Pope Photos

Pope Francis showed up for Mass at Saint Martha’s House this morning – there he is in the back row.

Then he celebrated Mass with the hotel workers, Vatican gardeners, and people who clean St. Peter’s square.

We don’t know yet if and when the pope will move out of the hotel, whether he’ll live in the Apostolic Palace, or where he might eventually live.

Here’s Pope Francis’ official photo:

Look closely at his signature – no “PP” like past popes. Here’s Pope Benedict’s photo and signature:

My Google image search shows that all past popes going back to Pius XII used the “PP,” but there is an image of John Paul II also signing his name without it on occassion.

Why do you suppose Pope Francis doesn’t use “PP”?



  1. Sitting in the back row is part of this guy’s style.

    Everyone who likes to sit in the back pew or the back of the class now has a hero.

  2. Well, at least in American Catholic culture, back rows are the First Class seats, and the front rows are the penalty box.

  3. Maybe he doesn’t use “PP” because nobody seems to know what it actually means. Some say it abbreviates “Pastor Pastorum”, others insist it stands for “Papa”, and there are probably other theories, too. If the meaning of something is lost, perhaps it’s time to drop it.

    It’s also possible that he was unaware that popes use “PP” in their signatures and that the papal handlers, once they notice that he isn’t using it, will inform him of the custom.

  4. This is all a bit tiresome. Please can we have some serious spiritual direction from you, Pope Francis, instead of these media-pleasing gimmicks which are beginning to wear thin. Call yourself Frannie, wear a dirty loin-cloth, eat locusts, tell me you’re my buddy – whatever, I’m over the novelty of all this – just get on with being Pope and do the job properly! Why not start by sacking the curia and making a clean sweep? No, too late, you’ve reinstated them all and focused on cheap tricks instead. You speak the language of revolution but in real terms you’ve done nothing. It’s difficult being at the top isn’t it? Perhaps it’ll teach you to show some respect for the position you occupy.

    1. @Tom East – comment #6:
      what an extraordinarily disrespectful thing to say about our new pontiff–but perhaps I am missing some irony here?

  5. “P.P.” is an abbreviation for Pontifex pontificum – literally “Pontiff of pontiffs” (with pontifex being the Latin word for “bridge-builder”, but also used initially for the pagan priests of Rome, then inherited by Christian priests upon the legalization of Christianity).

    The question that has arisen as a consequence of not having a Pope with a new name for over a millennium. I would propose two possible reasons for its omission by Pope Francis:

    1) If the abbreviation is used in the sense of “Pontiff of the pontiffs (named) N.”, then it simply would not be necessary, as Pope Francis is the first to take that name.

    2) Every bishop, by virtue of his office is a pontifex; the Pope is the Summus Pontifex – Supreme Pontiff. If I recall correctly, “P.P.” is used in the sense of this equivalent meaning (as opposed to the reason I suggested in #1) If this is the case, it could be that Pope Francis is in fact removing it for some yet-unnamed reason (similar to Pope Benedict choosing to no longer be called “Patriarch of the West”).

    In either case, to have retained it in the signature would look strange without the Roman numeral following. I won’t ascribe any additional significance to its omission until hearing something substantial suggesting otherwise.

  6. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11

  7. Sean Whelan : @Matthew Morelli – comment #8: John Paul I doesn’t count as a new name?

    John Paul I was John Paul I before there was a John Paul II, for some reason. He made use of the regnal numeral “I”. I don’t know why a regnal numeral necessarily needs to follow the “PP” though. I think it might be time to drop the whole “Pontifex Maximus” business, however. Perhaps that’s why he dumped the “PP”.

    1. @James Murphy – comment #11:
      I believe because it was a compound of two prior papal names; He could have been John XXIV Paul (a common regnal name practice for compound names is to continue the ordinal numbering for the first name only – see the regnal names for the Swedish royal family, for example).

    2. @James Murphy – comment #11:

      I think it might be time to drop the whole “Pontifex Maximus” business, however. Perhaps that’s why he dumped the “PP”.

      No, certainly it is never the time to drop the title pontifex maximus (Pont. Max.; P.M.) Under the Roman Republic, the pontifex maximus was, among other tasks, the “high priest” or regulator of the Roman cult and the prinicipal priest of this cult. Additionally, beginning with the principate Roman emperors styled themselves as pontifex maximus. The emperor subsumed many republican functions into his role as the “first citizen”.

      For this reason the pontiffs and bishops of Rome have assumed the title pontifex maximus in addition to their many other titles. Not only are popes the supreme legislators of the Roman Rite and titular leaders of the Universal Church (and thus “high priest” in the Roman republican sense), the pope is literally the supercessor of the Roman emperors. I realize that this last statement might make some Catholics uncomfortable. Yet, pontifex maximus explicitly states just this fact. While the imperial power of the papacy is certainly diminished to almost nothing, Pont. Max, as an artifact of imperial reign is certainly abundantly apparent on the statues, inscriptions, and museum collections of Rome and the Vatican.

      As an aside, the Romanitas and Latinity of the bishop of Rome is embedded even into eucharistic prayer. In the te igitur of the Canon, the pope is addressed not by the Greek loanword for “overseer” (or by extension, “bishop”), episcopus, but rather the native Latin word for “overseer”, antistes. Perhaps this quirk of the Canon suggests that the very office of the bishop of Rome is intricately tied into Roman language and culture.

      Yes! Let’s throw away all the vestiges of ancient history. Isn’t a figurehead emperor extremely irrelevant in this twitter age? The title Pont. Max. is an merely embarrassing aspect of the past, why not do away with it? All ideas are “sound” until we search as a people for our past. Then, we will be lost and perhaps even gravely confused about our identity and faith.

  8. There are conflicting reports as to whether the Patriarch Luciani had asked to be called John Paul or John Paul I. However, it seems that the officials decided that the name had to be John Paul I. So, either this convention has been changed between 1978 and 2013, or Francis has changed it himself? When John Paul I came out to give his first blessing, he was told that protocol did not allow him to say a few words to the faithful. His successor John Paul II immediately broke with that. And it looks as though Pope Francis has an equally keen eye for discerning (and ignoring) puzzling protocol, or a tradition that has lost its meaning.

  9. The explanation of “PP” that I was given many years ago – by someone who worked in the Vatican for many years – was that it stood for “Pater Pauperis,” or “Father of the Poor.” If that, in fact, is its meaning, it would certainly seem to be an appropriate and fitting description or title for Francis. It would not, however, be something that a true “PP” would say of or claim for himself. He’d simply be content being that good and caring father.

  10. @Jordan Zarembo -comment #13

    It will never be time for the bishop of Rome to drop the most pagan of the pagan Roman Emperor’s pagan titles? I would argue that it was never the time for him to adopt such an abomination to begin with. Mr. Z, your argument, with all due respect, limps about on old crutches (with my sincere apologies if that sounds harsh). Nothing of Jesus’ words or attitudes as portrayed in the Scriptures seems to me to suggest an ambition on his part that Peter or his successors should one day become “supercessors” of the Roman emperors.

    He did mention that his kingdom is not of this world, didn’t he? Or was he just being cunning?

    No, let’s not throw away all vestiges of (the reminders of our) ancient history. That’s what museums are for. Can we not, however, acknowledge distinctions between Apostolic tradition and worldy accretions? Just because some of Peter’s successors decided at one point that it would be nifty to plop crowns on their heads, have themselves carried around like Egyptian pharaohs, and usurp the pagan styles of imperial Rome, doesn’t mean that they ought to have done so.

    Imagine St. Peter transported 1900 years into the future and walking into St. Peter’s Basilica to see his successor dressed more splendidly than Caesar and carried around on a throne like Cleopatra to the thunderous applause of the congregation while being fanned with ostrich feathers. Does one really suppose that Peter would behold the spectacle and think it entirely fitting? “Oh, I say; that’s smashing, really. Precisely what Jesus had in mind for this ministry, wot. And look: red slippers. Now there’s a nice touch; quite spiffing, I must say.” I have to think once somebody explained to Peter what it was he was looking at, he would either cry or vomit or both.

    1. @James Murphy – comment #17:

      Who is my St. Peter? Who is your St. Peter, James?

      My St. Peter is the historical bishop of Rome, who in turn eventually incorporated temporal powers and titles, some of which were formerly given to the Roman emperor. The wealth, influence, and external trappings of the papacy have changed, but vestigial titles and privileges greatly influence the institution today. The significance of the institution resides within its great history and with the aspects of office which survive today. My St. Peter is the accumulation of more than a millennium of history which must be respected and cherished, even if anachronistic.

      From what you have written James, your St. Peter is a fantasy reconstruction of what the “historic Peter” of the canonical Gospels. We trust in faith that our Lord entrusted the Church to Peter. This divine command would become the Roman episcopate and the papacy. Only this little we know. We do not know how St. Peter would have responded to Avignon, or the First Vatican Council; moreover Jansenius or Newman. So then, why craft a fanciful St. Peter to fit your understanding of charity?

      If Pope Francis (or any pope) were to shutter Gammarelli’s, don filthy sackcloth, and hand out Vatican two euro coins outside the bus stops of Termini, would he fulfill your idealized vision of St. Peter? Certainly, I hope Pope Francis will not do this. Nevertheless, isn’t it more fruitful for the Church to give to the needy through the charitable organs of the Roman diocese and the Vatican’s worldwide charities? These endowments are planned to perpetually nourish the material needs of the faithful. Pope Francis’s predecessor committed all these acts of charity secretly while respecting the symbols and obligations of office. Is it not more papal to give charity discretely while maintaining the duties of office, rather than shed the sartorial and liturgical obligations of office out of pretense?

      I pray that Pope Francis assumes his papal duties and act mercifully, in the way of his predecessors. The mozzetta and Peter’s Pence are not incompatible.

  11. I think it would be impossible to read too much into each aspect of distinctness between these two men, down to the last iota – or “p,” at least. Certainly each difference is attributable to some kind of ideological divide, rather than to personality.

    I think this focus on documenting every difference will assist us in renewing the liturgy, in fostering a climate in which the detailed rubricism or intolerance of variation which marred liturgy in the past is most easily overcome.

    I think this exercise lends credibility to the Church’s claim that everything it preaches and does is ultimately guided by the love of God and neighbor.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *