The Roman Catholic Church consists of a couple dozen autonomous particular churches in full communion with the Holy See. Is there a list that indicates the particular church affiliation of each of the 266 popes (so far as is known)? Such a list would be particularly useful for answering the following questions:

  • How many popes has each particular church produced?
  • For each particular church, when was the first and last time one of their members became pope, and who were these popes?

I imagine that the Latin Church has produced the vast majority of popes, at least in recent times, but I'm very interested to know the facts and figures on popes from the Eastern Churches.

  • 2
    That one is easy: since the existence of autonomous particular churches, as we know them today (beginning roughly with the reunion of the Maronites into full communion), all the Popes have been Latin Rite. Indeed, the vast majority have been from Italy. Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 10:49
  • is the question trying to tease out at which point the Bishop of Rome, as a office, was instituted, or when the leadership of "the church" was recognized as being from that office? I see in this question two questions, but I may be missing the intent of the question. Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 22:37
  • No, the question is simply asking which church each pope was a member of prior to his election.
    – Psychonaut
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 18:50

2 Answers 2


The following article contains information on autonomous particular churches, including the dates on which they restored communion with Rome. This is apart from the Maronite Church which, it is said, never left communion with Rome.


As there has never been a Maronite Pope, and the earliest date for full communion for the others was 1595 (Ukranian), and all Popes since then have been Latin rite, there has never been a Pope drawn from what is now called an autonomous particular church, other than from the Latin autonomous particular church.

During the first millennium there were numerous Greek and Syrian popes. These were drawn from the Greek and Syrian churches (starting with St Peter of course), but to regard these as autonomous particular churches, long before the concept arose, would be retrospective. Wikipedia has an article called Popes by nationality and this is perhaps the nearest thing.

The Latin Bishop of Rome is ex officio the Pope. This was the traditional view. Arguably, in modern practice it is the other way round. Conclaves choose a Pope, who then becomes ex officio the Bishop of Rome. Between 1523 and 1978 all Popes were Italian. In choosing a Bishop for Rome, and a Primate for Italy, being Italian seems a significant factor. However there is nothing to stop a future conclave choosing someone from a different autonomous particular church as Pope.

Cardinal Agagianian of the Armenian Catholic church was rumoured to have been at one stage potentially elected at the conclave of 1963 but refused to accept. Opinion is divided as to whether he would, or someone in a similar position would, be required to adopt the Latin rite.


Is there a list of popes by autonomous particular church?

Not that I am aware of.

The first pope of Rome, St. Peter, was Jewish and said mass in Aramaic. The Roman Rite did not exist in Apostolic Times!

Your question is quite complex and worthy of some attention. Various Popes have come into this supreme office from diverse nationalities and possibly other Liturgical Rites than the Roman Rite.

Take for example, Pope Theodore I, who was a Greek man from Jerusalem whose father, Theodore, had been a bishop in the city; he is the only pope to have been a native of that city. He was among the many Syrian clergy who fled to Rome following the Muslim conquest of the Levant. He was made a cardinal deacon possibly around 640 and a full cardinal by Pope John IV. Thus being of the Syrian clergy, he was definitely not originally of the Latin Rite. Pope Theodore I's election was supported by the exarch of Ravenna!

Just because a Pope was from Syria does not mean he was attached to the Syrian Catholic Church. We must also keep in mind that for the first few centuries, the liturgy was celebrated in Greek in the west! Thus a Greek Pontiff would not look out of place, during the first four centuries. Pope Theodore was elected in the seventh century.

Popes have come from many nationalities and possibly of Catholics Liturgical Rites.

Since the Apostolic Age, the Pope or the Bishop of Rome was chosen by the clergy and the faithful of the diocese. The election of a Roman Pontiff remained in this fashion until the Papal Conclave was established in 1059. Thus if the local Church (in this case Rome) chooses a Pastor from their ranks regardless of his nationality, he becomes, by virtue of the office, Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, even if of another Liturgical Rite.

In Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, which deals with all aspects of a conclave, states that the Bishop of Rome must be of the Roman Rite. Could a Eastern Rite cardinal retain his Rite if his jurisdiction of authority were changed, if he were to be elected Pope? Possibly, but doubtful.

Confirming therefore the norm of the current Code of Canon Law (cf. Canon 349), which reflects the millennial practice of the Church, I once more affirm that the College of electors of the Supreme Pontiff is composed solely of the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church. In them one finds expressed in a remarkable synthesis the two aspects which characterize the figure and office of the Roman Pontiff: Roman, because identified with the Bishop of the Church in Rome and thus closely linked to the clergy of this City, represented by the Cardinals of the presbyteral and diaconal titles of Rome, and to the Cardinal Bishops of the suburbicarian Sees; Pontiff of the universal Church, because called to represent visibly the unseen Pastor who leads his whole flock to the pastures of eternal life. The universality of the Church is clearly expressed in the very composition of the College of Cardinals, whose members come from every continent.

Could an Eastern Rite cardinal be elected pope? Yes, it could happen and a pope is free to make changes to reflect his heritage, but we would have to wait and see if this ever happens. The Bishop of Rome is a Latin Rite See!

When Eastern Rite cardinals meet with other cardinals or con-celebrate the liturgy, they generally wear their own vestments. On the other hand, if a bi-ritual priest celebrates the liturgy, not native to him, he uses the other rite's vestments. Someone elected pope is the Bishop of Rome, so presumably he would celebrate henceforth as Bishop of Rome, i.e., Latin Rite. Since we haven't run into this situation in modern times (and probably don't have sufficient records when it did happen, which I think it did) they would probably have to make some new decisions about it, much like they did with Pope Benedict's resignation.

My guess is he would wear Western vestments when celebrating a Latin-rite Mass. As for his white cassock, I'm not sure. On the one hand that's kind of unique to the pope and in a class by itself, but then again it is based on Latin-rite dress.

Maybe the pope would like to retain some of his Eastern heritage. I don't know, I think that would be up to him. - Ask A Catholic

There seems to have been no Eastern Catholic pope, Looking at the list of popes since 1054.

  • My question is not about which rite the pope uses following his election, but rather about the particular church he was (formerly) affiliated with. You write that Universi Dominici Gregis prescribes the Roman Rite—could you please cite the exact paragraph number? I couldn't find it myself, though if it is there I would be surprised if it were worded in such a way as to prevent the election and installation of a bishop who had until then used a different rite.
    – Psychonaut
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 9:20

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