This date in history: The 33-day pope

This date in history: The 33-day pope

Folks in the U.S. are still excited over the six-day visit of Pope Francis. Hundreds of thousands turned out to see the pontiff as he took part in numerous events, including a final Mass in the streets of Philadelphia.

It's ironic that today is the anniversary of the death of one of the shortest serving popes. Cardinal Albino Luciana was selected to succeed Pope Paul VI in 1978.  He took the name John Paul as a way of honoring his two predecessors.

Prior to his election, Luciana was told by Cardinal Jaime Sin of the Philippines, that even though he wasn't the favorite, he would be the new pope. The 65-year old was chosen on the fourth ballot, and afterward thanked Sin, calling him a prophet. The new pontiff then added some prophecy of his own, telling Sin that "…my reign will be a short one."

Truer words were never spoken. John Paul ascended to the papacy on August 26, and was dead just a month and two days later. He was found sitting up in his bed, the victim of a likely heart attack.

At least, that's what the Vatican reported, although rumors abound that he was murdered. Here is a link that discusses those rumors.

Incredibly, John Paul's death, a mere 33 days into his papacy, is not the shortest reign by a pope. His is actually the tenth shortest, which means being elected pope is apparently not good for your health.

First on the list is Pope Urban VII, who died just 13 days into his papacy in 1590. He's followed by Boniface VI, who passed away 16 days into his reign in 896 and Celestine IV, who made it to 17 days in 1241.

A lot of folks may not be familiar with John Paul's brief period as pope, mainly because of the popularity of his successor. Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland was a compromise candidate, whose reign as John Paul II was so successful that he's been declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

It's too early to tell if Pope Francis could achieve that status, but he certainly impressed the masses during his U.S. visit.

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