by Mark Owen ©, Apr. 5th, 2005
On the evening of Saturday April 2, 2005, after receiving the Rite of Extreme Unction, Pope John Paul II passed away. At this time his chamberlain would have gone to the papal hospital bed and asked the Bishop of Rome a question, “Are you dead?” There would be no reply from the Pope. The chamberlain would then pick up a silver hammer and strike the Pope on the head and repeat his question, “Are you dead?” Again there would be no reply. The chamberlain would then thrice call out the Pope’s baptismal name. He would then declare the Pope to be dead.
This is the way the Church has determined papal deaths for centuries. This is the way of the world’s oldest monarchy. Since 1763 the august Almanach de Gotha has been the ultimate authority on the royal houses of Europe. Listed under ‘Reigning Sovereign Houses’ is the Holy See. Therein is stated, “…the incumbent of the Holy See is considered by Christian sovereign families as the ‘Father of the Family of Kings,’ [and] his Holiness represents the OLDEST MONARCHY on earth…”
The triple sovereignty of the Pope—Person, Holy See & Vatican City—is distinct in fact and in law. Internationally, he is not subject to any authority on earth. His Cardinals are considered to be Princes of the Church and peers of the sons of reigning monarchs. Each diocese is considered to be a royal fiefdom. The word ‘diocese’ originally signified an administrative unit devised by the Emperor Diocletian, a tyrant noted for his persecution of Christians.
Following are brief sketches of some of the more interesting holders of the title ‘Vicar of Christ’ (it should be noted that the Latin equivalent of the Greek ‘anti’ is ‘vicarius,’ from whence is derived the word ‘vicar’).