Pope-elect Stephen

In sources prior to 1961, Pope-elect Stephen is sometimes called Stephen II while Pope Stephen II is called Stephen III.
Stephen II
Papacy began 23 March 752
Papacy ended 26 March 752
Predecessor Zachary
Successor Stephen II
Personal details
Birth name Stephen
Died 26 March 752(752-03-26)
Other popes named Stephen

Pope-elect Stephen was a Roman priest elected pope in March 752 to succeed Zachary; he died of a stroke a few days later, before being ordained a bishop.[1][2] Therefore he is not listed as a pope in the Annuario Pontificio.

In 745, Pope Zachary had made him a cardinal-priest, with the titulus of San Crisogono, the same titulus later held by Cardinal Frederick of Lorraine, who became Pope Stephen IX.

Regnal numbering of popes named Stephen

The regnal numbering of popes named Stephen has changed over the centuries. Regnal numbering was not used for popes until the 10th century, and any numbering attached to earlier popes has been applied posthumously.

Until the 10th century, from 752 to 942, eight men who bore the name Stephen, including this priest Stephen, were elected pope, but only seven reigned as pope. The Annuario Pontificio attaches to its mention of Pope Stephen II a footnote mentioning Pope-elect Stephen: "On the death of Zachary the Roman priest Stephen was elected; but, since he died three days later and before his consecratio, which according to the canon law of the time was the true commencement of his pontificate, his name is not registered in the Liber Pontificalis nor in other lists of the popes."[3]

The first pope to take the name "Stephen" after regnal numbering became customary was called Stephen IX during his lifetime and signed all his documents "Stephanus Papa Nonus", Latin for "Pope Stephen IX".

Later canon law, in force until 1 October 1975,[4] considered the moment when a man became pope to be the moment he accepted his election as pope, and this Stephen was then anachronistically called Pope Stephen II. Some writers, but not all, consequently increased the numbering of later Popes of that name, making them Popes Stephen III-X. This Pope-elect Stephen's name was removed from the list of popes in the Annuario Pontificio in 1961.[5]

Divergent usage led to the use of a dual numbering for these popes, so that they are sometimes referred to as Popes Stephen II (III)–IX (X). This practice is found in the Catholic Encyclopedia,[6] the Annuario Pontificio[3] and the Encyclopaedia Britannica.[7]

See also


  1. Horace Mann, "Pope Stephen II" in Catholic Encyclopedia (New York 2013)
  2. History's great untold stories: larger than life characters & dramatic ... By Joseph Cummins. National Geographic Books. p. 13.
  3. 1 2 Annuario Pontificio 2012 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2012 ISBN 978-88-209-8722-0), p. 11*
  4. On that date, Pope Paul VI changed the law, laying down in his apostolic constitution Romano Pontifici eligendo that (to quote an English version of the document), "88. After his acceptance, the person elected, if he be a bishop, is straightway bishop of Rome, true pope, and head of the episcopal college. He possesses and can exercise full and supreme power over the universal Church. If, however, the elected person does not possess the episcopal character, he is to be immediately ordained a bishop." Pope Paul VI's change of the law was incorporated into the 1983 Code of Canon Law: "Can. 332 §1 The Roman Pontiff acquires full and supreme power in the Church when, together with episcopal consecration, he has been lawfully elected and has accepted the election. Accordingly, if he already has the episcopal character, he receives this power from the moment he accepts election to the supreme pontificate. If he does not have the episcopal character, he is immediately to be ordained Bishop."
  5. Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes (Harper Collins 2013 ISBN 978-0-06228834-9), p. 121
  6. For instance, Pope Stephen II (III)
  7. "Encyclopaedia Britannica".
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