Gregory X, Pope, Bl.

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Pontificate: Sept. 1, 1271, to Jan. 10, 1276; b. Teobaldo or Tedaldo Visconti, Piacenza, Italy, 1210; d. Arezzo, Italy. The death of Clement IV was followed by one of the longest interregnums to occur in the history of the papacy. The conclave at Viterbo lasted nearly three years, largely because of the inability of French and Italian factions to agree upon a suitable candidate. As the debate continued, public indignation grew, and in the summer of 1270 the civic authorities of the town of Viterbo attempted to force the vote by locking the cardinals in the papal palace, removing the roof, and threatening to withdraw daily rations of food. These stern measures failed to secure a compromise, however, and the stalemate continued. After royal intervention the deadlock was eventually broken and the fifteen-member Sacred College of Cardinals agreed to designate six of their body to cast the final vote. On Sept. 1, 1271 Tedaldo Visconti was elected to the See of Peter.

By most accounts, Tedaldo Visconti was a remarkable man, who had a peaceful and conciliatory spirit. The English historian David Knowles even went so far as to describe him as the most spiritual pope after Celestine V. Yet when he was elected, Tedaldo was neither an ordained priest nor a cardinal. Nevertheless, he had served the church for several years outside of Italy, and by the time of his election he had earned an excellent reputation as an archdeacon of Liège. As a young man, Tedaldo had worked for years with Cardinal James of Praeneste, and he had helped to organize the first council of Lyons in 1245. Between the years 1245 and 1248, Tedaldo attended the University of Paris, where he may have met both St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure. In 1265, Tedaldo traveled with Cardinal Ottobono on his mission to England, while there he served as the confidant of both the French and English royal families. Five years later, Tedaldo left England and accompanied the future King Edward I on a crusade to the Holy Land. They were in Saint-Jean d'Acre when they heard the news of the papal election. Responding to the summons of the Cardinals to return home immediately, Tedaldo left Acre on Nov. 19, 1271 and reached Viterbo on Feb. 12, 1272. Upon his arrival, Tedaldo Visconti accepted the papal office and took the name Gregory X. One month later, the pope-elect traveled to Rome, where he was ordained to the priesthood on March 19. His consecration took place in St. Peter's on March 27, 1272.

When Gregory ascended to the papal office, he was immediately confronted with a set of potentially dangerous political situations remaining from the reign of his predecessor. For example, the execution of Conradin in 1268 ended the Hohenstaufen line and held the possibility for the end of imperial authority in Germany with the resulting instability. Charles of Anjou, the brother of Louis IX of France and the Count of Provence, who had defeated Conradin at the Battle of Tagliacozzo, became king of both Sicily and southern Italy. He was now a powerful neighbor of the pope with the potential to recover Constantinople for the West. Yet this possibility had to be balanced against the cause of Church unity, which the Byzantine emperor, Michael Paleologos, dangled before the pope in the hope of keeping King Charles at bay.

On May 1, 1274, approximately four days after his coronation, Gregory called a general council at Lyons (Council of Lyons II) to deal with what he perceived as a serious situation. Gregory himself sought wide support for his council, whose significance is perhaps best reflected by the postponement of Edward I's coronation in order to ensure the attendance of a large delegation from England. In fact, Thomas Aquinas died on route to the council. Gregory remained a crusader at heart and the deliverance of the Holy Land was a central concern. At his request, the Council called for a new crusade, and Gregory laid the plans to fund it by adopting a resolution by which one tenth of all benefices accruing to all churches would be set aside for a period of six years. To create the necessary conditions for a crusade, the new pope needed to secure greater unity within Europe. In Lombardy and Tuscany this meant making peace between the Guelphs, a pro-papal party, and the Ghibellines, a proimperial party. Gregory also worked toward stability by encouraging the election of a new German king. Although there were a number of rival claimants to the crown, Gregory was instrumental in securing the election of Rudolf of Habsburg on Oct. 1, 1273. This action undoubtedly annoyed Charles of Anjou, who favored Philip III of France, but by supporting the Habsburgs, Gregory managed to prevent Angevin domination in Italy.

Gregory was an enthusiastic advocate of Church unity, which he saw as desirable in its own right, but which would have strategic value for a crusade. So despite protestations from King Charles, the pope sent envoys to Constantinople as early as October 1272. Gregory openly expressed his desire for unity and invited Michael Paleologos to send a delegation to the Council of Lyons. The union that Gregory wanted was accomplished when the Emperor Michael renounced the schism, and the eastern ambassadors agreed to the Roman creed, including the double procession of the Holy Spirit. Yet the patriarch of Constantinople was not represented in the Greek delegation, and the results of the Council were not accepted in the East. Despite all of his preparations, Pope Gregory's crusade never took place.

Nevertheless, Gregory's pontificate was successful, since many of his other policies had consequences that were far reaching and positive. He is particularly remembered for his famous bull Ubi Periculum, that established the rules for the election of popes and was intentionally designed to prevent prolonged vacancies in the papacy, like the one that preceded his election. It was proclaimed at the Council of Lyons on July 7, 1274. In the interest of wider moral reformation, Gregory also attempted to curtail long vacancies of benefices; he attacked pluralism, and he placed restrictions on the religious orders, with the exception of the Dominicans and Franciscans.

In October 1275, Gregory traveled to Lausanne to meet Rudolf of Habsburg and to discuss plans for his coronation as emperor. Gregory then crossed the Alps and visited Milan, Florence, and Arezzo. In the latter city, he was stricken by fever and he died on Jan. 10, 1276. He was buried in the Duomo and is revered as a saint in Arezzo, Placenza, and Lausanne. In fact, he was declared blessed by the Church in 1713. He is remembered as a pope who de-emphasized the temporal authority of the papacy and concentrated on spiritual revival and the restoration of Christian unity.

Feast: Jan. 28 and Feb. 4.

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[j. a. sheppard]