There are a number of men who became Pope who were later canonized as a saint, such as John Paul II and Paul VI. What is the proper title (in English) for such individuals when referring to them today (as opposed to in a historical sense)?

  • Pope John Paul II
  • Saint John Paul II
  • Pope Saint John Paul II
  • Saint Pope John Paul II
  • Something else?

By "proper", I mean the title preferred by the Catholic Church, and which I imagine is used in its official communications.

  • I've seen all of them except "Saint Pope".
    – Geremia
    Jun 18, 2019 at 16:54
  • When he was canonized, people stopped with "The Great" which I think is a bummer, I really liked him! But this could be a "let me google that for you" sort of answer (which is not cool), if you search for site:vatican.va and type in "saint pope" as opposed to "pope saint" you'll find a lot more hits for pope saint and saint pope is probably just a bad translation.
    – Peter Turner
    Jun 18, 2019 at 20:26
  • @PeterTurner Surely there's a more authoritative answer for the term preferred by the Catholic Church than "see which one has more hits when you search on Google". After all, the correct name may not be the one used most commonly online (case in point: "Mormon" over "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"). I figured there would be some sort of Vatican style guide, or a title used as part of the pronouncement of his canonization, or something. Jun 18, 2019 at 20:31
  • @thunderforge you're right, I was at least narrowing it down to site:vatican.va, it was about a 3 to 1 ratio in favor of "pope saint" over "saint pope"
    – Peter Turner
    Jun 18, 2019 at 21:00
  • 2
    @jongricafort I think Peter meant that stopping was a bummer. He didn't mean that the title itself was a bummer. Jun 19, 2019 at 14:25

3 Answers 3


What is the proper title for someone who was a pope and is now a canonized saint.

I do not believe there is a single proper way to address a pope who has been canonized.

That said, I have seen all four of your examples in usage. There seems to be no official way of doing so either.

That said, the most common usage (and the one I prefer the most) is your third example: Pope Saint “X”. In fact I have just finished writing a book on the lives of various saints and blesseds in which I address canonized popes as such.

In the homily of canonization of Pope Paul VI, Pope Francis referred to the newly canonized pope as Pope Saint Paul. See here at 1:43:00.

Pope Saint Gregory the Great, pray for us.

Pope Blessed Pius lX, pray for us.

Addendum: About the usage of the surnamed title of great.

Scholars of canon law say that there is no official process for declaring a pope "Great"; the title simply establishes itself through popular and continued usage, as was the case with celebrated secular leaders (for example, Alexander III of Macedon became popularly known as Alexander the Great). The three popes who today commonly are known as "Great" are Leo I, who reigned from 440–461 and persuaded Attila the Hun to withdraw from Rome; Gregory I, 590–604, after whom the Gregorian Chant is named; and Pope Nicholas I, 858–867, who consolidated the Catholic Church in the Western world in the Middle Ages. - Pope John Paul II

It should also be noted that in the Church’s official Litanies of the Saints titles are not placed along side of particular saints, but are placed separately within the litanies according to the traditional manner of praying to the saints.


Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

All the Holy Apostles, pray for us.

Saints Leo and Gregory, pray for us.

All the Holy Popes, pray for us. (This invocation is permitted to be added at occasions like an ordination or solemn profession to the litanies of the saints.)

The same manner would apply to praying to popes that are saints. But this is a traditional way of praying the litanies of the saints only.


What is the proper title for someone who was a pope and is now canonized as a saint?

Simple Answer

Sainthood can be liken to personal or professional achievement for ex. Peter Turner,

When he passed all the grueling test set by school and regulatory bodies, he will now be called Engineer, Doctor, Architect before his name acknowledging his earned reputation.

Engineer Peter Turner

Architect Peter Turner

Doctor Peter Turner

Now with regards to the Pope, same thing happen after they merited the crown of achievement that St. Paul described:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day— and not only to me, but to all who crave His appearing. (2Timonthy 4:7-8)

Pope John Paul II after finishing the race was crowned in Heaven and was acknowledged by the Church here on earth to give honor to his faith witnessing. The crown of sainthood will be bestowed on his name, So the proper title will be the same as to those example above achieved in professional endeavors, this common similarities help us easily identifies their achievement. The title or crown will be write first. In the case of Pope John Paul II, he will now be properly called by his name adding the title or crown he won.

St. Pope John Paul II is the proper name as the Pope and his name are one by virtue of God's anointing. However some addressed or called him Pope St.John Paul II which also acceptable but this one is giving more weight on his position as the Vicar of Christ and the crown or title of sainthood appears to be only secondary. Why? All of us are called to become a Saint and all of us will be saint anyway when we enter the glory of heaven. But, the reality is, none of us can become a Pope unless God Wills it. So, the Pope position is higher calling than sainthood as it entails a greater responsibilities of shepherding billions of flock Jesus had entrusted to Peter.

So, by giving importance to the position held by the person as Papacy is a Divine Appointment not a worldly achievement or title we can all agree that the proper addressed would be Pope St. John Paul II.

But personally, I am more inclined to addressed him St. John Paul II the Great. We must not forget to attribute the additional title "The Great" as Pope St. John Paul II contribution to the Church is of great magnitude and all the world leaders visibly acknowledged his greatness surpassing all the Popes in Catholic Church 2000 years of history.

3 Reasons Why John Paul II is Called “the Great”

Immediately after St. John Paul II’s death, priests, bishops and even the next pope, started to give the deceased pontiff the title of “John Paul the Great.” While there are no particular criteria written down as to why a saint is labeled “the Great,” there are three virtues he possessed which gave him an extraordinary ability to imitate the example and teaching of Jesus Christ.

Cardinal Wojtyła’s “most distinctive characteristics [were] ‘his simplicity; his humility; absolutely his humility. It is something that draws you to him.’”

“He is first a holy man, a simple and humble man with a pleasant smile.”

So there you have it, humility, simplicity, holiness. Three virtues that make John Paul II worthy of the title “the Great,” because it is those attributes that most resemble the action of God in the world.

Three Reasons Why John Paul II is called Great

We can see that the Greatness of Pope St. John Paul II was acknowledge by the Universal Church and the World Leaders after his death.

But, we might be surprised that even satan and his demons acknowledge the greatness of Pope St. John Paul II The Great as he thwarted every plot of Satan to destroy the Church.

Satan arrogantly said in 1884 in Pope Leo XIII vision as he dared God that he can destroy the church in 75 to 100 years.

The vision of Pope Leo XIII

By 1959 the year Vatican II was announced and the 75th year of Pope Leo XIII vision, Satan smoke had entered the Church. So the year 1984 would be the end of 100th year if we immediately count the 1884 year as the starting point. But satan got desperate as he sees no hope in destroying the Church under Pope John Paul II as he was under the powerful protection of the Our Lady of Fatima "Totus Tuus". So, in 1981 satan had him assasinated but failed. So the 100th year had passed in year 1984 due to Pope John Paul II papacy, the arrogance of satan was thwarted by this Great Pope. This was confessed by the demons.

10 Ways John Paul II Defeated the Influence of Satan

Why Satan Is So Scared of St. John Paul II, According to Rome’s Chief Exorcist

Final Answer

In closing, the proper name in full to addressed Pope John Paul II by virtue of his acknowledged greatness by the Universal Church, the World Leaders and people in general plus most importantly the witnessing of the demons confessing his greatness to a famous Exorcist Fr. Gabrielle Amorth. Therefore all the faithfuls must properly and completely addressed him with the title:

"Pope St. John Paul II The Great". (Totus Tuus)


There seems to be no common concept of usage in the Vatican texts. The translators don't seem to think this is important. The most used English phrase is "Saint N.".

Maybe there is a difference of usage between "Blessed" as an particip and "Saint" as a title ("Blessed Pope Paul VI" and German usage (adjectives) vs. "Pope Saint John XXIII").

Examples of official use:

  • Decretum de cultu litugico in honorem Beati Ioannis Pauli II, Papae, tribuendo (Decrete on the liturgical cult in honor of Blessed John Paul II, Pope) of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, issued 2 May 2011 (day after beatification): In the title an the body of the text forms of "Beatus Iohannes Paulus II" are used, in the title with the addition "Papa". So "Blessed [now Saint] John Paul II" seems to be the normal form.

  • "Saint John Paul II" is also used in the litugy of the hours for John Paul II but with credit to his office in the sentence: "beatum Ioánnem Paulum, papam, univérsae Ecclésiae tuae praeésse voluísti"; English: "Saint John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over your universal Church". German translation uses "Heiliger Papst Joahannes Paul II". The translators don't seem to see a difference.

  • In the encyclical Laudato si Pope Francis cites his predecessor with: "Sanctus Ioannes XXIII" (3), "beatus Paulus VI" (4), "Sanctus Ioannes Paulus II" (5), "Decessore Nostro beato Ioanne XXIII" (175). He doesn't use the word "Papa" in the whole document, Benedikt XVI is addressed without his office. The English translation renders this to: "Pope Saint John XXIII" (3), "Blessed Pope Paul VI" (4), but "Saint John Paul II" (5), "my predecessor Blessed John XXIII" (175) (and also "Pope Benedikt XVI" (6)). The German version uses "heilige Papst Johannes XXIII." (3), "selige Papst Paul VI." (4), "heilige Johannes Paul II." (5), "meinem Vorgänger, dem [heiligen] Papst Johannes XXIII." (175) (and also "Papst Benedikt XVI" (6)).

  • In the Litany of the Saints Popes Gregory and Leo the Great are addressed only with "Sancti Leo et Gregóri" / "Saints Leo and Gregory". The same is valid in the old (extraordinary) rite.

  • You may be correct for the Latin terminology, but the question deals with the English usage, not Latin.
    – Ken Graham
    Jun 19, 2019 at 23:25
  • @KenGraham What do you say about my English examples? And do you see a reason for a difference?
    – K-HB
    Jun 21, 2019 at 6:45

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