiz: Historic Popes
29 Like many of his countrymen, the future Pope Francis grew up in an immigrant family. What nationality was his father?
Answer: Italian

The largest group of migrants to Argentina have come from Italy--even more than Spain. It is estimated that 60% of Argentines have Italian ancestry (about 25 million people), including the country's first pope.
  From Quiz: Frankie Goes to the Vatican
30 How old was Benedict XVI when he retired?
Answer: 85

Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was born in 16 April 1927 in Marktl-am-Inn, Bavaria, Germany. He was ordained in 1951, at age 24. After teaching at the University of Bonn, he became Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977 and Cardinal in 1993. From 1981 to 2005 he was Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- also known as the Roman Inquisition (not to be confused with the Spanish Inquisition, which nobody expects).

He retired first to the Castel Candolof, and then, once renovations were complete, to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the northern section of the Vatican Gardens.
  From Quiz: Benedict, Farewell
31 The eighth pope, Telesphorus, was head of the church in a period when most of the liturgy of the holy mass was already established. However, he did instigate several other traditions of the church. One of these was related to Christmas. What was it?
Answer: Christmas Midnight Mass

Telesphorus was pope from 126 to 137 AD. He was the eighth pope, or, in other terminology, the seventh pope after Peter. Greek by birth, he lived as a hermit on Mount Carmel prior to assuming office. Other traditions he is believed to have instigated during his pontificate were celebrating Easter on Sundays, and the seven week period of Lent leading up to Easter. His date of birth is also unknown, but, as with almost all the popes, his date of death is also the closing date of his papacy.
    Your options: [ Santa Claus ] [ The star on the top of the Christmas tree ] [ Christmas trees ] [ Christmas Midnight Mass ]
  From Quiz: Interesting Facts on the Popes
32 In 1533 Pope Clement VII excommunicated which English monarch?
Answer: Henry VIII

Pope Clement ordered the excommunication of King Henry VIII and his new wife Anne Boleyn. This was one of the actions that led to the establishment of the Church of England and aided the rise of Protestantism. Earlier, in a sign of mourning after the Sack of Rome in 1527, Pope Clement VII had grown a beard which he kept until his death. The next 24 Popes followed suit.
    Your options: [ Edward VI ] [ James I ] [ Henry VIII ] [ George III ]
  From Quiz: The Papacy
33 What links Pope Celestine V and Pope Gregory XII?
Answer: They both resigned from the papacy

Celestine V resigned in 1294. He was elected after the death of Pope Nicholas IV. He did not want to be Pope as he wanted to live a simple life, and he issued a decree in 1294 stating any Pope had the right to resign.

And Gregory XII resigned in 1409. He resigned due to the strong support for other Popes elsewhere, vying for authority.
  From Quiz: Popes, Past and Present
34 Early Popes very often used their personal name as their Regnal (Papal) name. The 177th Pope, Lotario (or Lothario) dei Conti di Segni, used a Papal name which had an almost opposite meaning to the modern colloquial meaning of "Lothario". Which Pope was he?
Answer: Innocent III (1198-1216)

Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) was a politically "muscular" pontiff: he was involved in the politics of the 4th Crusade, wanted to be solely responsible for appointing the Holy Roman Emperor, and convened the 4th Lateran Council. He was Pope during the reigns of English Kings Richard I and John, and excommunicated John in 1209 for refusing to accept his choice of Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury.

The name Lothario has come to mean "libertine" or "rake" - someone who behaves in a less than "innocent" manner. This association was not extant at the time of Innocent III's Papacy, but was only used after 1703 when a character named Lothario appeared in Rowe's play "Fair Penitent".

It is interesting to note that many of the "official" Papal names are associated with virtues: a case of presenting a positive image to the world, perhaps? Certainly, some of the earlier Popes were noted for their less than virtuous behaviour.
    Your options: [ Clement III (1187-91) ] [ Pius III (1503) ] [ Honorius III (1216-27) ] [ Innocent III (1198-1216) ]
  From Quiz: Pick of the Popes - Part I
35 There is a story (almost certainly untrue) that a woman disguised as a man once became pope. What name is she usually known by?
Answer: Pope Joan

The legend of Pope Joan is first recorded in the middle ages and told of a pope in the ninth century who was only discovered to be a woman when she gave birth during a papal procession. Historians today believe that this was merely an anti-papal satire.
  From Quiz: A Pot-pourri of Popes
36 Which pope did Leo replace?
Answer: Sixtus III

Pope Sixtus III ruled over the Roman Catholic church from 432-440 and his feast is kept on March 28th. He reigned during the Nestorian and Pelagian controversies, and was accused of being to lenient on the so-called heretics. During his time as pope, he restored the Basilica of Liberius, now known as St. Mary Major, as well as enlarging the Basilica of St. Lawrence-Without-the-Walls. Celestine I reigned from 422-432, Pope Urban IV reigned from 1261-1264, and Pope Urban VI reigned from 1378-1389.
    Your options: [ Celestine I ] [ Sixtus III ] [ Urban IV ] [ UrbanVI ]
  From Quiz: Pope Leo I
37 Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Pope John Paul II, was born in which Polish town?
Answer: Wadowice

Wadowice is a town in southern Poland, 50 km from Krakow. Karol Wojtyla was born there on May 18, 1920. He died in Rome, on April 2, 2005.
    Your options: [ Krakow ] [ Wadowice ] [ Katowice ] [ Warszawa ]
  From Quiz: Foreign Popes
38 What was the profession of Pope Benedict XVI's father?
Answer: police officer

His father, Josef Ratzinger, was a police officer who held strong anti-Nazi views which created problems for his family, forcing them to move regularly. He was also a devout Roman Catholic, and objected to local officials wanting to adopt various pagan customs which were thought to be in accordance with Nazi tradition. Josef Ratzinger retired in 1937 at the age of sixty, and both he and his wife Maria survived the war.
  From Quiz: Benedict XVI - the 265th Pope
39 At the time of his birth, what was the profession of John Paul I's father?
Answer: glassblower

Giovanni Luciani was a glassblower by trade. His wife's name was Bortola, and they had four children, Albino (later John Paul I) being the eldest. One of his brothers, Federico, died young. They were a relatively poor family, and this may later have influenced John Paul I in his compassion for the poor and rejection of some of the richer trappings of the papacy.
  From Quiz: The Life and times of Pope John Paul I
40 According to some interpretations of the Bible, who gave the Popes their spiritual power and established the "Doctrine of Petrine Supremacy"?
Answer: Jesus Christ

The "Doctrine of Petrine Supremacy" was given to Pope Peter I by Jesus Christ. It gave Peter, and all popes to come, supreme spiritual power over Rome. It can be found in the Bible under Matthew 16:18-19. (It should, of course, be noted that many Christian churches do not recognise this authority.)
  From Quiz: Past Pope Pizzazz
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