Lanternarius Press Tue, 14 Sep 2021 14:37:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pope John XIX: The Originator of Indulgences Tue, 14 Sep 2021 14:37:26 +0000

Romanus of Tusculum was the brother of Pope Benedict VIII. While his brother was on the throne of Peter, Romanus, a layman, was both counsel and senator of Rome, wielding much power. When Benedict died in April 1024, Romanus may have paid his way onto the empty throne. However, he was not a cleric, even a lesser cleric. On his election day, Romanus needed to be ordained to all seven clerical levels in order to be consecrated a bishop. He took the name John XIX at his papal consecration.

Obviously, he had no ecclesiastical knowledge or experience. In order to avoid any anti-popes or riots, and to impress the citizens of Rome, the new pope spent lavishly on celebrations and public improvements.

Soon after Pope John’s election, he received ambassadors from the Byzantine Emperor Basil II. Knowing the ex-counsel’s penchant for bribes, the ambassadors came with large amounts of gifts and a request from the Patriarch of Constantinople, Eustathius. He wanted Rome to acknowledge his title of ecumenical bishop, basically raising him to the level of the pope, but for the Eastern Church. John did not seem to have any problem with that, considering all the gifts. Negotiations began in secret. But word got out and there was an outcry. John pulled out of negotiations. But he kept the bribe money.

In 1025, John sent a crown and his blessings to the new king, Boreslaw of Poland.

John became a patron of the famous musician Guido of Arezzo. He invited Guido to Rome to discuss the new musical notation he had invented. He kept him there to teach the Benedictines and the Roman clergy.

The Holy Roman Emperor and king of Germany, Henry II died three months after Pope Benedict. The new king was Conrad, a Frank. John supported him from the beginning. In 1027, Conrad crossed the Alps, coming to Rome to be crowned emperor on Easter. Also coming to the celebrations were King Rudolph III of Burgundy and Cnut the Great of Denmark and England. Cnut, a recent convert to Christianity, wanted to both repent of his sins and improve conditions for the pilgrims along the route to Rome (they were charged tolls to walk along the roads in different areas). In this setting, he and Rudolph negotiated a cheaper way for pilgrims to travel. The end result was witnessed by dozens of archbishops, bishops, priests and nobles.

A week later, John conducted a synod at the Lateran. He declared the Patriarch of Aquelia the only patriarch of Italy, giving him primacy over all other bishops, much to the chagrin of the Patriarch of Grado, who was demoted to bishop. Two years later, John changed his mind and gave the patriarchy back to Grado. He also gave the archbishop of Bari certain allowances. This was part of a conciliatory agreement with Patriarch Eustathius. This way, the Byzantine Rite could be allowed in exchange for the establishment of the Latin Rite in Constantinople. But the Patriarch still didn’t get his title.

Like other recent popes, John took Cluny Abbey under his protection in spite of the objections of the local bishop. He tried to talk Abbot Odilo into accepting the bishopric of Lyons. Odilo declined and John was not pleased. But he died before he could carry out any plan.

Under John XIX, the feast of St. Martial of Limoges was raised to the level of Apostle. There was written evidence that Marital had traveled with some Apostles.

It appears that John began the tradition of indulgences in exchange for alms, or, as the Protestants said, paying for a way out of penances. When the Crusades began, selling indulgences became a fund-raising activity.

Pope John XIX was an inconsistent, money-hungry man who did not understand Church law. He acted in his own best interest, for the most part. His actions led to the schism between East and West just a generation later.

He died in either October or November of 1032. Some say he died naturally. The rumor that he was attacked by angry peasants has no evidence. His young nephew became the next pope.

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Pope Benedict VIII: The First Tusculum Pope Sat, 04 Sep 2021 22:53:01 +0000

This, in some ways is the story of two families who used to be close, but over the generations, grew to hate each other. You may remember Theophylact, the Roman dictator, who married Theodora, a member of the Crescenti family. Their daughter, Marozia, became a dictator in her own right and it continued down throughout the 900s.

Gregory of Tusculum was the grandson of Marozia. He was the confidante of popes. He lead a rebellion against Emperor Otto III and expelled the Crescentii, his shirttail relations, in 1002. He then became the “Head of the Republic”. But he lost the title when the Crescentii regained power shortly after. He died before 1012, leaving riches and a virtual army to his three children Theophylact, Alberic and Romanus.

Pope Sergius died in June of 1012. Theophylact, a layman, was nominated pope, taking the name Benedict VIII. At virtually the same time, a man named Gregory was nominated by a small group, likely the Crescentii, and determined that he was pope.  Theophylact aroused his family army and chased the remaining Crescentii into the mountains, virtually crushing the opposition. Gregory ran to King Henry of Germany, asking for a judgement. Henry took away the papal insignia he was wearing and told him to stop acting like pope while he considered the situation. Gregory was never heard from again.

A year later, King Henry marched into Rome, where Pope Benedict crowned him Holy Roman Emperor, filling the seat left empty by Emperor Otto III’s death twelve years before. Henry and Benedict remained on good terms until their deaths. Shortly after, Henry asked Benedict to include the Nicene Creed in the Mass, something that had not been done in all the years since the Council of Nicaea. Benedict officially added the word “filoque”, meaning that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. This was to prove equality among the three Persons of the Trinity. The East was offended that the West altered the Creed without a council.

Benedict had his hands full with international problems. He encouraged the “Truce of God”, a peace movement of the Middle Ages. The Saracens again were attacking the west coast of the Italian peninsula. The Byzantine empire decided to retake southern Italy. Benedict, not a trained churchman, used armies to his advantage. He allowed Norman freebooters, pirates, to defeat the Saracens. By 1020, Benedict went to Germany to confer with Henry about the Saracens. While there, he consecrated the new cathedral of Banburg at Easter and he visited the monastery at Fulda. Henry gave him a charter confirming the donations of Charlemagne and Otto I. The emperor led an expedition to southern Italy to subordinate the vassals who had defected to Byzantine authority.

Two years later, Henry and Benedict jointly held a synod at Pavia. The purpose was to restrain simony (the selling of church offices or roles or sacred items) and incontinence (excess, especially of a sexual nature) in the clergy. Reformation of monasteries had begun at the Cluny abbey. Benedict supported the concept. St. Odilo, the abbot of Cluny, was a friend of his.

Pope Benedict VIII died 9 April 1024. He was succeeded by his brother Romanus, who took the name Pope John XIX. Emperor Henry died 12 July the same year. He had no heirs. The Holy Roman Empire reverted to a Frank.

Benedict had his hands full with international problems. He encouraged the “Truce of God”, a peace movement of the Middle Ages. The Saracens again were attacking the west coast of the Italian peninsula. The Byzantine empire decided to retake southern Italy. Benedict, not a trained churchman, used armies to his advantage. He allowed Norman freebooters, pirates, to defeat the Saracens. By 1020, Benedict went to Germany to confer with Henry about the Saracens. While there, he consecrated the new cathedral of Banburg at Easter and he visited the monastery at Fulda. Henry gave him a charter confirming the donations of Charlemagne and Otto I. The emperor led an expedition to southern Italy to subordinate the vassals who had defected to Byzantine authority.

Two years later, Henry and Benedict jointly held a synod at Pavia. The purpose was to restrain simony (the selling of church offices or roles or sacred items) and incontinence (excess, especially of a sexual nature) in the clergy. Reformation of monasteries had begun at the Cluny abbey. Benedict supported the concept. St. Odilo, the abbot of Cluny, was a friend of his.

Pope Benedict VIII died 9 April 1024. He was succeeded by his brother Romanus, who took the name Pope John XIX. Emperor Henry died 12 July the same year. He had no heirs. The Holy Roman Empire reverted to a Frank.

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Pope Sergius IV: The Last of the Crescenti Popes Thu, 26 Aug 2021 22:10:51 +0000
Sergius is the pope who made the taking of another name common among popes. He was born Peter, son of Peter the Shoemaker and his spouse Stephanie. Apparently, he was referred to as Peter Pig Snout. Young Peter was born around 970 and grew up in the Pina area of Rome, not too far from the Pantheon. Someone saw intelligence in the face of the shoemaker’s son. He was educated and joined the Benedictine Order. Over time, he moved up the ranks of the clergy. In 1004, Peter was consecrated bishop of Albano, a town not too far from Rome. When Pope John XVIII abdicated in early July 1009, Bishop Peter was nominated and elected by the end of the month. He took the name of Sergius, so as not to dishonor the name of the Apostle and martyr.
John Crescentius III was still the dictator of Rome and its environs. His purpose seemed to be to control all and steal as much as possible. The poor of Rome suffered as much from the rule of this man as from the frequent famines, the last large one only three years previous. As much as possible, Sergius tried to check the power of Crescentius by strengthening the imperial party, which favored the German Holy Roman Emperors. The counts of Tusculum were of this party. Unknown, apparently, to Sergius, the rise of this party would be a bigger upset than the work of the Crescentii. While unable to have much temporal power, Sergius was able to have some ecclesiastical power. He exempted several monasteries and churches from overbearing episcopal jurisdiction. Many bishops were noblemen and had a sense of power that outweighed their spiritual bounds. Sergius tried to control that in a number of different places, making elections of abbots, visitations of prelates and other local concerns within the purview of the individual monastery or church. Although the last large-scale famine was over, localized famines due to overuse of land, lack of farmers or other concerns, continued. Sergius was very generous in his help to the poor throughout his reign. The most fascinating occurrence during his reign was the total destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem, on 18 October 1009. The Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered the complete ruin of the church as part of a general plan to destroy Christian places of worship in Palestine and Egypt. Some said that the Jews instigated this to rid the area of Christians. Some said that al-Hakim did it to prove that he was not a Christian like his mother. At any rate, a papal bull, written by Sergius, calling for Muslims to be driven from the Holy Land turned up later. To this day, it is not known if it was authentically written at this time, or a forgery. A story is prevalent that a famous noble, Fulk of Anjou, had John Crescentius killed, with the blessing of the pope. It sounds a little presumptuous, but we don’t know the truth. However, Crescentius did die during Sergius’ reign. Sergius died within days. Some say he was poisoned because, although the pope did work behind the dictator’s back to support the Holy Roman Emperor, in public, he was a puppet. Once the dictator died, his puppets would certainly go down in short order. Sergius died 12 May 1012, aged about 52. He was buried in the Lateran Basilica, to the left of the entrance, according to John the Deacon. He was never canonized, but the Benedictines honor his feast day.
POPE JOHN XVIII: THE SECOND ABDICATION Mon, 16 Aug 2021 00:44:14 +0000

Giovanni Fasano was born into a priest’s family in Rome in the mid-900s. It was a time of extreme control of the Catholic Church by politicians, especially the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Italy. John XVII died and Fasano, the pastor of St. Peter’s, was chosen and consecrated on December 25, 1003. Learned and pious, of an amiable and conciliatory disposition, Cardinal Fasano was probably considered malleable by the dictator of Rome.

Following a one-hundred-year family tradition, John Crescentius the Third, military leader and tight-fisted ruler of Rome, subordinated the new pope and permitted him very little temporal discretion. The election, as had several previous elections, was considered scandalous.

When Emperor Otto III died at 21 in 1002, his second cousin, Henry the Duke of Bavaria, became the king of Germany. He did not immediately receive the other accolades, those of king of Italy and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Meanwhile, Arduin, the Margrave of Ivrea, a tiny town in the Alps, had also been Count of the Sacred Palace of the Lateran. This gave him some clout. A few years after the death of Otto III, he was elected by the Roman nobles to be king of Italy in the safer city of Pavia. He was supported by the nobility but opposed by the episcopate. Pope John tended to support Henry, although he could do little. When Henry heard of the election, he invaded Italy and proceeded to defeat Arduin in battle. He, then, had himself crowned king of Italy, going home to Germany soon after. Arduin was left to have some authority in northeast Italy for a decade.

Pope John was permitted mostly ecclesiastical administration, not political. He authorized the establishment of the Diocese of Bamburg. King Henry of Germany and Italy was interested in using it as a base for missionary activity among the Slavs. John also revived the Diocese of Merseburg, which had been suppressed under Emperor Otto II. He was also successful in negotiating a temporary peace between the Eastern and Western Churches, the last one before the Great Schism fifty years later. 

Sitting in Rome, unable to help his friends, Pope John had much on his hands, anyhow. In the five and a half years of his reign, he had to contend with famine and plague in the mid years of his reign. Also, the Saracens of the emirate of Sicily were constantly attacking the west coast of the peninsula as far north as Rome.

After five years, Pope John was an embittered man. He abdicated the throne and retired to a monastery attached to St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, where he lived less than a year, dying in July 1009. He was buried at Old St. Peter’s basilica.













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POPE JOHN XVII: THE 140TH POPE Tue, 20 Jul 2021 16:19:14 +0000

The years 1002 and 1003 were very difficult for the papacy. In the previous year, the Roman nobles, under the leadership of the son of the slain Crescentius II, John Crescentius, had begun a revolt. It was a serious enough threat to the papacy that the young emperor, Otto III, had taken up residence in the city of Rome. Even with imperial protection, Pope Sylvester II and the emperor had to flee to Ravenna, where they stayed for over a year. Otto forayed out three times to regain control of the capital city. On that third foray, the emperor was killed.

Sylvester, left relatively unprotected, returned to his city. John Crescentius remained firmly in control and the poor pope died within a year, May 12, 1003. With civil authorities running the Church and the city, there was no election for a new pope. It appears that John Sicco, a priest, was simply nominated and consecrated four days later.

John Sicco was the son of Giovanni (John) Sicco of the region of Rome named after the monastery of St. Andrew of Biveretica, not far from the still-standing Trajan’s arch. The younger John had married early in life and had three sons who, like himself, had taken Holy Orders. Son John became the bishop of Praeveste, son Peter was a deacon, son Andrew was a canon notary. Our John became a priest in his widowhood.

We know little about Pope John’s papacy, since he did not live out the year. We know that John approved of a mission by Bruno of Querfurt to East Europe. This Bruno also requested that John authorize his associate, Benedict, to evangelize the Slavs. Now, this may be a coincidence, but this is the same year that St. Stephen became the king of Hungary and vowed to make it a Christian country.

For years, no one seemed to know the date of Pope John’s demise, only that it was one of several dates. Eventually, at a monastery of Saints Cosmos and Damian, a document was found in which the abbot leased a homestead to a John de Iannia, “in the first year of our Lord John XVII…the 9th day of September”. So, we know he was alive on that date. This increases the likelihood that the 6th of November, 1003 is more accurate.

Pope John XVII was buried in the Lateran Basilica between two of the doors of the principal façade. John the Deacon, the historian of the Lateran Basilica in the twelfth century, wrote this about John’s burial place: “Here is the tomb of the supreme John, who is said to be Pope, for so he was called.” Apparently, many were not happy with how he ascended the throne.

In 1040, the three sons erected an epitaph at St. Prassede, indicating that they were of the family of Pope Sicco. There’s nothing better than bragging that you are a pope’s son!

POPE SYLVESTER II: THE FIRST FRENCH POPE Sat, 10 Jul 2021 18:17:24 +0000

You may recognize Sylvester II under his given name, Gerbert of Auxillac, the phenomenal scholar of the early Middle Ages.

Gerbert was born around 946 in Bellise, south central France. At around 17 years of age, he entered the Monastery of St. Gerald of Auxillac to study. Four years later, Count Borrell II of Barcelona, a young man of Gerbert’s age, visited the monastery. The abbot, having already become impressed with Gerbert’s intellect, asked the count to take Gerbert back to Barcelona so that the student could study math. Barcelona was in Catalonia, the Christian buffer state between France and Moslem-held Spain. The abbot’s goal was for Gerbert to gain knowledge or Arabic learning, at its zenith, at that time.

The young Gerbert studied under the direction of Bishop Atto of Vich. He had at his disposal the Catalan and Cordoban monasteries where thousands of manuscripts covering subjects from science to philosophy sat. He was introduced to Hindu-Arabic digits (what we use now). He was introduced to an abacus and improved on it, reintroducing a concept that had died with the Roman Empire. The abacus became popular in the next century. Over the years, Gerbert developed an armillary sphere, showing how constellations were positioned and seen from earth. He got the longitudes and latitudes almost right and the equator exact. At some time later, the future pope invented a timepiece. The first mechanical one.

After being in Catalonia for two years, Borrell II took Gerbert with him on a pilgrimage to Rome. There they met Pope John XIII and Emperor Otto I. The pope was so impressed that he convinced Otto to hire Gerbert to tutor his son, Otto, at Reims.

As the young man got older and did not need a tutor, Gerbert realized he did not have a sufficient knowledge of logic, so he began to study under the famous logician Gerann of Reims. Gerbert soon got an appointment to teach at the cathedral school. He was also ordained at some point in his sojourn there.

Otto I died in 973 and his son became the emperor. He appointed Gerbert abbot of the monastery at Bobbio in 980. Unfortunately, Gerbert’s lack of administrative skills did not endear him to the monks, clerics and nobles, some of which owned annual stipends. There were thefts and refusal of payments. When he warned European leaders about Henry of Bavaria’s political ambitions, he learned about plots against him and the emperor. It was time for him to leave Bobbio and go back to Reims. With Otto II dying unexpectedly in 983, the new emperor, Otto III, was only a toddler. Gerbert was protective. Hearing that the king of France wanted to take some of Otto’s land, Gerbert joined with a contender to the throne, Hugh Capet, becoming his secretary and advisor.

The archbishop of Reims saw Gerbert as his successor. When he died in 989, Gerbert assumed he would be nominated. Hugh Capet chose Arnulf, instead. For nine years, politics leading to near civil war put Gerbert out of contention, then into the archbishopric, then out again. He tutored the young emperor, but hoped for more.

In 998, Gerbert was appointed archbishop of Ravenna. A year later, Pope Gregory V died. Supported, or pushed, by Otto III, now a young man, Gerbert was elected the new pope. He took the name Sylvester. Almost the first thing he did was confirm the position of Arnulf as the archbishop of Reims. In a synod, he took a stand against simony and the concubinage of clergy. He insisted that only capable men of spotless lives could be bishop.

This was not a happily ever after. Two years after ascending to the throne, 1001, there was a revolt in Rome. Sylvester and Otto III, who was in Rome at the time, had to flee to Ravenna. Otto, with his army, led two unsuccessful expeditions to regain control of Rome. But he died in a third attempt in 1002. Sylvester returned soon after. But the rebellious nobles remained in control. I would not be surprised if he was in house arrest for most of his remaining time. He died within the year, May 12, 1003.

Pope Sylvester was buried in St. John Lateran.

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ST. ELIZABETH, QUEEN AND WIDOW Thu, 08 Jul 2021 19:32:15 +0000

Can sanctity run in family genes? This story is about St. Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal. She was the daughter of King Peter of Aragon, who was the son of Yolanda of Hungary, the half-sister of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. There was no social relationship between the two Elizabeths, except for the younger being the namesake of the older. They never even met. I think there is something to be said for a sanctity gene.

Our younger St. Elizabeth was born in 1271 to the prince of Aragon and his wife, Constance of Aragon. Within five years, King James of Aragon died, and the prince became king. As a royal princess, Elizabeth was betrothed to King Denis of Portugal at the age of ten. The celebration was formalized when she was 17. She moved from Aragon to the capital city of Coimbra, Portugal.

Elizabeth had always pursued Catholic religious practices. She attended Mass, read the entire Divine Office and cared for the poor and sick. Denis was definitely not a religious man, practicing spousal abuse and having a number of mistresses. Elizabeth prayed for him and the children for years before seeing a conversion.

Not only was she a devoted Christian, Elizabeth was a brilliant student. She understood architectural design and engineering and was capable of overseeing the design of several churches and hospitals. She learned to communicate in several languages. She had a lovely singing voice. In the capital city of Coimbra, Elizabeth built hostels for the poor, a hospital, a house for repentant wayward women, a free school for girls, and a hospice for abandoned children. She built bridges in dangerous places, visited and procured doctors for the ill, and endowed poor girls for the convent or for marriage. She even had a tiara and wedding gown available for poor young women to look lovely on their wedding days.

Elizabeth had a serious interest in politics. With her husband, she was a decisive conciliator of the Treaty of Alcanices, which fixed the borders between Portugal and Castile. She also participated as an arbitrator between King Fernando IV of Castile, her son-in-law, and King James II of Aragon, her own brother. Her ultimate arbitration was between Denis and their son, Alfonso, during the Civil War, 1322-1324. The argument here was wone of jealousy over Denis’ illegitimate son, Alfonso Sanches. The later was eventually exiled and the king and his son were reunited. It was about this time that Denis finally asked forgiveness for his terrible deeds. He died the next year.

After his death, Elizabeth retired to the Poor Clare monastery in Coimbra, which she had founded in 1314. Becoming a Franciscan tertiary, she took care of the poor and sick, as she always had, until she died at about sixty-five years of age. One last time she had to be a conciliator, in 1336, when her son, the king of Portugal, Alfonso IV, fought against the king of Castile, Alfonso XI, the husband of Alfonso IV’s daughter, Maria. The Castilian king was an abusive husband and Maria was the victim. Elizabeth negotiated that situation successfully. She fell ill right afterwards and died on July 4 of the same year.

Queen Elizabeth was beatified in 1526 and canonized in 1625. Her feast day was originally July 4, the anniversary of her death. But in 1694, the date was moved to July 8 so that it would not conflict with the octave of Saints Peter and Paul. In 1955, the octave was abolished. Fourteen years later, the feast was moved back to July 4. In the US, it was moved up to July 5 so as not to compete with the national holiday.

Saints Cyril and Methodius Tue, 06 Jul 2021 20:40:13 +0000


Two brothers, named Michael and Constantine, became the famous saints, Methodius and Cyril, “Apostles to the Slavs”. Michael was born around 815AD and his younger brother, about 826AD. Their home was in Thessalonica, Greece. Their father was Leo, the commander of a Byzantine theme (military division) and their mother was Maria.  They were two of seven children. When the youngest, Cyril, was 14, their father died.

Theokistos, a senior fiscal minister in the government, became their mentor. He and Barda, another high minister, initiated an educational program in the Byzantine empire including the establishment of the University of Magnaura. Constantine was going to teach. Michael was already a deacon.

In 860, the Byzantine Emperor Michael III and the Patriarch Photius, Constantine’s previous professor, sent him on a mission. The prince of the Khazars had requested a scholar who could converse with both Jews and Saracens. This was the area covering what is now southeast European Russia, southern Ukraine, Crimea and Kazakstan. The young professor learned the Khazar language in Crimea. It was a successful first missionary journey for the young man.

When Constantine returned, he became a professor of philosophy. By the time he got back, Michael had become significant in politics and administration and was now an abbot of a monastery. He had taken the name Methodius.

A year later, Prince Rastislav of Great Moravia (what is now the Czech Republic, Slovakia, parts of Poland, parts of Hungary and Serbia) asked the emperor to send Eastern Christian missionaries. This was seen as more of a political than a religious request. In the first few years there, the two brothers translated parts of the Old and New Testaments and the liturgy into a new alphabet for the Slavonic languages. They even developed and wrote the first Slavic Civil Code.

The prince was run out of office and the politics of the princedom changed quickly. Missionaries from East Francia showed up and insisted that the clerics use Latin only, for uniformity’s sake. From there the arguments developed regarding the ecclesiastical control of the land, especially Moravia and Pannonia. The German episcopates, especially the archbishop of Salzburg, claimed their rights were infringed.  Pope Nicholas I heard about this situation and invited the missionaries to Rome in 867. They came, with several men to be ordained.

The following year, the entourage arrived, bearing relics of Pope Clement. But Nicholas had died. They were welcomed by Pope Adrian II. He ordained Methodius and the other young men. He consecrated Methodius archbishop of Sironium (now in Serbia), with jurisdiction over Moravia and Pannonia. The pope was aware of the split between East and West and chose to use the brothers as a way of attracting the more Orthodox Easterners to join with Rome. So, he allowed the Slavic language in liturgy. Meanwhile, Constantine was not well. He was admitted into the Basilian monastery, taking the name Cyril, and died shortly after on February 14, 869.

Heartbroken, Methodius could not function for a while. He left Rome, eventually, to go to his new post in Sironium. The Germanic bishops had not accepted the ruling of the pope. Methodius’ claims were considered an insult to them. Eventually he was forcibly taken to Germany and kept as a prisoner for two and a half years. The new pope, John VIII was able to get him released in 873. However, he was instructed to stop the Slavonic liturgy.

Methodius did not always follow the good pope’s instructions. He continued to say Mass in Slavic. In 878, he was summoned to Rome to answer charges of heresy and using the Slavic language in liturgy. He was given permission to use the Slavonic liturgy. But while he was in Rome, a Carolingian bishop, Wiching, was assigned as his co-adjutor. This man suppressed the use of the Slavic language and forced Michael’s followers into exile. Many went to Bulgaria and began a Slavic-speaking church there.

The politics of the Church was rocky at best and when Pope John VIII died in 882, Methodius was in an insecure position. The surviving brother, still an archbishop, died just a few years later. The successor he named was not recognized. Pope Stephen V gave the archbishopric to Bishop Wiching and forbade Slavic from being used any longer. The followers of Methodius were exiled from Great Moravia. Many fled to the Bulgarian Empire to begin again. Many helped preserve the translation work the two brothers began.

The interesting part of the whole story is that, despite the religious intentions of the brothers, they are mostly known for the development of the Glagolitic alphabet. This alphabet was developed further into the Cyrillic alphabet, which is still currently used in Slavic languages, including Russian.

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POPE GREGORY V: THE FIRST GERMAN POPE Fri, 18 Jun 2021 01:49:21 +0000

Bruno of Carinthia was born around 970-972 in Stainach, Duchy of Carinthia. This is in the southern part of what is, today, Austria, not too far from the Italian border. It is at the eastern end of the Alps. It was part of the Holy Roman Empire. His father was Otto I of Carinthia, the grandson of Emperor Otto I. Thus, Bruno can be said to be of royal blood.

When Pope John XV died in March 996, Romans sent word to Emperor Otto III asking for a nomination for a new pope. The emperor immediately nominated his 24-year-old cousin, his chaplain, Bruno. The young cardinal was said to be gifted. He was conversant with Roman literature, and fluent in German, literary Latin and the vulgar Italian. Otto III then accompanied Bruno to Rome, where the young cardinal was consecrated 6 May 996. Two weeks later, the new Pope, having taken the name Gregory V, repaid his cousin and crowned Otto Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The two worked together throughout Gregory’s reign.

The cousins jointly called a synod days later. During that synod, Arnulf, imprisoned by French king Hugh Capet, was released and returned to his see at Rheims. Gerbert of Aurillac was condemned as an intruder for taking Arnulf’s see, but not punished.

Then Otto III returned to Germany. Meanwhile, the Roman nobles had no intention of living with a German pope nominated by a German emperor. With Crescentius II, the Roman dictator, leading the way, they elected their own pope. John, a man of Greek descent who was born in southern Italy, was more to their liking. He was the chaplain to Empress Theophanu, widow of Otto II and mother to Otto III. Since the empress was Greek, the Byzantine Emperor Basil II supported this new pope. The Eastern Church was not happy with the Franks spreading their influence in Italy. The Romans violently unseated Gregory, who escaped to Pavia. John took the name John XVI in late 996.

Within months, Gregory called a synod to meet at Pavia. It was only attended by Western bishops. The synod excommunicated Crescentius and John, and reinstated Gregory. This led to a revolt by Crescentius and his supporters. Otto came to the rescue with his soldiers by February 998. Crescentius went into hiding at Castel Sant’Angelo.

John XVI, knowing that the imperial army was coming, escaped. But Otto’s soldiers chased him down. They tortured him by cutting off his nose, ears, and tongue. They blinded him, broke his fingers and took him back to Rome. He was publicly paraded through Rome, seated backwards on a donkey, as the emperor and the pope watched. His life was spared due to the intercession of St. Nilus the Younger, who also berated the cruelty of his treatment. He was sent to the monastery of Fulda to live out his life.

Other soldiers found Crescentius when they besieged Castel Sant’Angelo. They hung him from the walls.

During his short reign, Gregory gave many privileges to German monasteries, at the request of Otto. They called synods for the regulation of ecclesiastical affairs. In one, King Richard of France was forced to give up his marriage to Bertha of Burgundy, because they were first cousins. Gregory was also able to affect the Church in England by giving advice to the bishop of Canterbury as to the type of men who should rule the diocese.

Gregory died suddenly 18 February 999. He was not yet 30. Some sources say he died of malaria. Others suspect foul play. He was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.

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THE HISTORY OF POPE JOHN XV Thu, 10 Jun 2021 17:54:29 +0000

Although Pope John XV is spoken of as having a pontificate marked by greed and nepotism, there is little in the way of facts to support it. The same can not be said of the Roman dictator. John certainly had to be careful of whatever he did, since he was succeeding two popes who were murdered. He had to watch himself as Crescentius II, the current dictator, was the son of Crescentius I, who is seen as having arranged the recent murders of other popes.

John was the son of the Roman presbyter, Leo, born possibly as late as 950. He was a learned man and a writer. Before he rose to the Chair of Peter, he was the cardinal-priest at the Church of St. Vitalis. Having lived his life in Rome, he was all too aware of the politics of the city. The turmoil rarely stopped.

After the death of Pope John XIV, the Crescentii family called back from Constantinople Boniface, the anti-pope. He died, suddenly, in July 985. This death was a political setback for the Crescentii. Possibly to save face, or at least save the family good fortune, Crescentius II successfully got John elected. He was crowned some time between 6 August and 5 September, 985.

Crescentius II was the dictator of Rome and John had no temporal powers. The dictator seems to have been a micro-manager, driving John to distraction with demands. He would not allow John access to him without payment of bribes. John had to turn to Empress Theophano, the widow of Otto II and mother and regent to Otto III, several times.

Pope John is most well known for solemnly canonizing Bishop Saint Ulrich of Augsburg in January of 993. No other saint had been officially canonized before.

Although John had little temporal power in Italy, he was turned to for help with temporal problems by those in other countries. He helped mediate the quarrel of the young King Aethelred of England with Richard of Normandy. The papal legate, Leo of Trevi, announced the Peace of Rouen in a papal bull dated March 991.

The longest problem he had rolled over into the next generation, becoming known as the Investiture Controversy. This started out with a fight over the archbishopric of Rheims. A distant relative of Charlemagne, Hugh Capet usurped the Carolingian dynasty in 987. The next year, he nominated Arnulf, nephew of Charles of Lorraine, as archbishop of Rheims. Shortly after, Charles invaded France with the intention of overthrowing Capet and installing himself of the throne. He seized Rheims. Capet assumed that Arnulf was more loyal to family than to king and asked Pope John to depose the archbishop. Before the pope could respond, the French army took back Rheims, chased off Charles’ army and took Charles and Arnulf into custody. Hugh held a synod to depose Arnulf and elect his friend, Gerbert, as the new archbishop. Competing synods and anti-papal rhetoric succeeded, with Capet preventing the French bishops from attending. It took much wrangling on the part of the papal legate to settle this argument, which had blown so large. The year was 995 before all was settled.

The next year, the sixteen-year old Otto III decided to go to Rome for his imperial coronation. Arriving in Pavia, he decided to stay for Easter, not chancing missing the celebrations on his way to Rome. He left 12 April. Unfortunately, Pope John died on 1 April, of a fever. The young emperor decided to elevate his cousin, Bruno, to the papacy as Gregory V. Within months, 23 October, Hugh Capet died. The archbishop, Arnulf, had remained in prison all this time. He was released and returned to his see at Rheims. Gerbert moved to Germany to be an advisor to the young Otto III. He would eventually become Pope Sylvester II, the first French pope. The one who fared the worst was Charles of Lorraine. He died in prison, where he lived for years with his wife and their children, who were born there. The children were let free.

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