DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     May 12, 1998     vol. 9, no. 92


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          The difference between Pope Clement IV and his successor Blessed Gregory X was like night and day. But it took more than a few days for the conclave to finally decide on Gregory, more like almost three years. It was a void in Church history where Holy Mother Church would have teetered on the brink had it not been for the steady influence of such great saints as Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Bonaventure, and Saint Albert the Great. Coincidentally, the new pontiff was a close friend of the three and a strong advocate for the crusades. In fact it was on crusade where the pope-to-be was informed of his nomination. Not only was this unusual, but, at the time he was not even a cardinal, let alone a priest. He was ordained just before receiving the papal crown and he served the Church well, reinstalling faith in Rome and peace and harmony throughout all of Europe. Through his deft diplomacy he was able to neutralize Charles of Anjou and convince the Byzantine Emperor to reunite the Greek Church with Rome, and bring about the election of a new German king Rudolf of Habsburg who was destined to become Holy Roman Emperor. But that would not happen because of the untimely death of this holy man. But all that he established, specifically at the Council of Lyons - the 14th Ecumenical Council - would have longlasting effects on Holy Mother Church, despite the setbacks that Gregory could not foresee occurring after his death.
Installment Sixty-seven

Pope Blessed Gregory X: Restoring the peace and bringing unity with the Greeks at the 14th Ecumenical Council

         There is an axiom that goes, "anything worthwhile is worth waiting for." Such was the case before the conclave finally elected the one hundred and eighty-fourth successor of Peter. Upon the death of Pope Clement IV on November 29, 1268 the conclave convened at Viterbo, Italy. Few realized they would be there deliberating stubbornly for nearly the next three years, stalemating the papacy while they dickered back and forth because of the bitterness between Italian and French prelates. Besides cultural rivalries, there were differences on which direction the cardinals thought the Church should go and on that they also argued vociferously. Add to this the meddling of Charles of Anjou who had executed the Conradin the last of the Hohenstaufen line. Charles felt he should have a say in who would be the next pope and he would not back down. This did not sit well with those who were either sympathizers to the Hohenstaufen policy or pro-Guelph, which was all for the Holy See. The deliberation for a new pontiff waned on, months, years. Finally, the public, growing increasingly uneasy without a "man" to look to as head of the Church, demanded the cardinals elect someone. The local authorities of Viterbo, agreeing something had to be done, locked the cardinals in the papal palace, removed the roof of the palace, and cut back their ration for food and water drastically in an effort to get them to decide. Through the cooperation of the French and Sicilian monarchs a compromise was reached and, appointing only six cardinals to settle it, they elected Tedaldo Visconti who was not only present, but was not even a cardinal or a cleric. In fact, at the time he was selected he was on a crusade in the east with the future king of England Edward I When word reached Visconti he was flabbergasted but accepted the highest office humbly, vowing never to forget Jerusalem and the cause of the Crusades which was so dear to his heart. He reached Viterbo on February 10, 1272 and was led into Rome where he was ordained a priest and then consecrated Pope Gregory X at St. Peter's Basilica on March 27, 1272. The irony to this is that neither of his two predecessors had ever set foot in Rome while popes.

         Even though Gregory's reign would be short-lived, he made it top priority to strive for the liberation of the holy land. To effect this, however, Gregory had to soothe the peace among the princes of Europe and to settle the long-standing fued between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines who were so stanchly pro-imperialist. By bringing both sides to a compromise and by calling on Richard of Cornwall to spearhead a campaign to elect a new German king, even though the Hohenstaufen line had been ended. This was done for three reasons, first, to unite Europe in an effort to drum up support for another crusade; two, to stem the power mongering of Charles of Anjou; and three, to reunite with the Greek Church. The latter was most important to Gregory who had studied at the University of Paris where he came under the steady influence of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Bonaventure, and Saint Albert the Great. Before he became supreme pontiff, Gregory had extensive talks with Michael VIII Palaelogus, the Byzantine Emperor about reuniting the two Churches. The latter agreed for the specific reason of stemming Charles' advance to Constantinople. Thus, once Gregory became Pope, he dispatched envoys to Constantinople to invite Michael to attend the Fourtheenth Ecumenical Council which Gregory convened on May 7, 1274 at Lyons, France and is also called the Council of Lyons. It was this Council in which Aquinas died just before reaching it, but St. Bonaventure was present and played a major role in the dockett. Michael and his delegates arrived six weeks later and on July 6 an agreement was signed in which the Greeks agreed to the double procession of the Holy Spirit, and the primacy of the Holy See.

          Though Charles had mounted a campaign to have Philip III elected king, he received little support and eventually had to succumb to the majority who elected Rudolf, Count of Habsburg. Charles was not invited to the Council but Rudolf was and at the Council Rudolf agreed to renounced all rights to papal territories and recognized the permanent seccession of Siciliy from the rest of his empire, leaving Charles with only Siciliy. Also during the Council the kings of England, France, and Aragon (Spain), as well as Michael of Constantinople all agreed to tithe toward another crusade and to recruit men for this holy war with the infidels. The Council Fathers also took care to prevent the kind of delays that occurred before Gregory became Pope by proclaiming the famous constitution Ubi periculum that mandated the cardinals must meet in conclave within ten days of the death of the previous pontiff and must be cloistered there until a new pope is elected and the longer the process takes, the conditions and amenities should become more austere, thus encouraging them to come to a decision. The Council also placed strict reforms and restrictions on religious orders with the exception of the Franciscans and Dominicans, largely because of their contributions and the presence at the council of such luminaries as Saints Bonaventure and Albert. Gregory was big on clergy reform and with the help of the latter two saints, carried out the reforms in the best manner possible.

         After the Council concluded, Gregory traveled back to Rome and then to Lausanne, Switzerland where he met Rudolf and made arrangements with the king to crown him Holy Roman Emperor on February 2, 1276 at Rome. It would be just a few short months when Gregory left Rudolf in late October of 1275 but they would never meet again for Gregory, upon his return trip across the Alps while visiting several northern Italian cities on papal visits to settle disputes among the civilians, contracted a fever and died on January 10, 1276 in Arezzo, Italy.

         Though Gregory's pontificate was short, he had recreated a trust and love in the Holy Father lacking in so many of his predecessors. All of Europe mourned and the villagers of Arezzo immediately offered his cause for canonization. He was buried in the Duomo there but sainthood was stalled until the mid 1700's when Pope Benedict XIV beatified him, adding Gregory to the Roman Martyrology even though he did not die a martyr and setting his feast day as January 10th. Gregory's accomplishments would seem to have gone unfulfilled in the short scheme of things, but in the long-run his policies had long-ranging effects. The crusade, which he had held so dear to his heart would not get off the ground after his death for Rudolf would not gain the power he had thought. The reunion of Rome and Constantinople would also be brief for Michael had authorized the agreement for political expediency only. Once that threat died down, there would be no holding the Greek church to their word and, as we shall see, the schism would once again become wide. But the policies instituted by Gregory went far in uniting mainland Europe in peace and reinstating the Holy See as a major force. Gregory was a power that would be hard to follow though the cardinals tried when they elected Pope Blessed Innocent V to succeed him as we shall see in the next installment: Blessed Innocent V: First Dominican Pope.

May 12, 1998       volume 9, no. 92


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