Popes are always right-handed and tend to die in the job. The last pope to hand over the papacy while still alive was Pope Gregory XII, who retired in 1415.
On the death of a pope, the Papal Chamberlain must call out his baptismal name three times and tap his head with a silver hammer before he is officially declared dead.
Twenty-six popes are said to have been assassinated.
Once the death of a pope is established, his successor is elected by the College of Cardinals.
All cardinals have a vote, except those over the age of 80.
In 897, Pope Steven VII had the body of Pope Formosus, who had died in 896, dug up, propped in a chair and put on trial for violating church laws.
Because of an 11th-century miscount, there was a Pope John XIX and a Pope John XXI but no John XX.
Adrian IV (born Nicholas Breakspear), who was pope from 1154 to 1159, was the only English pope.
All the above popes would have been accustomed to having their toes kissed. From the eighth century until the 18th century, this was the traditional way to greet a pope.
This custom is said to date back to AD798 when 'a certain lewd woman' gave a pope's hand a squeeze when kissing it.
The pope, seeing the moral danger inherent in this act, cut his hand off and instituted toe-kissing.
In 1978, John Paul II became the first non-Italian pope since the death of Adrian VI in 1523.
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JOHN PAUL II
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