Bellarmine, Robert 1542–1621 Catholic Church Leader and Author

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Bellarmine, Robert
Catholic Church leader and author

Robert Bellarmine, an Italian theologian*, was an influential writer on the Catholic faith. As a man of strong religious convictions and a defender of the Catholic faith, Bellarmine emerged as a respected leader and adviser within the church. He was not afraid, however, to challenge papal* authority in civil matters.

Bellarmine was born in Montepulciano, Italy. He studied for the priesthood and entered the Jesuit* community in 1560. Ten years later, he became a priest. He spent the next several years teaching theology, first at Louvain in the Netherlands, and later in Rome. His lectures focused on defending Catholicism against Protestant criticism. These lectures were later published as the Controversies, a highly regarded work.

Pope Clement VIII (1592–1605) made Bellarmine a cardinal in 1599. He became archbishop of Capua three years later. Bellarmine spent his last 16 years working for various church organizations, including the Inquisition, which investigated charges of heresy*. In 1616 Bellarmine was the official who forbade the astronomer Galileo Galilei to hold or defend the theory that Earth circles the Sun.

As a writer, Bellarmine played a key role in preparing the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate (1592), which served as the official Catholic Bible for centuries. His most popular work was a short book of religious instruction for children, Dottrina cristiana breve (Short Christian Doctrine). During his last years, Bellarmine wrote several short religious books that sold widely. Pope Pius XI declared Bellarmine a saint in 1930.

(See alsoCatholic Reformation and Counter-Reformation; Clergy; Popes and Papacy; Protestant Reformation. )

* theologian

person who studies religion and the nature of God

* papal

referring to the office and authority of the pope

* Jesuit

belonging to a Roman Catholic religious order founded by St. Ignatius Loyola and approved in 1540

* heresy

belief that is contrary to the doctrine of an established church

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Bellarmine, Robert 1542–1621 Catholic Church Leader and Author

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