'Love your act, your Holiness, but that name...!'

In these New Age days, it would look a bit odd to have a Pope named after a sign of the Zodiac

Share

Sportsmen are usually happy with the names they were born with, even if they are called Wayne Rooney. Politicians don't change their names to get into office. Musicians and artists stick to the name Mummy and Daddy chose for them. A few writers adopt noms-de-plume, though not many. So who do change their names? That's right! Actors! Actors change their names! They are the only branch of showbiz given to adopting stage names, are they not?

Sportsmen are usually happy with the names they were born with, even if they are called Wayne Rooney. Politicians don't change their names to get into office. Musicians and artists stick to the name Mummy and Daddy chose for them. A few writers adopt noms-de-plume, though not many. So who do change their names? That's right! Actors! Actors change their names! They are the only branch of showbiz given to adopting stage names, are they not?

No, they are not.

Because popes do it as well.

Popes and actors. in fact, it's worse for popes.

Many actors change their names.

But all popes have to change their names.

"We like your act, Karol," they must have said to the last Pope. "This mix of humanity and cruelty is great! Soft line on human nature, hard line on contraception and Aids! Good pope, bad pope! It'll go down a storm! But the name, Karol, the name! Nobody is going to turn out to see someone called Pope Karol Wojtyla. Half the world is going to think you're a girl! We're gonna have to think up a stage name for you."

And so he became Pope John Paul II, and he was the biggest hit the Vatican had had for years, so they must have got something right. And whoever emerges victorious from the present conclave must know, inter alia, that whatever he was called when he went in as a cardinal, he won't be called that when he comes out as a pope.

Bit like being married, really.

You go in called Mrs Parker-Bowles, and you come out Mrs Cornwall.

I expect that's what they said to her beforehand.

"We like your act, Camilla," they must have said. "This mix of remoteness and ordinariness is great! And the public is so relieved that someone has agreed to look after Charles and keep him out of trouble! But the name, Camilla, the name! 'Camilla Parker-Bowles' sounds like a complicated piece of office equipment. So we're going to have to think up a stage name for you...."

Have they decided what it is yet? Hard to make out.

From one point of view, the new Pope has got it easy. His choice of name is limited to a very few candidates. He is obliged to take the name of a previous pope. He could be Pius or Leo or Clement or John or Innocent ... or ... well, that's about it. (Personally, I think Leo is unlikely. In these New Age days, it would look a bit odd to have a Pope named after a sign of the Zodiac.)

John Paul I was a bit of a maverick where this was concerned. There had never been a pope called John Paul before, nor had there ever been a Pope with two names. The previous two had been called John, and Paul, yes, but nobody had ever gone for two names together.

The theory is that he was trying to please the liberals (with John) and the others (with Paul), but what nobody is very sure about is why he called himself John Paul I. Yes, he actually insisted on having the "First" as part of his name.

That's showbiz for you.

And then, having grabbed himself this great name, John Paul I died within a month of becoming Pope.

Well, that's showbiz too.

My theory, for what it's worth, is that John Paul I was desperate to get a new name because his real name was Albino Luciano. How cruel to call a child "Albino", which means the same in Italian as it does in English!

"You have been very brave, Albino," they must have said to him, chuckling a bit, secretly. "All your life you have suffered from this stupid name, and now at last we have taken pity on you and made you Pope so you can get rid of it. So what would you like to be called instead? John Paul I? Isn't that just a bit reminiscent of the famous atheist, Jean Paul Sartre? No? Maybe not. But why John Paul the First? You think there may be other John Pauls coming up? You do? Well, you should know. You're infallible now, after all...."

Tomorrow: More about name-changing, or, what is Alphonso d'Abruzzo better known as?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Developer - London - £45k

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Application Support & Development ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Isis in Iraq: Even if Iraqi troops take back Saddam’s city of Tikrit they will face bombs and booby traps

Patrick Cockburn
The Royal Mint Engraver Jody Clark with his new coinage portrait, alongside the four previous incarnations  

Queen's new coin portrait: Second-rate sculpture makes her look characterless

Michael Glover
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003