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     Question 87: Why is the Pope required to change his name after being appointed? Would it ever be possible to have a female Pope? Why or why not? 


Answer: As the newly elected pope accepts his new role, it is tradition for him to select a new name, but not required. This papal tradition dates to 533 and the election of Pope John II, whose birth name was Mercurius. Mercurius is derived from Mercury, a pagan Roman god. Believing that a successor of St. Peter should not carry a name belonging to a pagan religion, Mercurius chose to change his name upon his election to honor a previous pope.

While some that followed John II chose to retain their original name, it soon became commonplace for new popes to choose a new name. The name change also symbolizes the new life that the new pope is entering as the head of the Catholic Church. Typically, the new pope selects the name of his favorite Saint or a former pope whom he admires.

Benedict XVI chose his name to honor Pope Benedict XV, whom the new Pope referred to as, "a true and courageous prophet of peace, who sought first to avert World War I and later to limit the slaughter."

There is no possibility that a woman will ever be elected as pope. Those capable of being elected (Papabile), must possess the requirements of the Divine Law for Papal Election, which are: 1. Baptized; 2. Male; 3. A person who has not departed from the Church by schism, heresy or apostasy.

Strictly speaking, any male Christian who has reached the use of reason can be chosen. A layman may also be elected as pope, as was Celestine V (1294).  Even the election of a married man would not be invalid.  Of course the election of a heretic, schismatic, or female would be null and void.

Upon election, the individual would have to be ordained a priest and the Catholic Church has definitively spoken that the priesthood is reserved for males only.




Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved