INTRODUCTION:Though he ruled the Holy See for only six months, Pope Celestine II's impact was felt throughout Europe from the British Isles to France to Italy. To the surprise of many the Roman families remained in the background, leaving the election process to the well-ensconced College of Cardinals. With the steady assistance of the holy Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Pope Celestine II was able to bring peace to France, working out a reconciliation with King Louis VII. However, he was not as successful in pursuading the Brits from fighting among themselves, most notably the Scots and the English. Likewise his attempts to modify the concessions his predecessor Pope Innocent II made to the Norman ruler Roger II were less successful than Celestine had hoped for, and the illness of old-age took the life of this good pope before he could establish his stamp on the papacy. Regardless, he carried on the reforms introduced by Pope Saint Gregory VII and St. Bernard and helped settle the internal differences within the Church.

chapter forty three

Pope Celestine II: a reconciler who accomplished so much in so little time

         Many had feared that, with the death of Pope Innocent II there would be another fierce struggle for control of the papacy as had been the case when during Innocent's pontificate. However, because of his thirteen year tenure and the growing influence of the right hand man of popes - Cardinal Aimeric it was a breeze electing Innocent's successor only two days after the Pope's death. On September 26, 1043 the College of Cardinals gathered in conclave to unanimously elect Aimeric's personal choice - one of the oldest and most loyal of the red hats, Cardinal Guido of Citta di Castello. Cardinal Guido had been born into an aristocratic family in Umbria in the small town of Citta di Castello. He was a pupil of the renowned theologian and philosopher Peter Abelard. Through the latter's influence Guido grew in knowledge and was ordained, becoming well known as a holy and scholarly priest; so much so that he was personally beckoned to Rome by Pope Calixtus II. Calixtus' successor Pope Honorius II elevated him to Cardinal deacon in 1127 to the church of Santa Maria in Via Lata and he was promoted to Cardinal priest by Innocent II in 1134 and assigned to the church of San Marco. Under Innocent he served as papal legate at Cologne, Germany where he studied closely the works of Saint Bruno. He also was chosen by Innocent II to present the Pope's case for legitimacy to Roger II at the synod in Salerno in 1137. Though many thought he might become the third Innocent, Guido chose the name Pope Celestine II. His papacy, though short, was memorable for his reliance on one of the saints who had helped Innocent II so much - Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Celestine was as strong an advocate for the reforms of Pope Saint Gregory VII as Innocent II. With Bernard's help Celestine was able to bring a healing and reconciliation with the king of France Louis VII who had been placed under inderdict by Innocent. It was a 360 degree turn for the king who had been upset that the Count of Champagne had given refuge to the exiled Archbishop of Bourges who the king had exiled. This had led to bitter civil war in northern France with thousands trapped in a flaming inferno in the church at Vitry. The toll of war and the tide of public outcry convinced the king to reconcile with Rome. This he did at the urging of St. Bernard who intervened on his behalf with Pope Celestine II. With peace restored in the regions of France between the King and Rome, Celestine turned his attention towards both England and Italy. He sought to clarify King Stephen's rule over England which was embroiled in a bitter war with Scotland, intervening to mediate between the two warring nations, striving mightily to bring peace, but cooler heads did not prevail. The frustration experienced by Celestine and his unsuccessful attempts to modify the concessions Innocent II was forced to agree to with the Norman ruler in Sicily Roger II, wore down the aged pontiff who died on March 8th, 1144 after only six months as Pope. All his life Celestine had been a prolific writer and reader, and, before his death, bequeathed to the the church of Santo Florido in Citta di Castello fifty-six volumes of books from his personal library. This included two hand-written volumes by the theologian Abelard and a valuable silver altar-front piece which to this day remains a great treasure to the small town. He gave these gifts out of both generosity and retribution which, as he termed it, would contribute to the "ransom of his soul." A Pope who had shown great promise was now gone and the task of starting over fell on the conclave. In the next installment we shall see who they selected to succeed him.
September 29, 1997 volume 8, no. 19         History of the Mass and Holy Mother Church