By Macy, Gary
National Catholic Reporter , Vol. 41, No. 26
Pope John Paul II was one of the longest reigning popes in the long history of the papacy. His 26 years in office are matched only by the 31-year record of Pope Plus IX, who was elected pope on June 6, 1846 and died on Feb. 7, 1878. During his extended papacy, the First Vatican Council was held, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was defined, the syllabus of errors was promulgated and the Papal States were lost.
Only a dozen popes have reigned for 20 years or more. Pope Leo XIII, famous for his defense of the rights of working people, was pope for 25 years from 1878 until 1903. Not all the popes with 20-year reigns were modern, however. Hadrian I, pope from 772 until 785, worked closely with Charlemagne and greatly improved the infrastructure of Rome. Pope Alexander III was elected in 1159 during a time of great turmoil in the church. He outlasted four anti-popes to eventually unite the church by the time of his death in 1181. …