Seven things you (probably) didn’t know about the Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church has been one of the world’s most powerful institutions for nearly 2,000 years, but much of its history is shrouded in mystery.

Here are seven things you probably didn’t know.


Not all of the Catholic Church’s 266 popes have come from European countries.

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In fact, there have been five popes from Syria, which is tied for the fourth-most with Germany.

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Pope Francis is from Argentina and is the first Latin American Pope.

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He's also the first member of the Society of Jesus — an order of priests commonly known as “Jesuits” — to lead the Church.

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Although the Romans initially persecuted the early Christians, a Roman emperor was one of the first to promote tolerance toward them.

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That emperor was Constantine, who is said to have converted after experiencing a vision of a cross before a major battle.

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Of all the pontifical monikers popes have chosen, “John” has been selected by the most popes.

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The top five Pope names are …

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John was used most recently by Pope John XXIII, who led the church from 1958 to 1963.

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Only one papal family has a SHOWTIME series named after them.


“The Borgias” is based on the scandalous reign of Pope Alexander VI — Rodrigo Borgia — and his family.

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The papacy hasn’t always called the Vatican City home.


For several decades in the 14th century, the papal capital was moved from Vatican City to a temporary home in Avignon, France.

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While most expect popes to serve until death, there is no rule that a Pope must stay in office for life.

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In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI became the first Pope in nearly 600 years to resign, citing a “lack of strength of mind and body.”

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Want to learn more about how popes have shaped the course of history? Tune in to CNN’s “Pope: The Most Powerful Man in History,” Sundays at 10 p.m. ET.