DAILY CATHOLIC for January 13
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no. 9

The History of the Mass and Holy Mother Church
INTRODUCTION:      The Pope who replaced the beloved and holy Pope Gregory VIII had a tough act to follow, but Pope Clement III performed well in his role as Vicar of Christ, negotiating peace with the Romans after a long hostility period. The honor of being able to return to Rome was paid for at a heavy price financially for Clement was forced to concede property and lands that had provided revenue. But in the interest of the Church, he realized the importance of peaceful coexistence between Rome and the Bishop of Rome. He dispatched the Third Crusade with Frederick Barbarossa leading the ranks. Out of this failed crusade would come a legendary figure that would gain in prominence - Richard the Lion-Hearted. Though suffering from a weak heart, God gave him a larger heart that enveloped the whole world and endeared him to Christians everywhere, even where there were disputes and battles. He was respected and revered by all. Though he outlasted Gregory's short three month reign, the three and a half years Clement was pope was not nearly long enough for the people of God.
Pope Clement III: The realization of the Third Crusade and Roman peace at a price
Installment Fifty-three
      The Christian world was in mourning with the passing of the beloved Pope Gregory VIII on December 17, 1188. Though he reigned for only three months, following in his footsteps would be a monumental task for his successor. It only took two days for the College of Cardinals, assembled at Pisa where Gregory had died while trying to negotiate peace between the people of Pisa and the Genoans. Like the assembly had done before electing Gregory, they offered another name - one Teobaldo of Ostia who politely declined. His rejection was the papacy’s gain for they turned to a Roman native to lead the Church in the person of Cardinal Paolo Scolari. He accepted and took the name Pope Clement III, the first Clement in nearly one hundred and fifty years. His selection was a wise choice for, as it would turn out, Clement III would bring peace to Rome after a period of 60 years of turmoil where the pontiffs were forced to reside away from the city. It had hurt greatly that the popes could not reside and conduct business either at the Lateran or Vatican in Rome, the recognized seat of Christianity. Now, quite possibly because Clement was one of their own, they put aside their differences and long-standing animosity, welcoming the Pope back to Rome on May 31, 1189 when a concordat was signed whereby the Roman senate recognized the Pope’s sovereignty and rolled out the red carpet for the Vicar of Christ to remain permanently at the Lateran Palace.

     Many historians believe that because Clement was not in the best health, suffering from a congenital heart murmur, and because he was inexperienced as a politician that these "weaknesses" were turned into "strengths." Because of his sincerity, he drew sympathies from all sides which enabled him to negotiate with all parties with only one objective: Peace. This aided him greatly with the ambitious Frederick Barbarossa, the German King and Emperor, long a thorn in the side of many pontiffs. But Gregory had softened him and it was left to Clement to bring Barbarossa back into the good graces of Holy Mother Church…but only for a time. Clement saw the immense edge of prestige and power of Christian Europe in persuading Frederick to lead a well-formed band of crusaders to the Holy Land to retake Jerusalem. Clement saw that the Holy See could be the unifying factor and clearing house to bring countries of differing cultures together for one cause: the Third Crusade. Turning his attention to England, he tried to negotiate a peace settlement between the English King Henry II and France’s monarch Philip, but ran into political intrigue and war broke out between the countries. Philip defeated Henry who died shortly thereafter. Emerging from this was the new English king - one who would become legendary and synonymous with the Crusades - Richard known as the "Lion-Heart." Both Richard and Philip, once enemies, now became allies in the cause of the crusades. Meanwhile, Clement, out of necessity, became a master at exacting alliances and monetary dues to offset the taxes assessed against the Holy See and land confiscated from past concordats. To make up the difference and fund the crusades, Clement imposed taxes not only on many countries, but also monasteries and dioceses throughout Christian Europe. Human nature and greed mandated that this would not go smoothly. One such example was in Scotland where Clement had transferred the Scottish Church from allegiance to York in England to direct dependence on Rome. This did not sit well with many within the English clergy who had relied on the financial support of Scotland, yet for the Scots it was indeed "independence day" for they had been freed from being dependent ecclesiastically to the Archbishop of England.

     When the Norman William II, monarch in Sicily died on November 18, 1189, more problems erupted for there was no male heir. Henry VI, son of Frederick, pounced on the opportunity like a hungry hyena. He claimed his wife Constance was the legal heir to the throne and therefore due the spoils. This did not sit well with the people of southern Italy who saw as repugnant the idea that a foreigner would rule them. Thus they rallied behind Count Tancred of Lecce, the grandson of William’s father King Roger II. He was elected to the throne in January 1190. Clement, realizing the dangers of being sandwiched between the German powers, opted to recognize Tancred though he was diplomatic enough to not invest him formally which would have really riled Frederick who was up to his neck in alligators in trying to wrest Jerusalem from the hands of the infidels. His son Henry was left to fight the battle on his own, but he too was occupied with problems in Germany. It was not until January 1191 that Henry reached Italian soil. His goal was to have the Holy Father crown him imperial emperor of all the empire, including Sicily which would conveniently place him higher than Tancred and thus open the door to his original intent of reaping the riches and power. However on his march toward Sicily where he would meet the supreme pontiff, he learned that Clement’s heart, so great and giving in life, had given out in March 1191. Henry would not be elevated by Clement III. It would be left to Clement’s successor who we shall cover in the next installment next week.

To review all past installments of this on-going series, go to Archives beginning with the inaugural A CALL TO PEACE internet issue in January 1996. volume 7, no. 1.


January 13, 1998     volume 9, no. 9
History of the Mass and Holy Mother Church






January 1998