If you are 50 or 60 years old, you can probably remember some important leaders in the Church. Take for example Eugenio Pacelli, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Giovanni Battista Montini, Karol Józef Wojtyła, and Joseph Alois Ratzinger. Have you heard those names? They are the names of the popes, namely Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
About 1,000 years ago the tradition of having men who were elected pope change to a new name began and was to symbolize entering into a new life and being totally consumed by that life in their service to the Church. Their own individuality was to fade into relative insignificance. It is a beautiful symbol but it didn’t always work out that way!