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Is it Pope Francis or Pope Francis I?
By Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News
October 31, 2013

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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Queen Victoria was and is still known as Queen Victoria, not as Queen Victoria I. No one is anticipating a second Queen Victoria.

Likewise, the legend on coins of England’s King George I read: Georgius D.G…

No one knew for certain when he first became king there might be a line of Georges behind him.

When the first Pope John Paul became pope there was no number assigned alongside his name. Earlier popes include Severinus, Conon, Formosus, and others whose names have never been repeated by others who later served in the papal office. None of them have ever been dubbed “the first.”

So, who designed the papal coin with the inscription including Franciscum I rather than Franciscum recently released in the name of the Seychelles to honor Pope Francis?

Many mistakes have been made throughout mankind, but when you make a mistake on a metal coin that oversight may be there for the ages. In recent years there have been coins on which maps have been drawn incorrectly, and coins with misspellings. The 2013 Seychelles 5-rupees coin may have meant well, but it likely jumped the gun regarding if there will ever be a second or a third Pope Francis at some time into the future.

The Seychelles coin is composed of copper-nickel or precious metals, has a diameter of 38.6 millimeters, and has a modest mintage of 50,000 Uncirculated pieces in copper-nickel. The obverse depicts the bust of the pope facing left surrounded by a set of rosary beads and the 14 Stations of the Cross. The obverse inscription, unfortunately, reads “Habemus Papam—Pontifex Maximus Franciscum I,” with the denomination below the truncation.

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The Seychelles is a predominantly Catholic country and is a member of the Commonwealth. It has issued coins in the past honoring Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

Apparently it took coin collectors to discover the oversight. The June 16 Independent Catholic News congratulated the Pobjoy Mint for striking the coin while quoting the Archbishop of Birmingham, Most Reverend Bernard Longley as saying, “This beautiful coin from Pobjoy Mint is a sign of the joy so many people have felt at the election of Pope Francis. For the people of the Seychelles it will evoke memories of [the] Blessed [Pope] John Paul II. The ingenious inclusion of the Stations of the Cross around Pope Francis’s image remind us that Christ is the Suffering Servant (in Isaiah’s prophecy) and that the pope is entitled ‘Servant of the servants of God.”

Longley continued, “We see here the power of coins and medals to carry a deeper message than may be immediately obvious. I congratulate the Seychelles and Pobjoy Mint on this fine tribute to the new Holy Father.”

Yes, the inscription on the coin does carry a deeper message. So do the Canada “godless” 50-cent coins of 1911, the U.S. “godless” $20 double eagles of 1907 and 1908; the Italian 1000-lire coin of 1997 with the map drawn incorrectly; the euro coins of Belgium, Finland, Germany, and Portugal with old maps presented in error; and the 2011 commemorative coin of the Perth Mint in Australia marking Gallipoli during World War II. The Australian coin depicts a World War I soldier holding a World War II rifle. There are more coin design errors where this comes from.

The papal coins is a trivial mistake, you say? Would you want to be known as George Smith Sr. when you haven’t yet married or had children? This oversight is etched in stone, or at least in copper-nickel. It is unlikely the coins will be recalled.

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