Daily CATHOLIC - February 10, 1998 volume 9, no. 29
THE HISTORY OF THE MASS AND HOLY MOTHER CHURCH
Pope Innocent III: a new century - the "Century of Saints" dawns with the Holy See seen in a new light.
In our last installment we introduced the reader to Pope Innocent III a young pontiff who led Holy Mother Church into the thirteenth century - the "Century of Saints." At the turn of the century Innocent had already secured the Holy See, reestablish respect for papal authority over much of Europe. In his own papal court was the young Frederick II, son of the late king of Sicily Henry VI and his wife Constance who had entrusted her young son personally to Pope Innocent III before her death. There inside the Vatican young Frederick was groomed in affairs of the Church and state. In France King Philip II sat on the throne. In England King John who would be forced to sign the landmark Magna Carta in 1215. Leopold VI - the "glorious" was in charge in Austria; Poland was ruled by Lesko the "White;" Spain governed by Alfonso IX and in Germany Otto of Brunswick had wrestled control from Philip of Suabia in a bitter struggle. Europe looked more to the Vatican for guidance as the new century held great promise. Two such examples were, first, in France where Philip remarried without Church sanction. When the Pope ordered Philip to separate from his new spouse whom he was living in sin with, he refused. Innocent placed all of France under interdict, denying the sacraments to all Catholics in France. This drastic measure provoked the people to rebel and Philip came crawling to the Holy Father in compliance. The same type of situation occurred in England where King John would not allow Innocent's appointment of Archbishop Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. Rather than dicker with the monarch, the supreme pontiff placed all of England under a similar interdict, excommunicating John and offering England to France. The people, following in the behavior of their French neighbors, rose up as one demanding John reinstate Langton and submit to the Pope. He not only asked for forgiveness from the Pope, but offered England as a fiefdom by agreeing to pay the Holy See an annual tribute which, in truth, established John as a vassal of the Pope. Two years after this agreement John signed another pact which would go down in historical annals as much more significant - the Magna Carta forced on him by English barons who got him to decree English liberty through this landmark charter in 1215. Though it seemed like the King had lost all control and power and was a vassal to the Pope, the loophole showed that because of this pact with the Holy See the Holy Father had to defend England against all comers - including France. This, as history showed, proved a victory for the English monarchs and much consternation to both Rome and France. Yet, in the early part of the thirteenth century the authority, clout and prestige of Rome had been strengthened greatly through Innocent's no-holds barred approach to compliance with Holy Mother Church. Though Innocent enjoyed great success, he also was faced with adversity, chief among them the Fourth Crusade tabbed the "Children's Crusade" which met with ultimate disaster. So full of zeal were the young of France and Germany that 50,000 youths set out in 1212 to win back the Jerusalem and the Holy Lands from the infidels through their humility, innocence and prayer. But the Saracens were not moved by this pious show of force and slaughtered all of the young soldiers of Christ in a massacre of massive proportions. When word reached Innocent he was devastated and took this sorrow to his grave. But before He passed to his Heavenly reward, Innocent convened the Twelfth Ecumenical Council, which was actually the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 for the purpose of planning another Crusade, one that would revenge the deaths of the young innocents and end the Moslem threat once and for all. It was also called so that further truths of the Church could be more widely distributed such as all Catholics who had reached the age of reason were required to go to confession and receive Holy Communion during Easter time, from henceforth called "Easter Duty." At this council, the Council Fathers and Innocent III first instituted the word for confecting the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That word, of course, was "Transubstantiation." Probably the most important mark of this council was to condemn Albigensianism. Innocent, long a crusader against the Manichean heresy was determined to put an end to the Albigensian heresy that had sprouted out of Bulgaria and spread throughout much of Southern Italy. Albigensians taught that the sacraments were invalid and therefore opened the door for sexual promiscuity. They tried to teach that the Holy Trinity did not exist, but rather a dualistic force of good - God and evil - satan, borrowing liberally from Zoroasterism. The Albigensians, fueled by Abbot Joachim waged an undermining war against the Church. Therefore condemnation of this heresy was again unanimous as it had been at Third Lateran Council. The ban was truly effective, for all traces of these heretics had completely disappeared by the fourteenth century. Innocent played a major role in bringing the Armenian Catholics and Marionite Catholics, both of which had separated with the Eastern Churches in the tenth century. His spirituality was always at the forefront and his example moved many. He was a staunch defender of the Church and a fierce inquisitor towards the heretics and those who would seek to destroy Christ's One True Church. He had a special place in his heart for those who were poor and loyal to Christ and His Vicar on earth. Because of this Innocent was a conveyor of several movements within the Church that would forever strengthen her. In the next installment we will complete this section on Pope Innocent III with his contributions to promoting the saints and getting the "Century of Saints" off on the right foot. We will cover two of the great giants of the Church in Saint Dominic and Saint Francis of Assisi as well as other saints who, through the help and guidance of Innocent III flourished for the honor and glory of God. In covering these saints we will bridge the reign of Innocent III with his successor Pope Honorius III, who, like Innocent would enjoy an extended papacy of over ten years. These men laid the foundation for the "Century of Saints."
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.
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