Habemus Papam! (“We Have a Pope!”)

On 03/23/2013, in Catholic, Fact, by Tom Voiland

It First Happened a Long Time Ago

I wonder, when Christ uttered these words establishing the foundation of his Church; “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hell will not overpower it”, if the remaining Apostles announced, “Habemus Papam!”.  Probably not and certainly not in Latin.

Around 33 A.D., following Christ’s ascension into Heaven, Peter took his rightful place as the first among the Apostles and the de facto leader of Christ’s Bride; the Catholic Church.  It wasn’t until years later, when Peter’s evangelising took him west, that he became the first Bishop of Rome.  Although there were, and are, other popes (word translates as Papa) recognized by other Catholic rites such as the Church of Alexandria (Eastern Rite), the Bishop of Rome’s primacy is recognized by all Catholic rites east and west.

In 2007, representatives of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church jointly stated that both East and West accept the fact of the Bishop of Rome’s primacy at the universal level, but that differences of understanding exist about how the primacy is to be exercised and about its scriptural and theological foundations.

The Successor of Peter

Habemus Papam! is the announcement given in Latin by the Cardinal Protodeacon, the senior Cardinal Deacon, upon the election of a new Pope. The announcement is given from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.  There have been 265 Popes; Successors of Peter.  Every Bishop of Rome is the successor of Peter, not the successor of the previous Pope.  Francis I is the 265th Successor of Peter.

As Catholics, we believe that the absolute authority given to St. Peter did not end with his life but was handed on to his successors.  Make no mistake about it, there is only one Peter, the rock that Christ built his Church upon, to whom he gave the keys to the kingdom.  All the men that followed have simply kept his Chair warm.

What’s in a Name?

Popes in the first centuries retained their birth names after their accession to the papacy.  Beginning in the the sixth century and becoming customary by the 10th century, new Popes began to adopt a new name upon their accession to the Chair of Peter.  Since 1555, every pope has taken a papal name.

Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis is the first new Papal name since John Paul I, the 263rd Pontiff.  Prior to John Paul I, it was the 121st successor of Peter, Lando, who chose a new name as Pope in the 10th century.  So why would Cardinal Bergoglio break this centuries old tradition?  Well maybe because he’s the first Jesuit Pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and first outside of Europe in over a thousand years.  No, none of those.  In his own words….

“Some people didn’t know why the Bishop of Rome wanted to call himself ‘Francis’.  I will tell you the story.  At the election I had the archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo next to me.  He is also prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes [O.F.M.]: a dear, dear friend. When things were getting a little ‘dangerous’, he comforted me. And then, when the votes reached the two-thirds, there was the usual applause because the Pope had been elected. He hugged me and said: ‘Do not forget the poor.’ And that word stuck here [tapping his forehead]; the poor, the poor. Then, immediately in relation to the poor I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of war, while the voting continued, until all the votes [were counted]. And so the name came to my heart:: Francis of Assisi. For me he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and safeguards Creation. In this moment when our relationship with Creation is not so good—right?—He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … Oh, how I wish for a Church that is poor and for the poor!”

No matter what name he chooses, what country he is from, whether he is a diocesan or order priest, one thing is for sure.  The Pope is the successor of Peter, the rock, upon whom Christ has built His Church.  And as our Lord promised, the gates of hell shall not overpower it.


3 Responses to “Habemus Papam! (“We Have a Pope!”)”

  1. BahaMan says:


    Another great post!

    I, like you and countless Catholics the world over, are witnessing history. So many “firsts” with Francis I. In my 58 years I have come to understand the central role the Catholic Church has played, and always will play, in spiritual and temporal events across the globe. Holy Mother Church is truly universal.

    At the very start, with the inauguration of this humble successor of Peter (and, it seems, St. Francis of Assisi), world history is being shaped already. And, wonderfully, I am here to see it. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, attended Pope Francis’ installation Mass in Rome on March 19, the first time such an event has taken place since the Great Schism in 1054. Can you imagine what a reunification of West and East would mean? It is beyond historic:

    The following is a condensed version of events taken from Wikipedia:

    The East–West Schism, sometimes known as the Great Schism, is the medieval division of Chalcedonian Christianity into Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) branches, which later became commonly known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church respectively. Relations between East and West had long been embittered by ecclesiastical differences and theological disputes. Prominent among these were the issues of the source of the Holy Spirit (“filioque”), whether leavened or unleavened bread should be used in the Eucharist, the Pope’s claim to universal jurisdiction, and the place of Constantinople in relation to the Pentarchy.

    In 1053, the first step was taken in the process which led to formal schism. Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius ordered the closure of all Latin churches in Constantinople. According to the historian John Bagnell Bury, Cerularius’ purpose in closing the Latin churches was “to cut short any attempt at conciliation”.

    In 1054, the Papal legate traveled to Constantinople for purposes that included refusing to Cerularius the title of “Ecumenical Patriarch” and insisting that he recognize Rome’s claim to be the head and mother of the churches. On the refusal of Cerularius to accept the demand, the leader of the legation, Cardinal Humbert, excommunicated him, and in return Cerularius excommunicated Cardinal Humbert and the other legates.This was only the first act in a centuries-long process that eventually became a complete schism.

    The validity of the Western legates’ act is doubtful, since Pope Leo had died and Cerularius’ excommunication applied only to the legates personally. Still, the Church split along doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political, and geographical lines, and the fundamental breach has never been healed, with each side sometimes accusing the other of having fallen into heresy and of having initiated the division. The Crusades, the Massacre of the Latins in 1182, the West’s retaliation in the Sacking of Thessalonica in 1185, the capture and sack of Constantinople in 1204, and the imposition of Latin patriarchs made reconciliation more difficult. Establishing Latin hierarchies in the Crusader states meant that there were two rival claimants to each of the patriarchal sees of Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, making the existence of schism clear.

    The Second Council of Lyon, in 1274, and the Council of Florence in 1439 attempted to reunite the two churches. Despite acceptance by the participating eastern delegations, no effective reconciliation was realized, since the Orthodox believe that the acts of councils must be ratified by the wider Church and the acts of these councils never attained widespread acceptance among Orthodox churches. In 1484, 31 years after the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks, a Synod of Constantinople repudiated the Union of Florence, officially stating the position that had already been taken by Orthodox in general.

    In 1965, Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras I nullified the anathemas of 1054, although this nullification of measures taken against a few individuals was essentially a goodwill gesture and did not constitute any sort of reunion between churches. Contacts between the two sides continue: Every year a delegation from each joins in the other’s celebration of its patronal feast, Saints Peter and Paul (29 June) for Rome and Saint Andrew (30 November) for Constantinople, and there have been a number of visits by the head of each to the other. The efforts of the Ecumenical Patriarchs towards reconciliation with the Catholic Church have often been the target of sharp criticism from some fellow Orthodox.

    Again, Tom, a great post. Let me close with a brief correction, based solely on my understanding alone, of what you stated below.

    ” Make no mistake about it, there is only one Peter, the rock that Christ built his Church upon, to whom he gave the keys to the kingdom. All the men that followed have simply kept his Chair warm.”

    This statement gives the impression that all Popes sitting in the Chair of Peter DO NOT hold the keys to the kingdom. I assure you they do. You can’t see them, but they have been there, in the hands of every valid Pope, since St. Peter. They are only visible on the Papal Flag of the Vatican City-State.

    The Roman Catholic Church is forever changing yet changeless.

  2. Tom Voiland says:

    Mess with Rome at your peril!!!!!!!!!

  3. Tom Voiland says:

    There’s only one person sitting at the gates of Heaven with a thumbs up or a thumbs down, that St. Peter……….He alone has the keys…….

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