Church History Forum: "illegitimate Popes"
illegitimate Popes QUESTION from UbiPetrusibiEcclesia on March 9, 2002 I've just scratched the surface concerning the topic of the so called Popes who were claiming their own legitimacy. I guess ONE of them was living in France, for example. What is known of this time in history as to WHY there WERE 3 or 4 Popes, (of whom we would assume that only ONE of them was legitimately suceeded from Jesus, through Peter)? What caused this to occur, and how was it resolved? Thanks for your help! Steve C.
ANSWER by Q & A Staff on March 22, 2002 Dear Stephen,
You are right in that a French pope was involved. And yes, even though there were at one time three claimants, there was only ever one true pope, the others being antipopes. Quite a lot is known of this time.
Basically the Popes had been residing in France since the time of Clement V(1305-1316) and did not return to Rome until 1376 (Pope Gregory XI). How the Great Western Schism (as it is called) came about after Pope Gregory XI's death in 1378 is covered in my earlier question below. Essentially it arose from the French Cardinals choosing another candidate after the true Pope (Urban I) had already been chosen and agreed upon.
The text of my earlier answer is here
For a more detailed discussion of the events of this time, I suggest Warren Carroll's History of Christendom, volume III
The resolution of the Great Western Schism came about when Pope Gregory XII offered to resign so that a common agreed candidate should become the new pope. This plan was accepted, and Pope Martin V was duly elected in 1415 to end the Great Western Schism. There is another earlier answer (by Mrs. Fortin) here, which covers the reunification at the Council of Constance.
As a final note, it is worth remembering that it was not just at the time of the Great Western Schism that there have been antipopes. In fact, there have been approximately 40 of them through history. But without the 14th century Great Western Schism was the worst.
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