DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     May 26, 1998     vol. 9, no. 101


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO
          Trying to bring stability to the Holy See was a tough accomplishment in light of the short terms of each pontiff during this time; Popes who would undo what their predecessor had done and clean house. In each pontificate it was like starting over and this lack of continuity hurt the credibility and progress of what Holy Mother Church was trying to accomplish. The political intrigue in the west and the division of the empire between the popes' choice of Rudolf I of Habsburg and the cunning manipulation of Charles of Anjou who influenced the election of the last few popes, made it more difficult to successfully organize a Crusade. The Holy See's two popes who we cover today were victims of this scenario as they endeavored to clear up the confusion wrought by their predecessors. Rather than accomplishing this, they plunged the Church deeper into consternation through their much-too-short pontificates.
Installment Sixty-nine

Popes Hadrian V and John XXI: Short terms and sickness mar the papacy.

         Not since Pope Alexander IV had there been a pontiff who lived longer than five years. Five successors and longevity was something not in the Holy See's vocabularly. This trend would continue throughout the rest of the thirteenth century. In fact there were a record nineteen popes during the 1200's and if you deduct Pope Innocent III who overlapped the century and ruled the Church for the first sixteen years of the thirtheenth century, each Supreme Pontiff ruled, on the average, less than five years. That does not bring stability to the Vatican. With the death of Pope Blessed Innocent V who only lived four months, his successor would live even shorter. That was Pope Hadrian V or Adrian, whichever you prefer. Innocent's successor was born Ottonbono Fieschi in 1205 in Genoa, Italy. He was the nephew of Pope Innocent IV and thus was afforded many privileges. Though he was never ordained, he was named cardinal deacon of San Adriano by Innocent and his successor Pope Clement IV dispatched him to England for the purpose of preaching the crusades and resolving the conflict between King Henry III and the British barons. Though Blessed Innocent V had died on June 22, 1276 it took three weeks to elect Cardinal Fieschi. Once again the College of Cardinals could not come to a clear cut decision and Charles of Anjou, king of Siciliy who had pinned so much on Innocent's favor, tried all in his power to influence the election. When that failed, he enforced strict measures cutting back severely on food rations. Frustrated and fatigued, the cardinals finally gave in to Charle's selection of Cardinal Fieschi. Thus he became Pope Hadrian V, the one-hundred-eighty-sixth successor of Peter. But like Charles' man before him, Hadrian wouldn't live through the summer. The day following his election, he gathered all the cardinals and formally decreed that the stringent conclave rules enforced by Pope Gregory X would be abolished and he would replace them with more humane ones. The next day he left the sweltering city to seek a cool rest in the mountains and never returned. He died in Viterbo on August 18th. Confusion reigned again because Hadrian had not only not been ordained, but he also had not been consecrated or officially crowned as Pope. Nevertheless the Church recognizes him as one of the 264 Supreme Pontiffs. He received another recognition some forty years later, albeit infamous acknowledgment. That was by the satirical Catholic poet Dante Alighieri who wrote the "Divine Comedy" in which he placed the Hadrian in Purgatory, accusing him of the sin of avarice.

         It is a fact that Dante placed many of the popes in Purgatory, and a few in his "Inferno" but Hadrian's successor Pope John XXI was the only one Dante placed in Heaven. There are some unique things about John XXI. First of all, he was the first and only Portuguese Pope, having been born Pedro Juliani, son of a physician in Lisbon in 1215. He followed in the footsteps of many of his predecessors by attending the learned University of Paris where he, too, studied under Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Albert the Great, and Saint Bonaventure. Like his father he became a physicial and began teaching medicine at the University of Siena. Through acquaintances and the influence of his predecessor Hadrian V, he became the personal physician to Gregory X and stayed on in the Vatican after Gregory's death. Gregory ordained Pedro and promoted him to Archbishop of Braga and then Cardinal of Tusculum. He wrote innumerable books, including The Soul and two books on medicine The Eye (opthamalmology) and The Poor Man's Treasury which highlighted ways of curing various illnesses. One of the illnesses not covered was the jealousies among the cardinals when it came time to elect Hadrian's successor. They had gathered in Viterbo where Hadrian had passed away and a bitter battle between two favorite sons once again forced a stalemate. One of these candidates, Cardinal Orsini who would be elected the next time, swung his block toward Cardinal Juliani and he was elected on September 8, 1276. Because he was so often referred to as "Pedro of Spain," few realized his roots were in Portugal. He chose John XXI even though there had been no John XX since the last John had been Pope John XIX who died in 1032. Perhaps because of historian error or the confusion as to numerical designation, this stems back all the way to Pope John XV. Regardless, Pedro took the name John XXI and was crowned as the one-hundred eighty-seventh successor of Peter two weeks later on September 20th. In deference to Cardinal Orsini who he trusted and leaned on so and was indebted for his generous act of swinging the votes in his favor, he assigned most of the power to him. Orsini counseled John XXI but make no mistake, the decision making did not come from the Pope but rather Cardinal Orsini. Orsini was a strong advocate of the policies set forth by Gregory X, but, because of the harsh circumstances of the last conclave, John degreed that there would be free papal elections. Other than that, few decisions were made that did not have Orsini's stamp on it. One was the fact that John refused to confirm Charles of Anjou as Senator of Rome and imperial vicar in Tuscany, something Charles and many of the people thought would be a fait accomplis. Rather John insisted Charles reconcile with King Rudolf I of Habsburg. It was a trade-off, so to speak, for if Charles were willing to acknowledge Rudolf as Holy Roman Emperor, then the Pope would recognize Charles as a Senator and royal vicar. Being from Portugal and spending more time in Spain as well as France, John sought to also reconcile the Spanish king Alfonso X of Castile with the French monarch King Philip III. The Holy Father was able to obtain the promise from both that the churches, their income, and property would be respected in both countries. John also turned his attention East, trying to resurrect the reconciliation with the Byzantine court, but Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus was still perturbed by the demands made by Innocent V. Yet, still playing politics in hopes of staving off any threat from Charles' overtures to recapture Constantinople, he strung John along even though he himself would die a few years later and his successor Andronicus and the Patriarch John Beccus would make full submission to Rome.

         John did much in reinstating tithing in England and western Europe, exacting papal taxes and correcting previous abuses. Long a man of the sciences, John dallied in astronomy as well as medicine and healing of souls, even having a special room built in the papal palace in Viterbo where he could view the stars at night. It was here where he died as the room, hastily built, collapsed on top of him in much the same manner as the frescoes fell on the poor unsuspecting Franciscan Friars at Assisi late last year. He died a six days later of internal injuries on May 20, 1277. It was a shock to the Christian world who felt so confident that a man of great health, relative young in age, and so knowlegable in the medical arts would live a long time. It was not to be. What was to be, was the continuation of the same policies because Cardinal Orsini would be elected the next pontiff six months later and carry out much of what he began over the next three years.

    Next installment: Pope Nicholas III: Political prowess punctuates the Papacy.

May 26, 1998       volume 9, no. 101


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