Were There Two Johns XXIII?
Question: Is it true that there have been two popes named John XXIII?
Answer: Yes — in a way. We know of Angelo Roncalli, who reigned as Pope John XXIII from 1958-63.
However, in 1410, during what is called the Western Schism, Baldassarre Cossa was elected pope, taking the name John XXIII. But there were two other claimants to the papal throne: Gregory XII, favoured by the Roman faction, and Benedict XIII, from Avignon. Cossa — a political rather than holy man — was in opposition to both Gregory and Benedict.
With the resolution of the schism in 1417, the Church decided that Gregory XII, who had been forced to abdicate, was the legitimate pope, and the other are considered anti-popes. The regnal number XXIII thus became vacant for a future Pope John, but it went unclaimed for more than 500 years.
This question was asked and answered in the October 2020 issue of the Southern Cross magazine
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