For this unusual history of the names of popes, Anura Guruge utilized computer software to create all kinds of tables and computations about the papal names and various details connected with them, like how many chose the name “Pius” or “Leo.” He relates the history as to who the first pope after St. Peter to change his name was and why. He reviews the history of the popes, why certain papal names have been more popular than others, and possibly why particular names have only been used once or maybe twice.
Guruge also discusses why no pope has taken the name “Peter.” He (and others) suggest that the name is simply too revered as the name Jesus himself gave to Simon. In the early days, many popes did not change their names, but one pope whose baptismal name was “Peter” decided he should change his name. Some changed their names because their original names were too pagan or too profane. Some changed their names to honor a previous pope who was a saint or whose example the new pope wanted to follow - even to swipe at a political leader.
People intrigued by the papacy and the popes will love this book, although the fullness of the information it contains can be a bit mind-boggling when many numbers and mathematics come into play. Guruge has created websites to accompany the book,
papam.wordpress.com. Black-and-white illustrations liven up the text, tables and charts. This is a skinny book, but very fascinating.
While he has authored previous books on technology, this is Guruge’s first on a different subject and is highly recommended to those interested in anything connected with the popes or the papacy, who will find the trivia and information fascinating.