Religion: How Many Popes?

The unbroken line of Popes from the Disciple Peter to John XXIII underlies the Roman Catholic claim to be the one true church of Christ. But it is a complex line to trace—as is demonstrated in the Vatican's just-published, red-covered, 1,784-page Pontifical Yearbook for 1961. Missing from the new edition is Pope Stephen II, making Pope John the 261st Pope instead of the 262nd.

Stephen, an obscure Roman presbyter, was elected Pope on March 2-3, 752, but two days later, before he could be crowned, died of apoplexy. His fierce face still stares down at worshipers in the central nave of Rome's...

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