November 14, 2008

Popes and the Tale of Their Names

By Br. Benet S. Exton *

Book written by: Anura Guruge

This book about the names of popes can best be described as unusual. In his book, Anura Guruge uses computer software to create tables and computations to show how previous popes chose their names. He tells the history as to who was the first pope after St. Peter to change his name and why. The author also reviews the history of the popes and researches why certain papal names are more popular and why some names have only been used once or maybe twice.

People who love anything about the papacy and the popes will love this thin book. It is filled with mind-boggling information, especially when many numbers and mathematics come into play. Additionally, Guruge has created websites to go along with this book: and which focus on the popes and papal history.

Another interesting point that Guruge discusses is why popes have not taken the name, "Peter" and why they change their names. He suggests that the name is too revered since it is the name directly given by Jesus to Simon. However, in the early days, many popes did not change their names until one pope, whose baptismal name was "Peter" humbly decided he should receive a different name in respect for the first Pope. Other popes changed their names because their original one was too pagan, or to honor a previous pope.

This book is highly recommended to those interested in anything connected with the popes or the papacy. It has a lot of trivia, photos and interesting information that the reader will find fascinating.

Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B., St. Gregory's University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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