Year of Three Popes

The Year of Three Popes is a common reference to 1978, when the College of Cardinals of the Catholic Church was required to elect two new popes within the same calendar year. This resulted in the Catholic Church being led by three different popes during the same calendar year.

The Popes involved were:

  1. Pope Paul VI, who died on August 6, having been elected in 1963
  2. Pope John Paul I, who was elected on August 26 but died thirty-three days later on September 28
  3. Pope John Paul II, who was elected on October 16 and who held office until his death in 2005

There have been several instances in which three or more popes have held office in a given calendar year. Years in which the Roman Catholic Church was led by three different popes include:

  • 827: Pope Eugene II — Pope Valentine — Pope Gregory IV
  • 896: Pope Formosus — Pope Boniface VI — Pope Stephen VI
  • 897: Pope Stephen VI — Pope Romanus — Pope Theodore II
  • 928: Pope John X — Pope Leo VI — Pope Stephen VII
  • 964: Pope Leo VIII — Pope Benedict V — Pope John XIII
  • 1003: Pope Silvester II — Pope John XVII — Pope John XVIII
  • 1187: Pope Urban III — Pope Gregory VIII — Pope Clement III
  • 1503: Pope Alexander VI — Pope Pius III — Pope Julius II
  • 1555: Pope Julius III — Pope Marcellus II — Pope Paul IV
  • 1590: Pope Sixtus V — Pope Urban VII — Pope Gregory XIV
  • 1605: Pope Clement VIII — Pope Leo XI — Pope Paul V
  • 1978: Pope Paul VI — Pope John Paul I — Pope John Paul II

There was also a year in which the Roman Catholic Church was led by four popes, called the Year of Four Popes:

  • 1276: Pope Gregory X — Pope Innocent V — Pope Adrian V — Pope John XXI

Famous quotes containing the words year and/or popes:

    But she is early up and out,
    To trim the year or strip its bones;
    Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950)

    “Mother” is the first word that occurs to politicians and columnists and popes when they raise the question, “Why isn’t life turning out the way we want it?”
    Mary Kay Blakely (20th century)