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Posted April 20, 2005

Popes who have taken Benedict for their name with an emphasis on Pope Benedict XV, the last pope to have the name Benedict until Ratzinger chose it


BENEDICT I. was pope from 573 to 578. He succeeded John III., and occupied the papal chair during the incursions of the Lombards, and during the series of plagues and famines which followed these invasions.

BENEDICT II. was pope from 684 to 685. , He succeeded Leo II., but although chosen in 683 he was not ordained till 684, because the leave of the emperor Constantine was not obtained until some months after the election.

BENEDICT III. was pope from 855 to 858. He was chosen by the clergy and people of Rome, but the election was not confirmed by the emperor, Louis II, who appointed an anti-pope, Anastasius (the librarian). But the candidature of this person, who had been deposed from the presbyterate under Leo IV., was indefensible. The imperial government at length recognized Benedict and discontinued its opposition, with the result that he was at last successful. The mythical pope Joan is usually placed between Benedict and his predecessor, Leo IV.

BENEDICT IV. was pope from 900 to 903.

BENEDICT V. was pope from 964 to 965. He was elected by the Romans on the death of John XII. The emperor Otto I. did not approve of the choice, and carried off the pope to Hamburg, where he died.

BENEDICT VI. was pope from 972 to 974. He was chosen with great ceremony and installed pope under the protection of the emperor, Otto the Great. On the death of the emperor the turbulent citizens of Rome renewed their outrages, and the pope himself was strangled by order of Crescentius, the son of the notorious Theodora, who replaced him by a deacon called Franco. This Franco took the name of Boniface VII.

BENEDICT VII. was pope from 974 to 983. He was elected through the intervention of a representative of the emperor,Count Sicco, who drove out the intruded Franco (afterwards Pope Boniface VII.). Benedict governed Rome quietly for nearly nine years, a somewhat rare thing in those days.

BENEDICT VIII., pope from 1012 to 1024, was called originally Theophylactus. He was a member of the family of the count of Tusculum, and was opposed by an anti-pope, Gregory, but defeated him with the aid of King Henry II. of Saxony, whom he crowned emperor in 1014. In his pontificate the Saracens began to attack the southern coasts of Europe, and effected a settlement in Sardinia.- The Normans also then began to settle in Italy. In Italy Benedict supported the policy of the emperor, Henry II., and at the council of Pavia (1022) exerted himself in favor of ecclesiastical discipline, then in a state of great decadence.

BENEDICT IX., pope from 1033 to 1056, son of Alberic, count of Tusculum, and nephew of Benedict VIII., was also called Theophylactus. He was installed pope at the age of twelve through the influence of his father. The disorders of his conduct, though tolerated by the emperors, Conrad II. and Henry III., who,were then morally responsible for the pontificate, at length disgusted the Romans, who drove him out in 1044 and appointed Silvester III. his successor. Silvester remained in the papal chair but a few weeks, as the people of Tusculum quickly recovered their influence and reinstated their pope. Benedict, however, was obliged to bow before the execration of the Romans. He sold his rights, to his godfather, the priest Johannes Gratianus, who was installed under the name of Gregory VI. (1045). The following year Henry III. obtained at the council of Sutri the deposition of the three competing popes, and replaced them by Suidger, bishop of Baniberg, who took the name of Clement IL But before the close of 1047 Clement II. died, probably from poison administered by Benedict, who was reinstalled for the third time. At last, on the 17th of July 1048, the marquis of Tuscany sirove him from Rome, where he was never seen again. He lived several years after his expulsion and appears to have died impenitent.

BENEDICT X. (Johannes Mincius, i.e. the lout or dolt, bishop of Velletri) was pope from 1058 to 1059. He was elected on the death of Stephen IX. through the influence of the Roman barons, who, however, had pledged themselves to take no action without Hildebrand, who was then absent from Rome. Hildebrand did not recognize him, and put forward an opposition pope in the person of Gerard, bishop of Florence (pope as Nicholas II.), whom he supported against the Roman aristocracy. With the help of the Normans, Hildebrand seized the castle of Galeria, where Benedict had taken refuge, and degraded him to the rank of a simple priest. (L. D.*)

BENEDICT XI. (Niccolo Bccasini), pope from 1303 to 1304, the son of a notary, was born in 1240 at Treviso. Entering the Dominican order in 1254, he became lector, prior of the convent, provincial of his order in Lombardy, and in 1296 its general. In 1298 he was created cardinal priest of Santa Sabina, and in 1300 cardinal bishop of Ostia and Velletri. In 1302 he was papal legate in Hungary. On the 22nd of October 1303 he was unanimously elected pope. He did much to conciliate the enemies made by his predecessor Boniface VIII., notably France, the Colonnas and King Frederick II. of Sicily; nevertheless on the 7th of June 1304 he excommunicated William of Nogaret and all the Italians who had captured ,Boniface in Anagni. Benedict died at Perugia on the 7th of July 1304 if he was really poisoned, as report had it, suspicion would fall primarily on Nogaret. His successor Clement V. transferred the papal residence to Avignon. Among Benedicts works are commentaries on part of the Psalms and on the Gospel of Matthew. His beatification took place in 1733.

See C. Grandjean, Registres de Benoit XI. (Paris, 1883 if.), Bibliothque des Ecoles frcinaises dAthnes et de Rome.

BENEDICT XII. (Jacques Fournier), pope from 1334 to 1342,~ the son of a miller, was born at Saverdun on the Arrige. Entering the Cistercian cloister Bolbonne, and graduating doctor of theology at Paris, he became in 1311 abbot of Fontfroide, in 1317 bishop of Pamiers and in 1326 of Mirepoix. Created cardinal priest of Santa Prisca ~n. 1327 by his uncle John XXII. he was elected his successor on the 20th of December 1334. Benedict made appointments carefully, reformed monastic orders and consistently opposed nepotism. Unable to remove his capital to Rome or to Bologna, he began to erect a great palace at Avignon. In 1336 he decided against a pet notion of John XXII. by saying that souls of saints may attain the fulness of the beatific vision before the last judgment. In 1339 he entered upon fruitless negotiations looking toward the reunion of the Greek and Roman churches. French influence made futile his attempt to come to an understanding with the emperor Louis the Bavarian. He died on the 25th of April 1342.

See the source publications of G. Daumet (Lettres closes, patentes et curiales, . . . Paris, 1899ff.), and J .- M.Vidal(Lettres communes, Paris, 1903 if.), (W. W. R.*)

BENEDICT XIII. (Pedro de Luna), (c. 1328-1422 or 1423), anti-pope, belonged to one of the most noble families in Aragon. His high birth, his legal learning -- he was for a long time professor of canon law at Montpellierand the irreproachable purity of his life, recommended him to Pope Gregory XI., who created him cardinal in 1375. He was almost the only one who succeeded in making a firm stand in the tumultuous conclave of 1378; but the deliberation with which he made up his mind as to the validity of the election of Urban VI. was equalled, when he took the side of Clement VII., by the ardour and resourcefulness which he displayed in defending the cause of the pope of Avignon; it was mainly to him that the latter owed his recognition by Castile, Aragon and Navarre. When elected pope, or rather anti pope, by the cardinals of Avignon, on the 28th of September 1394, it was he who by his astuteness, his resolution, and, it may be added, by his unswerving faith in the justice of his cause, was to succeed in prolonging the lamentable schism of the West for thirty years. The hopes he had aroused that, by a voluntary abdication, he would restore unity to the church, were vain; though called upon by the princes of France to carry out his plan, abandoned by his cardinals, besieged and finally kept under close observation in the palace of the popes (1398-1403), he stood firm, and tired out the fury of his opponents. Escaping from Avignon, he again. won obedience in France, and his one thought was how to triumph over his Italian rival, if necessary, by force. He yielded, however, to the instances of the government of Charles VI., and pretending that he wished to have an interview with Gregory XII., with a view to their simultaneous abdication, he advanced to Savona, and then to Porto Venere. The failure of these negotiations, for which he was only in part responsible, led to the universal movement of indignation an.d impatience, which ended, in France, in the declaration of neutrality (5408), and at Pisa, in the decree of deposition against the two pontiffs (5409). Benedict XIII., who had on his part tried to call together a council at Perpignan, was by this time recognized hardly anywhere but in his native land, in Scotland, and in the estates of the countship of Armagnac. He remained none the less full of energy and of illusions, repulsed the overtures of Sigismund, king of the Romans2 who had come to Perpignan to persuade him to abdicate, and, abandoned by nearly all his adherents, he took refuge in the impregnable castle of Peniscola, on. a rock dominating the Mediterranean. (1415). The council of Constance then deposed him, as a perjurer, an incurable schismatic and a heretic (26th July 1417). After struggling with the popes of Rome, Urban VI., Boniface IX., Innocent VII. and Gregory XII., and against the popes of Pisa, Alexander V. and John XXIII., Pedro de Luna, clinging more than ever to that apostolic seat which he still professed not to desire, again took up the struggle against Martin V., although the latter was recognized throughout almost all Christendom, and, before his death (29th November 1422, or 23rd May 1423), he nominated four new cardinals in order to carry the schism on even after him.

See Fr. Ehrle, Archly fr Lit und Kirchengcsch. vols. v., vi., vii.; N. Valois, La France et le grand schisme doccident (4 vols, Paris, 1896-1902); Fr. Ehrle, Martin de Alpartils chronica actitatorum temporibus domini Benedicti ~(~II. (Quellen und Forschungen aus dem Geb. der Gesch., Gorres-Gesellschaft, Paderborn, 1906). (N. V.)

BENEDICT XIII. (Piero Fraricesco Orsini), pope from 1724 to 1730, at first styled Benedict XIV., was born on the 2nd of February 1649, of the ducal family of Orsini-Gravina. In 1667 he became a Dominican (as Vincentius Maria), studied theology and philosophy, was made a cardinal in 1672 and arch-bishop of Benevento in 1686. Elected pope on the 29th of May 1724, he attempted to reform clerical morals; but neither the decrees of the Latin council (1725) nor his personal precepts had much effect. He confirmed the bull Unigenitus; but, despite the Jesuits, allowed the Dominicans to preach the Augustinian doctrine of grace. State affairs he left entirely to the unpopular Cardinal Nicolo Coscia. He died on the 21st of February 1730. His works were published in 3 vols. at Ravenna in 1728.

BENEDICT XIV. (Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini), pope from 1740 to 1758, was born at Bologna on the 3ist of March 1675. At the age of thirteen he entered the Collegium Clementinum at Rome. He served the Curia in many and important capacities, yet devoted his leisure time to theological and canonistic study. Benedict XIII. made him archbishop of Theodosia in partibus, then of Ancona (1727), and the next year created him cardinal pnest. In 1731 Clement XII. translated him to his native city of Bologna, where as archbishop he was both efficient and popular. He published valuable works, notably De servorum Dei beat-ificatione et canonizatione, De sacrificio inissae, as well as a treatise on the feasts of Christ and the Virgin and of some saints honored in Bologna. In a conclave which had lasted for months he was elected on the I 7th of August 1740 the successor of Clement XII. Benedict XIV. was not merely earnest and conscientious, but of incisive intellect, and unfailingly cheerful and witty. In several respects he bettered the economic conditions of the pai~ al states, but was disinclined to undertake the needed thorou~hgoing reform of its administration. In foreign politics he made important concessions to Portugal, Naples, Sardinia. Spain, and was the first pope expressly to recognize the king of Prussia as such. In 1741 he issued the bull Immensa pastorum principis, demanding more humane treatment for the Indians of Brazi. and Paraguay, and in the bulls Ex quo singulari (1742) and Omnium sollicitudinum (1744) he rebuked the missionary methods of the Jesuits in accommodating their message to the heathen usages of the Chinese and of the natives of Malabar. In accord with the spirit of the age he reduced the number of holy days in several Catholic countries. To the end of his life he kept up his studies and his intercourse with other scholars, and founded several learned societies. His masterpiece, Libri octo de synod~ liocesana, begun in Bologna, appeared during his pontificate. He died on the 3rd of May 1758.

His works, published in twelve quarto volumes at Rome (1747 1751), appeared in more nearly complete editions at Venice in 1767 I nd at Prato, I839i846; also Briefe Benedicts XIV., ed. F. X. Kraus (2nd ad., Freiburg, I 888); Benedicti XIV. Papae opera inedita, ed. F. Heiner (Freiburg, 1904). See Herzog-Hauck, Realsncyhlopadie, ii. 572 if.; Wetzer and Welter, Kirchenlexikon, ii.

Pope Benedict XV and Pope Pius XI

Pope Benedict XV
The voters chose as the 32nd selection the Fatima Popes who are, of course, Pope Benedict XV, the 258th successor of Peter and Pope Pius XI, the 259th in the long line of Popes. This may surprise many that there are two but many submitted just that - the "Fatima Pope" and that would include both since the apparitions were during the regime of Benedict XV who was Vicar of Christ from 1914 to 1922 and Pius XI whose pontificate lasted from 1922 to 1939 during which time the Fatima Apparitions were approved as worthy of belief by Holy Mother Church. Therefore, we have included both since both received numerous votes but the submission of "Fatima Pope" was confusing, therefore we decided to acknowledge both at the same time as the "Fatima Popes." There will be a few others who ended in a tie in which we gave equal credit to as you will see in the next few weeks.

The first of the "Fatima Popes" - Benedict XV was born Giacomo Francis Della Chiesa into an old Patrician Family in Genoa, Italy on November 21, 1854, just a few weeks before Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception a Dogma of the Church. After receiving his Doctorate in Civil Law from Genoa University in 1875, he enrolled at Capranica College to study for the priesthood, graduating from there and the Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained on December 21, 1878 by the new Sovereign Pontiff who had been elected the 256th successor of Peter on March 3, 1878 - Pope Leo XIII. Father Chiesa was assigned to the Papal Diplomatic Corp studying at the Academy of Noble Ecclesiastics in Rome until 1882 when he graduated and served as secretary to the Nuncio of Spain. He was promoted to Under-Secretary of State in 1901 under Cardinal Mariano Rampolla who had been his boss in Spain. Because of politics within the Curia and the animosity between Rampolla and Pius X, he was caught in the middle. To not offend either friend, he requested an assignment outside Rome and Pope Saint Pius X reluctantly granted his wish, making him the Archbishop of Bologna in 1907. There he remained, virtually ignored until he was finally recognized with the cardinalate in June 1914. Three months later his fellow colleagues in the Sacred Conclave elected him the new Supreme Pontiff, succeeding Pius X who died on August 20, 1914. He took the name Benedict XV, the first Benedict since Benedict XIV who died on May 3, 1758.

Pope Pius X's passing coincided with the beginning of World War I and most of Benedict's pontificate was burdened by war and the aftermath of war. His first task was to summon the warring nations and beg for a cease fire. It was an enormous step for the papacy since the English and Dutch had ceased diplomatic relations with the Vatican during the Reformation. Nevertheless they, along with France, Germany, Austria and Italy all sent ambassadors to meet with the new Holy Father who was able to effect a Christmas truce through his stirring encyclical Celebrating Peace Ad beatissimi Apostolorum. He offered to serve as mediator, but greed and power among the warring nations won out and with the dawn of 1915 war once again raised its ugly head in full force. Because of his influence and genuine concern, the world was won over in the ensuing years to Benedict who was a great benefactor of both the Allies and Axis nations in caring for the needy, homeless and prisoners of war. His actions prompted more nations to establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican, increasing from 14 to 27 nations.

Three years into Benedict's papacy, another event happened that would have a lasting impact on the world and the Church. That, of course, were the apparitions at Fatima in 1917 between May 13th and October 13th. He was very aware of the phenomena in Portugal but kept a low profile in keeping with the modus operandi of the Church regarding private revelation. Yet he was in constant contact with the bishop of Leiria-Fatima and the Fatima commission and, from reports we have been able to garner, was most favorable to Fatima but chose not to make any proclamation to these unusual events for there had been no appreciative phenomena since Lourdes nearly seventy-five years before. Another reason Benedict believed was because of the world situation and Heaven's intervention seemed the only answer for a world at war.

Benedict also was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea when he had to accept Germany's offer to give Rome back to the Holy See after they had defeated Italy. Fearing the Russian Orthodox expansion if the Allies won, he accepted but because of that ill-fated decision, he was not allowed to participate in the peace settlement of 1919 which Italy orchestrated against the Vatican, upset that they had lost Rome. By excluding the Holy See in the negotiations ill feelings were fostered which Benedict never recovered from. Even though he pleaded for reconciliation to the world with his encyclical Pacem Dei munus on May 23, 1920, he was essentially a non-entity on the world stage. But he was not without influence within the Church, fostering two future Popes among his cardinals. One was a young Monsignor he sent to Germany as Papal Nuncio. His name was Eugenio Pacelli who would, of course, become Pope Pius XII. The other was Bishop Achille Ratti who was a close confidant and friend of Benedict. Ratti kept Benedict apprised on a regular basis of events in the Church including the Fatima findings and reports of a mystic Capuchin priest in San Giovanni Rotundo named Padre Pio as well as another mystic in Florence by the name of Maria Valtorta.

The icy relationship between France and the Holy See, breached since 1905 was warmed on May 9, 1920 when Benedict canonized Saint Joan of Arc. He then turned his attention to Italy and sought an honorable settlement to the strained relations with the king of Italy in hopes of freeing the Vatican State from the restrictions placed on it when King Emmanuel placed Pope Pius IX under house arrest and took Rome from the Holy See in 1871. A complete restoral of Vatican City would not come until Pius XI's papacy. Benedict did promulgate a new Code of Canon Law that had been prepared by Pius X and established the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in hopes of reconciling with Eastern Orthodox Churches. To help in this, he named Saint Ephrem, the Syrian Theologian a Doctor of the Church.

During the latter years of Benedict's pontificate, he concentrated on calling on the "haves" to come to the assistance of the "have nots," thus becoming a great champion for the poor and downtrodden. Because the war had disrupted so many foreign missions, he devoted much of his later years to restoring the Missions and urged the bishops to foster native vocations to replenish the missions worldwide and place the emphasis on the welfare of the people in their own lands rather than foreign interests out to exploit those mission lands. He is known as the "Pope of the Missions" because of his devotion to Christ's charge in Mark 16: 15 to "Go out into the world and preach the Gospel to everyone you meet."

In 1921 he made his friend Bishop Ratti the Archbishop of Milan and a cardinal but Cardinal Ratti's tenure in Milan would be short-lived for less than a year later on January 22, 1922 the cardinal's close friend Benedict XV would succumb to pneumonia, brought on quickly by a stifling case of the flu at the age of 67. The College of Cardinals convened at the beginning of February and six days later, to his great surprise, his peers elected Cardinal Ratti as the 259th successor of Peter. In honor of Pope Saint Pius X, Cardinal Ratti chose to be Pius XI.