Pope-elect Stephen


Pope Stephen (papacy 752-757).jpg
Papacy began23 March 752
Papacy ended25 March 752
SuccessorStephen II
Created cardinal745
by Zachary
Personal details
Birth nameStephanus
Died(752-03-25)25 March 752
Previous postCardinal-priest of San Crisogono (745–52)
Other popes named Stephen

Pope-elect Stephen (died 25 March 752) was a Roman priest elected pope in March 752 to succeed Zachary; he died of a stroke two days later, before being consecrated 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[edit]

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 retroactively.

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 that a man became pope at the moment when he accepted his election to the papacy, and Pope-elect 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.[5] This Pope-elect Stephen's name was removed from the list of popes in the Annuario Pontificio in 1961.[6]

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,[7] the Annuario Pontificio[3] and the Encyclopædia Britannica.[8]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ a b 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. ^ For example, see Rev. Joseph Deharbe, S.J., A Full Catechism of the Catholic Religion (translated by Rev. John Fander; 1863), p. 60-61.
  6. ^ Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes (Harper Collins 2013 ISBN 978-0-06228834-9), p. 121
  7. ^ For instance, Pope Stephen II (III)
  8. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. 1973. ISBN 9780852291733.