This chronological list of popes corresponds to that given in the Annuario Pontificio under the heading "I Sommi Pontefici Romani" (The Supreme Pontiffs of Rome), excluding those that are explicitly indicated as antipopes. Published every year by the Roman Curia, the Annuario Pontificio attaches no consecutive numbers to the popes, stating that it is impossible to decide which side represented at various times the legitimate succession, in particular regarding Pope Leo VIII, Pope Benedict V and some mid-11th-century popes. The 2001 edition of the Annuario Pontificio introduced "almost 200 corrections to its existing biographies of the popes, from St Peter to John Paul II". The corrections concerned dates, especially in the first two centuries, birthplaces and the family name of one pope.
The term pope (Latin: papa, lit. 'father') is used in several Churches to denote their high spiritual leaders (for example Coptic Pope). This title in English usage usually refers to the head of the Catholic Church. The Catholic pope uses various titles by tradition, including Summus Pontifex, Pontifex Maximus, and Servus servorum Dei. Each title has been added by unique historical events and unlike other papal prerogatives, is not incapable of modification.
Hermannus Contractus may have been the first historian to number the popes continuously. His list ends in 1049 with Pope Leo IX as number 154. Several changes were made to the list during the 20th century. Antipope Christopher was considered legitimate for a long time. Pope-elect Stephen was considered legitimate under the name Stephen II until the 1961 edition, when his name was erased. Although these changes are no longer controversial, a number of modern lists still include this "first Pope Stephen II". It is probable that this is because they are based on the 1913 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain.
A significant number of these popes have been recognized as saints, including 48 out of the first 50 consecutive popes, and others are in the sainthood process. Of the first 31 popes, 28 died as martyrs (see List of murdered popes).
- R This pope resigned his office.
- B The exact birth date of Innocent VIII and almost all popes prior to Eugene IV is unknown, therefore the lowest probable age has been assumed for this table.
Notes on numbering of popes
A number of anomalies in the list given above need further explanation:
- Felix II (356–357), Boniface VII (974, 984–985), John XVI (997–998), Benedict X (1058–1059) and Alexander V (1409–1410) are not listed because they are all considered antipopes.
- The numbering of popes named Felix has been amended to omit antipope Felix II; however, most lists still call the last two Felixes: Felix III and Felix IV. Additionally, there was an antipope Felix V.
- There has never been a pope John XX as a result of confusion of the numbering system in the 11th century.
- Pope-elect Stephen, who died before being consecrated, has not been on the Vatican's official list of popes since 1961, but appears on lists dating from before 1960. The following popes called Stephen are now numbered as Pope Stephen II (752–757) to Pope Stephen IX (1057–1058), rather than Stephen III to Stephen X.
- When Simon de Brion became pope in 1281, he chose to be called Martin. At that time, Marinus I and Marinus II were mistakenly considered to be Martin II and Martin III respectively, and so, erroneously, Simon de Brion became Pope Martin IV.
- Pope Donus II, said to have reigned about 974, never existed. The belief resulted from the confusion of the title dominus (lord) with a proper name.
- Pope Joan also never existed; however, legends about her may have originated from stories about the pornocracy.
- The status of Antipope John XXIII was uncertain for hundreds of years, and was finally settled in 1958 when Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli announced his own name as John XXIII. Baldassare Cossa, who was Antipope John XXIII, served as a Cardinal of the reunited church before his death in 1419 and his remains are found in the Florence Baptistery.
- Those who adhere to Sedevacantism say that there have been no legitimate popes since Pius XII or John XXIII. This is because they consider all popes since the Second Vatican Council to be heretics.
- The Popes listed here can be visualized based on their birthplaces on the Pope Birthplace Map