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July 19, 2006


Steve Cavanaugh

This shouldn't be that strange an idea to someone, since, in addition to Jimmy's example of the name "Christian", there are common names like Faith, Charity, Prudence, Mercedes, Hope, etc., some of which are more common today than others.


Yes, Jimmy, but the real question is what's the explanation behind the popes named "Innocent?"


And what was Pope St. Hilarius trying to tell us with his name?


"Yes, Jimmy, but the real question is what's the explanation behind the popes named "Innocent?""

Umm..."not guilty"?


And saints' names are traditional in hopes that the namesake will find the original worthy of emulation.


Pius II, it seems, actually chose the name as a literary reference. He was born Enea Silvio Piccolomini (Aeneas Sylvius in Latin), and was one of the greatest of the Renaissance Humanists and Classicists. His choice of "Pius" as a papal name was because his namesake in Virgil's Aeneid is characterized by his "pietas" and is repeatedly referred to as "pius Aeneas."

But its meaning ("pious, dutiful") was also, as you suggest, meant to indicate a change in his lifestyle. In his early days he was a very worldly, and not terribly holy fellow; after he became a cleric, however, he seems to have gotten more serious about things. He plays on this idea in his autobiography, in which he says "Away with that Aeneas, and now receive Pius!"

The name was then picked up again a couple popes later by his nephew, who chose Pius III in homage to his uncle and as an indication of his desire to pursue similar policies. But were it not for a humanist pope's love of his Virgil, the name probably would have been relegated to the dustbin of papal history along with many other early papal names (Telesphorus, anyone?)

Dr. Eric

Was Pope St. Cletus from Georgia?


I've wondered why a lot of good saints' names have never been chosen by a pope. There have been many popes who have chosen John, Gregory, Paul, Martin, etc., but none has chosen James, Joseph, Thomas, Philip, or Andrew, for example. Is there any particular reason?


It's much the same reason kings often repeat names (how many times in a row did French kings choose "Louis"?)- tradition and respect for predecessors.

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