St. Agatho

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St. Agatho, Pope

AGATHO, a Sicilian by birth, was remarkable for his charity and benevolence, a profound humility, and an engaging sweetness of temper. Having been several years treasurer of the church of Rome, he succeeded Domnus in the pontificate in 679. He presided by his three legates in the sixth general council and third of Constantinople, in 680, in the reign of the pious emperor Constantine Pogonatus, against the Monothelite heresy, which he confuted in a learned letter to that emperor, by the tradition of the apostolic church of Rome: “acknowledged,” says he, “by the whole Catholic church, to be the mother and mistress of all other churches, and to derive her superior authority from St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, to whom Christ committed his whole flock, with a promise that his faith should never fail.” This epistle was approved as a rule of faith by the same council, which declared, that Peter spoke by Agatho. This Pope restored St. Wilfrid to the see of York, and was a great benefactor to the Roman clergy and to the churches. Anastatius says, that the number of his miracles procured him the title of Thaumaturgus. He died in 682, having held the pontificate two years and a half. His feast is kept both by the Latins and Greeks. See Anastatius published by Bianchini, also Muratori and Labbè, Conc. T. 6. p. 1109. 1
The style of this pope’s letters is inferior to that both of his predecessors and successors. The reason he alleges in excusing the legates whom he sent to Constantinople for their want of eloquence, is because the graces of speech could not be cultivated amidst the incursions of Barbarians, whilst with much difficulty they earned their daily subsistence by manual labour; “but we preserve,” said he, with simplicity of heart, “the faith, which our fathers have handed down to us.” The bishops, his legates, say the same thing: “Our countries are harassed by the fury of barbarous nations. We live in the midst of battles, inroads, and devastations: our lives pass in continual alarms and anxiety, and we subsist by the labour of our hands.”

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866. January 10

Pope Adrian VI

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Pope Adrian VI

The last pontefice barbaro (Guicciardini, XIV, v), and the only pope of modern times, except Marcellus II, who retained his baptismal name. succeeded Pope Leo X, from 9 January, 1522, to 14 September, 1523. He was born of humble parentage in Utrecht, 2 March, 1459. He lost his pious father, Florentius Dedel, at an early age, and was kept at school by the fortitude of his widowed mother, first at home, later at Zwolle with the Brothers of the Common Life, finally at the University of Louvain. After a thorough course in philosophy, theology, and jurisprudence he was created Doctor of Divinity in 1491. Margaret of Burgundy defrayed the expenses of the poor student. His popularity as professor of theology in Louvain is shown to have been deserved by his two chief works, Quaestiones quodlibeticae (1521), and his Commentarius in Lib. IV Sententiarum Petri Lombardi (1512), which was published without his knowledge from notes of students, and saw many editions. As dean of the collegiate church of St. Peter in Louvain, and vice-chancellor of the university, he laboured to advance the arts and sciences, sacred and profane, and gave universal edification by a life of singular piety and severe asceticism. In 1506, he was, happily for the Church, selected by the Emperor Maximilian as tutor to his grandson, the future Charles V, then in his sixth year. Whatever accomplishments Charles possessed, beyond the art of war, he owed to the efforts of Adrian; most precious of all, his unalterable attachment to the Faith of his fathers. Transferred from the academic shades into public life, the humble professor rose to eminence with wonderful celerity. Within a decade he was the associate of Ximenes, Bishop of Tortosa, Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish peninsula, Cardinal of the Roman Church, and finally Regent of Spain. He was no less surprised than the rest of mankind when the intelligence reached him that the unanimous voice of the Sacred College had raised him to the highest dignity on earth. Continue reading

Pope Innocent III

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Pope Innocent III

(Lotario de’ Conti)

One of the greatest popes of the Middle Ages, son of Count Trasimund of Segni and nephew of Clement III, born 1160 or 1161 at Anagni, and died 16 June, 1216, at Perugia.

He received his early education at Rome, studied theology at Paris, jurisprudence at Bologna, and became a learned theologian and one of the greatest jurists of his time. Shortly after the death of Alexander III (30 Aug., 1181) Lotario returned to Rome and held various ecclesiastical offices during the short reigns of Lucius III, Urban III, Gregory VIII, and Clement III. Pope Gregory VIII ordained him subdeacon, and Clement III created him Cardinal-Deacon of St. George in Velabro and Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, in 1190. Later he became Cardinal-Priest of St. Pudentiana. During the pontificate of Celestine III (1191-1198), a member of the House of the Orsini, enemies of the counts of Segni, he lived in retirement, probably at Anagni, devoting himself chiefly to meditation and literary pursuits. Celestine III died 8 January, 1198. Previous to his death he had urged the College of Cardinals to elect Giovanni di Colonna as his successor; but Lotario de’ Conti was elected pope, at Rome, on the very day on which Celestine III died. He accepted the tiara with reluctance and took the name of Innocent III. At the time of his accession to the papacy he was only thirty-seven years of age. The imperial throne had become vacant by the death of Henry VI in 1197, and no successor had as yet been elected. The tactful and energetic pope made good use of the opportunity offered him by this vacancy for the restoration of the papal power in Rome and in the States of the Church. The Prefect of Rome, who reigned over the city as the emperor’s representative, and the senator who stood for the communal rights and privileges of Rome, swore allegiance to Innocent. When he had thus re-established the papal authority in Rome, he availed himself of every opportunity to put in practice his grand concept of the papacy. Italy was tired of being ruled by a host of German adventurers, and the pope experienced little difficulty in extending his political power over the peninsula. First he sent two cardinal legates to Markwuld to demand the restoration of the Romagna and the March of Ancona to the Church. Upon his evasive answer he was excommunicated by the legates and driven away by the papal troops. In like manner the Duchy of Spoleto and the Districts of Assisi and Sora were wrested from the German knight, Conrad von Uerslingen. The league which had been formed among the cities of Tuscany was ratified by the pope after it acknowledged him as suzerain. Continue reading