Great Christian Traditions: Individual Popes

Figure 1.--

Most students of history have a much better understanding of national monarchies than the papacy. This is in part there have been so many popes, many of extremely short pontificates. This is because the history of the papacy is longer than any country or states. Even more importantly, the nature of the papacy means that most popes come to office as elderly men. Many national monarchs come to the throne as children. Some of have reigns of over 50 years. This is not the case of popes, As they come to the pontifacte as elderly men, there reign for relatively short periods. The average potificate is less than 6 years. This affects both the outlook and temperment of the men who serve as well as increasing the importance of Vatican institutions over individual popes. Here we do not want to survey each pope, but we do want to provide a thumb-nail sketch of the most important popes who have played major roles in the events discussed in our HBC website.

St. Peter

The theory of the papacy is based on St. Peter who is reputed to have been the first bishop of Rome. Historians debate the evidence establishing Peter's presence in Rome after Christ's crusifiction. From St. Peter, the Catholic Church bases the authority of the papacy on a apostolic line of succession. The ultimate authority comes from the New Testament Gospel of Matthew who quotes Christ as saying, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church."

Anicetus (155-66)

Anicetus is the first pope for which much tangible evidence exists.

Eleutherius (c175-89)

Very little is known about the early popes. Even there names are tenuous, let alone much about their reign. This is understanable becauuse Christianity was not a recognized religion of the Empire and its members were persecute and even put to death in public spectacles. One historian writes, "Although St. Irenaeus of Lyons gives us the list of the first thirteen 'Popes,' from St. Peter down to his friend Eleutherius (c175-189), it is important to remember tht until at least the ninth century the titke of Pope (which derives from the Greek papas, 'little father') was applied generally to any senior member of the cimmunity--Rome was far from being a diocese as we understand the word today. Nor was the Roman Church, such as it was, generally accepted, or even respected. The Empire, after all, had its own official religion--though nobody much believed in it--and Chruistians everywhere were still well-advised to keep a discretely low profile." [Nprwich]

Victor I (189-198)

The first pontif who attempted to aggresively exert the authority of the papacy was Victor I (189-198). Without the authority of the state, however, such authority was limited. Victor attempted to secure uniformity in Church practice and took issue with the differeing practices, especially those in the East, such as the date for Easter.

Callistus I (217-22)

Pope Callistus I was faced with an anti-pope, Hipolitus. Disputes between the two caused such disorders in Rome, that authorities shipped both off to the tin mines in Sardinia.

Innocent I (401-17)

Innocent was a native of Albano, the son of Innocentius. He was Pope at a time that the power of the Empire as in decline. The Empire had been split earlier. And the Western Empire goverened from Rome was the poor of the two sections. He sought to support the power of the Empire. He played a role as arbitor for the settlement of disputes. Records of comminications with other church leaders at the time have survived. Innocent emerges as an important an influential figure at the tgime, but not aoinant figure in the developing Church. He intervened strongly with the Pelagian controversy. He confirmed the decisions of the synod of the province of proconsular Africa, held in Carthage (416). He wrotte at the time to the elders of the Numidian synod of Mileve who had addressed him (Augustine of Hippo was among them). He managed to save Rome from the Goths. Alaric I reached Rome (410). Zosimus in his Historia Nova suggests that Innocent permited private pagan practices as a temporary measure, but that there was littleral interest, an indication as to how thooughly the Empire had been Chritainized.

Leo I (448-61)

The first clearly defined powerful pope was Leo I (440-61). Leo attempted to establish a system of papal vicariates through which Roman church practice could be inforced. Leo turned back Atilla and the Huns. This achievement conveyed emense prestige on the papacy. It is thought that Atilla planned to return the following year, but he died unexpectly, ending the Hun threat to Rome.

Gregory I (590-604)

Gregory was the son of Gordianus, a wealthy Roman patrician before Rome fell to the barbarians. He appears to have come from Amicia, who owned substantial estates in Sicily. They lived in a mansion on the Caelian Hill in Rome. Geregory I is better known as Gregory the Great. He along with Leo have to be seen as among the greatest popes. Many would place Gregory at the top of that list. Gregory was a friend of St. Benedict and the first pope to be considered monkish. He did not seek the papacy and was hesitant to leave his monastic life of quiet contemplation to assume the duties of the papacy. He called the pope, "Slave of the Slaves of God". Gregory as pope exerted enormous influence on the doctrine, the organization, and the discipline of the Catholic Church. And he managed to do this without the support of a powerful Roman state. Rome at the time was a Byzatine province beset by the Lonbards pushing south into Italy. Gregory as pope also approved the charter for the Benedictines, the first important monastic order. Slavery did not end with the fall of Rome. As a young priest, Gregory was struck by the blond German children in the Roman slave markets. The boys were Anglii. It was Gregory as pope who dispatched missionaries to England which had been coquered by pagan Anglo-Saxons.

Leo III (795-816)

Leo III is one of the most important of the early medieval popes. He was from humble origins. This created a problem because the nobel Roman families thought that the papascy was reserved for those of nobel birth. They deposed Leo. A mob almost put out his eyes and tore out his tounge. He appealed to Charlemage who went to Rome and restored him in the papacy. It was there that Leo crowned Charlemagne. This began the relationship between the pope and Holy Roman emperor that dominated European affairs for several centuries.

Stephen VII (896- )

Many papal scholars believe that Stephen VII was probably the most mentally unbalanced of all the popes. It was Stephen who was responsible for what has become known as the cadaver Synod. He ordered that his predessor, Popr Formosus be disintered, dressed in full papal regalia. He was ten tried for a range of offenses. After he was found guilty, the corpse was uncerimomiously chucked into the Tiber. A few months later, Stephen was deposed and stangled to death.

John XI (931-36)

John XI is an era of decline for the papacy is considered by many to have been the most scabdalous of all the popes. He is believed to have been the illegitimate son of Pope Sergius III and Marozia, woman from an important RomNN family. Before the creation of the College of Cardinals, ties to important Roman families were how most individuals became popes.

John XII (955-963)

John XII was another scandalous pope. He was one of many popes who were not selected on the basis of his religious training and experience. With the support of his and other prominent Roman families, John became pope at only 18 years of age. Pope John was much more interested in parties and entertainments than eclesiastical matters. He became a scandal in western Christendom. He is sometimes referred to as the Christian Caligula. Emperor Otto I wrote him, "Everyone, clergy as well as layity, accuses you, Holiness, of homicide, perjury, sacrilige, incest with your relatives, including your sisters." The Emperor eventually deposed Pope John.

Gregory VII (1073-85)

Gregory VII was the papal name of the great teacher and Church thinker Hildebrand. Gregory was one of the most influential of all popes. Gregory played a major role in the Church's insistance on the celibacy of the clergy. we are not sure just what motivation of Gregory was, but the Church's motivation was land. The Church by the 11th century had acquired huge areas of land throughout Europe. In some countries, the Church owned one-quarter, and in some cases even more, of the arable land. Important churchmen were using some of that patrimony to provide for their children. Celibacy would mean that it would be for ever retained by the Church. Gregory also begand the aggressive persuit of papal dominance over temporal princes. The issue had risen before, but never so publically and powerfully as that between Gregory and the uncrowned Emperor Henry IV over investiture. After Gregory excommunicated him, Henry had to come to Gregory as a pentinent and stand in sackcloth and barefoot in the snow at Canossa (1077).

Urban II (1087-1099)

The Byzantine patriarch had sought assistance from Gregory VII, but he had been too involved in the Investiture Controversy to consider support. It was Urban who launched the Crusades. This marked the beginning of the era of greatest influence of the papacy. Never before or sence has the Church been so important or so respected as a moral force nor the influence of the pope so influental and respected throughout Christendom.

Gregory VII

In an era when popes and emperors struggle over supremecy, Gregory wrote, "Who can doubt that the priests of Christ are to be considered the fathers and masters of kings and princes and all the faithfull?"

Alexander III (1159-81)

Aklexander was one of the strongest of all popes. Orlando Bandinelli was born in Siena (11??). He became a noted teacher and drafter of cannon law. He was elected Pope Alexander III (1159). It was Alexander who compelled English King Henry II to do public pennannce for the murder of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas | Becket. He also continued the struggle with the Holy Roman (German) Emperors Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa) knelt before Pope Alexander III to recognize the spiritual supremecy of the papacy (1177). Alexander for the Church law requiring a two-thirds vote of the College of Cardinals to elect a pope.

Weak Popes

Following the death of Alexander III, there were five popes in 10 years, all elderly with little energy.

Innocent III (1198-1216)

Innocent III is often described as the greatest of the medieb=val popes. He was the youngest pope up to the time. Born in 1160 he was only about 38 years old. He was the first pope since Alexander III who reached the Latteran Palace with any vigor. Innocent was the guardian of the young Emperor Frederick II. The papacy under Innocent and the five popes who suceeded him approached the role of a unified European monarch more than any other popes. This was because of weaknesses in the Empire and the fact that as a result of the Fourth Crusade, Constantinople was in Latin hands and the papacy suppressed the Greek rites. He significantly expanded the powers of the papacy and developed strict rules for clerical conduct. Even so the moral authority of the papacy, the core power of the pontif, had declined from that Urban held when he launched the crusades. That was illustrated in the struggles that Innocent and his successors had with the Emperor Frederick. One historian explains, "The church in the 13th century was extending its legal power in the world, and losing its grip on men's consciences. It was becoming less persuasive and more violent." [Wells, p. 579.] It ws Innocent who launched the terrible crusade against the Cathars. A huge army was assembled and as many as 2 million peole may have been killed.

Clemet IV ( -1268)

Period of Indecession (1268-71)

After the death of Clemet IV (1268) the College of Cardinals had difficulty deciding on a new pope. Part of the problem was that the cardinls were enjoying the luxurious accomodations provided at Viterbo. Eventually the city fathers locked them in a place and even removed the roof. They were even threatened with starvation. Eventually they chose Gergory X.

Gregory X (1271?- )

Clestine V (1294)

Celestine V was hardly one of the more importnt popes, but he surely was one of the more interesting medival pontifates. He was only pope for 5 months. He was of course Italian, born as Peter Marrone (1210). He chose to become a monk as a teenager. We do not know his motivation. at the time there were both religiopus and economic factors. His was apparently religioys. A few yearsafter becomung a monk, he retreated to the mountains and lived as a hermit for 60 years. After Pope Nicolas IV died, the carinals were deadlocked over the choice of his sucessor. It is at this time that Peter weote aletter to the cardinals, expressing his 'holy rage' at the state of the church. This appears to have broke the deadlock--the cardunals chose Peter. This ivernight a humble hermit living in poverty became the leader of the Roman Catholic Church at brought to the slendor of the Vatican. Unlike many, Pope Celestine refused to change his life style. He had ainy wooden hut built within his kluxurious papal apartments. He was, hiowever, unprepared for church leadership and able to deal with the demands of the cardinals and nobility. \He thus soom resigned his office. One historian writes, "On December 6, the Feast of St. Nicolas of Myra, outside the papal residence Franciscan Spiritualists and Celestine monks began to gather, having heard the rumors through leaks in the papal entourage and among the cardinals. They surrounded the castle and carried on demonstrations in intercessory prayer for both the pope and the future of Mother Church .... The people were despirited, full of dread, some even terrified. What would happen if a pope resigned his holy office? Some, believing that God might become furious, were on their knees with their rosaries." [Sweeney] His successor, Pope Bonifce, had him arrested. He died in prison (1296). Some charge that he was murdered. He was cannonized (1313).

Boniface VIII (1294-1303 )

Boniface VIII is often described as the last of the grat Medieval popes. It is during his papacy that the Renaissance began in northern Italy. He attempted to rescue the papacy from French influence. The French under King Phulip IV invaded Italy and seized Boniface whom Philip had tortured. Once freed he returned to renouncing Philip. It is unclear if he died from the eralier torture or was murdered by French agents, but Boniface died as he was preparing to excommunicate Philip.

Clement V (1305-14)

Clemment V was French, the personal choice of King Philip. After his election, he did not even go to Rome, but assumed office in the fortified city of Avignon. This was a city in southern France that belonged to the Papal See. This began the Babylonian or Avignon Captivity of the papacy. Philip helped build far more luxurious quarters in Avigon than were available in Rome. As a Frenchmamn, Clement lso would have had to contend with hostile Roman mobs. The Church in Avignon was more efficently able to conduct business, a factor in the Church becoming increasingly rich.

Gregory XI (1370-78)

Gregory XI was deeply religious. He was the last French pope. Even so he brought the papacy back to Rome (1377). This created great difficulties. The former popes had made many appointments of French prelates. On his death (1378) the Great Schism developed.

Urban VI (1378-89)

Urban VI was elected after the death io Gregory XI (1378). Anti-French mobs in Rome concerned about the possibility of the papacy returning to Avignon threatened the French prelates if they did not elect an Italian. This caused considerable dissent within the Church, especially on the part of French prelates once they returned to France. Urban made no attempt to reconcile the French prelates. In fact he had six cardinals tortured and put to death. Urban claimed, "I can do anything, absolutely anything I like." Contending factions feared for their lives. The result was the Great Schism. The anti-Pope Clement VII set up his court in Avignon. Each had their adherents and their own College of Cardinals. Urban was supported by the Emperor and the monarchies in England, Hungary, Poland,and northern Europe. The King of France supported Clement as well as French allies (Scotland, Spain, Portugal, and German princes hostile to the Emperor). The split continue for some time. When ever a vacancy ovcuurred in Rome and Avignon, a replacement was selected rather than moving toward union.

Alexander V (1409)

Eventually the two colleges of cardinals united and chose one single pope--Alexander V (1409). The problem was that the two reigning popes in Rome and Avignon refused to step down. So Western Christendom now had three popes!

Martin V (1417- )

The breach in Western Christendom was finally resolved at the Council of Constance (1417). It was perhaps the most democratic gathering in the Church's history. It included both the lower clergy and the laity. The Great Schism ended with the election of Martin V (1417). The esisting pope and anti-pope either resigned or were removed from office. While democratic, the Council of Constance took steps that would severly contrain doctrinal discussion within the Church. They condemned the already dead John Wycliffe (England) and was responsible for the burning of John Huss (Bohemia). While the Great Schism was ended, the supresion of both Wycliffe and Huss, churchmen of great honor and learning, sewed divisions within the Church that would in the next century lead inexorably to the Reformation.

Alexander VI (1492-1503)

Rodrigo Birgia like other early Borgias was born in Spain, at Xatvia near Valencia. He was adopted by his maternal uncle who became Pope Calixtus III. This cleared the way for a spectacular career in the Church evebntually becomin a cardinal and an admositrator in the Vatican. Rodrigo lived a luxurios and licentious life, fathering many children, among them Ceasre and Lucretia Borgia. Through his uncle's patronage and substantial bribes virtually bankupting himself, he was elected pope (1492). Alexander is one of the more controversial popes, both for his life style and the substantial historical debate over his actions as pope. Alexander and his Uncle Calixtus III, the other Borgia pope, were enthralled with the drama of the liturgy, but in fact had no real religious convictions. Here Alexander is seen saying mass (figure 1). Note the altar boys. While no religious, Alexander insisted on observing the feasts and demanded the cardinals attend church services. He proved to be among the most imprtant of the Renaisance popes. He regained control of the Papal States which had been largely lost to local tyrants. It was Alexander who issued the Papal Bull dividing the world between Portugal of Spain, drawing the line with only the most scanty of geographical knowledge. He excomunicated Saonarola, am aestetic priest in Florence, paving the way for the return of the Medici. It was Alexabnder who established the Index Expurgatorius ereting the right to review books for heretical teachings. Alexander ploted to establish the family as as secular princes. His oldest son Juan may have been killed by another son Ceasre. Some believe that Ceasare way the inspiration for Machiavelli's The Prince. Alexander is said to have extorted money from nobels and eclesiastic alike, even poisoning some. Alexader died, however, before Cesare was able to establish a principality for the family. Cesare's sister Lucretia was even more notorious than her brother, although no one really knows how much truth is in the many lurid tales written about her. Lucretia maried Duke Alfonso I d'Este of Ferrara.

Pius III (1503)

Pius III was highlt respected as an honest and kind man known for acts of charity. He was also old and not in good healthy when elected by the College of Cardinals. In fact his pontificatec lasted only 26 days. It was marked by Cesare's Borgia's efforts to recover his position, ireperably damaged by the death of his father Pope Alexander VI. Pius' reign is notable principally for its brevity. This was by no means an isolated incident, although few pontificate's were as brief. But as most pope's were elderly men when elected, many lasted only a few years. This was a critical weakness of the papacy.

Julius II (1503- )

Julius was another of the great Renaissance popes.

Paul III (1534-1549)

Alessandro Farnese (1468-1549) was born in Canino, Latium which at the time was part of the Papal States. He was the eldest son of Pier Luigi Farnese, Signore di Montalto (1435-1487) and wife Giovanna Caetani, descended from the Caetani family. Pope Boniface VIII was also a family member. He called the Council of Trent (1545). He was one of the few Popes to have openly fathered children before his election through his relationship with Silvia Ruffini. One of his sons was Pier Luigi who he created Duke of Parma. The other children were Ranuccio Farnese and Costanza Farnese. Paul was unable to contain the Protestant Reformation and his secular outlook was a factor in fueling the Reformation.

Paul IV (1555-59)

Pope Paul IV played an important role in the Protestant Reformation. This was in part because he and other popes of the era continued to persue the papacy's tempopral interests in the Papal States even when it conflicted with the campaign against Protestahntism. Pope Paul IV (1476-59) was a Neopolitan. He was an esestic monk wih a rigid outlook. He initiated reforms which did much to purify the Catholic clergy. He is perhaps best known to history as the pope who insisted that fig leaves be painted all over Rome to cover the senuous art work of the Renaissance--including Micelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel. But it was his ability to hate that is his primary legacy, helping to weaken the Catholic cause. There was quite a long list of those he hated and that list was not dominated by Protestants. High on his listvwere the Jews. He coinfined the Jews in the Papalm States in ghettos and forced them to wear easy to spot yellow hats. He hated the independent thinkig of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He also hated the Spanish monarchy which threatened the temporal holdings of the papsacy--the Papal States. This was most reflected in the Spanish Hapsburg control of Naples which bordered the papal states in the south. Then the Spanish gained control of Milan to the north. It was the Hapsburgs, Charles V and his son Philip II that were the most poweful princes suporting the Catholic cause, yet Paul saw them as enemies. [MacCulloch] He even quarled with Mary Tudor who was doing her best to return England to Catholocism. Paul's outlook and rigidity was a factor in complicating any unified Catholic reaction to the Refornation.

Pius V (1566-72)

Pope Saint Pius V (1504-72) was born Antonio Ghislieri and came to be called Michele Ghislieri. He was elevated to the papacy (1566). He ws pope for only a brief 6 years, but had a huge impact on the future of the Church and the papacy. His principal contribution was the implementation of the Council of Trent and in formulating the agressive Catholic Counterreformation. He also helped standardize the liturgy. His papacy represented asea change from that of Paul III. The resulting centralization of authority and control of the Church led to an uniformity that in the long run left Catholicism illprepared to compete with Protestantism. One resukt was the need the Church feltvto adjudicate matters of science. Notably as scientific thought and duscivries began to transform Europe, mostt of the important work came from Protestant northenn Europe. Pius was created a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Paul V (1605- )

Galileo published his Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), describing the observations that he had made with the new telescope (1610). These observations refuted the prevalent cosmology based on ancient texts and Biblical schlorship. The book was a dialog and Galileo portrayed the character presentuing the Church's view as a fool. Pius because of the way Galileo presented his findings took it as a personal affront. Pius V created the prescedent of the Church ruling on scientific findings. And Paul confirmed it The perscecution of Galileo became a defining moment in the relationship between the Catholic Church and science. It would in the long run adversely affect both the Church and southern Europe.

Pius XI (1922-39)

Pope Pius XI finally came to terms with the Italian state. He signed a concordat with Mussolini who then recognized the Vatican as an independant state. Pius is an often ovelooked pope, but he served at a criticl time in European history--the rise of the totalitarian states rejecting liberal democracy, capitlism, and relgion. And there were voices within the CHurch that wanted to cooperate wuth Fascism as a way of fighting Communism which wasc more opposed to the Church than Fascism. Pius' biographer writes, "Adolf Hitler saw the pope--a man whose army was nothing more than Scriptures--as a threat to his drive toward world domination. Closer to the Vatican, Benito Nussolini shared Hitlr's hatred of this troublesome 89-year old pope .... Pius XI had few allies at the Vatican. Most of the cardinals and bishopsaround the popepreferred the status quo. Many were appeasers and anti-Semites and some even secretly sided with Hitler and Mussolini. For that reason, the popr had reached beyond the Vatican, had identified and singled out arogressive American priest," [Eisner] That priest was John LaFarge, an American Jesuit. Pius read his book, Interracial Justice. LaFarge argued that 'facialism and nationalism were fundamentally the same." Pius called LaFarge to Rome where they workd on an encyclical condeming Nazism and anti-Semitism. Pius hoped that anebcy\lical would raise public support in Europe and America for resisting Hitkler and his Fascist allies. Conservative churchmwn were, however, inclined to appease Hitler and plotted to delay the encyclical, It wold be derailed by Pius' death (1939). [Eisner]

Pius XII (1939-58)

The College of Cardinals in early 1939 fully recognized that war was coming. They chose a diplomat as the man most suited to oversee the Church. There was great concern for Pope Pius XII during World War II, escpecially after Germany occupied Rome (1943). Pope Pious was generately considered to be a compassionate man of peace during the War who did what he could to protect Jews and others. There were tributes to him after the War. This view continued for many years after the War. This began to change with various authors began to Pious' record, especially is failure to speak out more forcefully against the Holocaust. There is some validity for this charge. Some might argue, however, that this may have done little good and brought attacks on both the Church and Catholics. The Church charges a campaign of vilification. The role of Pope Pious XII during World War II has been intensly debated by historians. Some charge that he was a weak, church bureaucrat, more concerned with protecting the treasures of the Vatican than the opressed people of Europe. The issue is very complicated There are reports of Pope Pius intreauging with the British and German Generals (1940). The Pope did hide 5,000 people when the NAZIs began to round up Roman Jews (October 1943). The controversy about Pious continues today. At best his resonse was timid at worst some writers view him as virtually complicit. [Corwell] Those who criticise today certainly do so from the safty of a more secure world. Another historian refutes many of the charges against the Pope, pointing out his many statements criticizing the NAZIs even before he became pope. Therewere also many instances of Pope Pius XII protecting Jews. [Dalin]

John XXIII (1958-63)

One of the most beloved modern popes was Pope John XXIII. He is often called 'the Good Pope'. He was elderly and overwight, but had a warm personality and wonderful sense of humor. He was the first pope with media savy. When asked how many people work in the Vatican, he answered "about half". Perhaps John's greatest contribution was a shift in emphasis for the Church. The Church was seen as changing from a codemning to a loving spirit. John set in motion the greatest reforms of the Church in 1,000 years. Pope Johb XXIII set convoked tghe Second Vatican Council (1962-68), the most important religious convocation of modern times. John played akey role in the success of Vatican II, although he died only a year after after it began. One historian wites, "In the meantime, unbeknownst to the members of the council, John--fully aware if discussions of church isues stalled at this stage, his council would modt likely stall as well--set up a special committee to deal with the failed schema on Revelation. In a moment of inspiration, he paired the conservative Ottaviani and the liberal Bea to co-chair the committee, making a string point, in his role as Holy Father, that it was time for the squabbling prelates to get along .... This would be the only time during the Second Vatican Council John XXIII would enter directk\ly into the proceedings, but hios intervention rrived at a critical time. By stepping in when he did, John XXIII changed the course of the entire Seciond Vatican Council." [Tobin] One of the outcomes was the Catholic Church absolved Jews from responsibility for the deat of Christ. The Church also dropped the centuries-old claim that Jews were rejected by God. Other reforms included allowing the faithful to heat the mass in their ownn languages, having the priest face them while celebrating the mass, and incouraging Catholics to read the Bible for themselves.

Paul VI (1963-78)

Pope Paul VI was born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini in the small Lombard village of Concesio (1897). Montini took the pontifical name of Paul VI. He reigned as pope for about 15 years, a fairly long pontificate (1963-78). He succeeding Pope John XXIII, one of the most beloved of the modern popes. He continued the Second Vatican Council convened by John to a conclusion (1965). He then took on the daunting task of implementing the far reaching reforms adopted by Vatican II. It was not an easy task. There were conflicting interpretations and expectations of various groups making up the Catholic Church. The sheer magnitude of the reforms affecting all the vast activities of the Church and its mission were daunting. The changes were very wide spread and required considerable effort to implement into actual Church practice. The Vatican II reforms went far beyond similar reform efforts of both his predecessors and successors. Paul VI was a Marian devotee He following his meduevil predecessor, Saint Ambrose of Milan, and named Mary as the Mother of the Church during the Second Vatican Council. Paul VI sought dialogue with the world, with other Christians, other religions, and atheists, excluding nobody. Paul launched ecumenical efforts to foster relations with Eastern Orthodox and Protestants. Historic meetings and agreements followed. This effort was especially important as reflected St. Paul's role in expanding Christisnity and tie scattered early churches together. Pope Paul VI was the first pope to fly. He traveled widely earing the appelage of 'the flying pope'. He always saw himself as a humble servant for a suffering humanity and in the name of the Church he insisted that the rich in North America and Europe help the poor of the Third World. The future Pope Francis would issue and even more forcefull call, virtully condeming capitalism. These two popes and many other churcmen seem unaware of the fact that it is the wealth generating dynamic of capitalism that make possible the donations that finance the Church's good work. And there seems to be even less awarness among the the Churchmen of the monumental wealth generation of capitalism which began to occur at the time of Pope Paul's pontificat. First with the Asian Tigers and then market reforms in China, India, and other countries. It is understandable that Pope Paul would not have been aware of it. Amazingly after capitalism has enabled more than a billion people to escape the bonds of poverty and enter the middle class in the ensuing genration, more people than in all of history, that Pope Francis is totally unaware of it. This was not just good work to alleviate the duffering of the poor, but the elimination of poveerty itself among a ohenomenal number of people., but this is just what has occured. Pope Paul maintained the Church's position on birth control, promulgated in the 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae proved controversial in Western Europe and North America where liberals proved ready to accept the termination of life as a progressive value. Pope Benedict XVI declared that Pope Paul lived a life of heroic virtue and conferred the title of Venerable upon him. Pope Francis beatified after the recognition of a miracle attributed to his intercession (2014).

John Paul I (1978)

John Paul II (1978-2005)

John Paul II is perhaps the most beloved modern pope. He was the first Polish pope, notable because of the country's long history of Catholocism. He was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in the small town of Wadowice near Krakow (1920). This was shortly after Poland was reserected as a result of World War I. There were in the city 8,000 Catholics and 2,000 Jews. Wojtyla was called "Lolek." He was the second son of Karol Wojtyla Sr. who was a retired army officer and worked as a tailor. His mother was Emilia Kaczorowska Wojtyla, a schoolteacher of Lithuanian descent. The family were strict Catholics, but unlike many neighbors were not anti-Semitic. A close friend was Jerzy Kluger, a Jewish boy. Kluger later played a role in Vatican's recognition of Israel. Karol not only had Jewish friends, but was intreagued by Judiasm. He reasoned as a youth that anti-Semitism was pantently absurd as Jesus and his appostles were all Jews. Karol lost his mother at a young age and his father as a youth. He studied to be a priest during World War II at a time that the NAZIs attacked the Church and other Polish institutions. At the time the NAZIs were arresting seminarians. As a young priest he faced Stalinist repression in Poland after the War and perfected the Church's tactics of sucessfully confronting an athiest police state. Later as a Polish prelate he led the fight for a church at Nova Huta. His success in confronting Communism in Poland was largely responsible for his elevation to the Papacy. This proved to be a key event in the Cold War. His Pontificate played a key role in the collapse of Communism in Poland. One of the ironies of history, given the contempt which Stalin held for both Poles and the papacy (he once sarcastically asked how many army divisions the pope had), is that a Polish pope would pay a central role in the implosiom of the Soviet Empire. Pope John moved the heel the breech between Jews and Christians. He prayed at the infamous NAZI Auschwitz Concentration Camp when he visited his native Poland (1979). He recognized Israel (1994) and on a visit to the Holyland left a note of contrition for Christian persecution of the Jews at the Wailing Wall (2000).

Benedict XVI (2005- )

The College of Cardinals chose Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to replace John Paul II. Cardinal Ratzinger chose his papal name to be Benedict XVI. Cardinal Ratzinger was a close associate of JOhn Paul II. The commentary on his selection have generally focused on his conservatism. He is the First German pope in about 1,000 years. Both Pope Benedict and John Paul were caught up in World War II, but being from Germany and Poland their experiences were very different. Joseph's childhood experiences in his native Bavaria are very interesting and we do not yet have the complete account.



Collins, Roger. Keepers of the Keys of Heaven.

Cornwell, John. Hitler's Pope.

Dalin, David. The Myth of Hitler's Pope.

Eisner, Peter. The Pope's Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI's Cmpaign to Stop Hitler (2013), 304p.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. The Reformation: A History (Oxford University Press, 2004), 750p.

Nowich, John Julius. Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy (2011), 528p.

Sweeney, Jon M. The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieb\val Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation (2012), 304p.

Tobin, Greg. The Good Pope (2012), 288p.

Wells, HG. The Outline of History: The Whole Story of Mankind (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1971), 1103p.


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Created: January 15, 2004
Last updated: 2:30 AM 8/5/2016