Gregory XV, Pope
Gregory XV, Pope
GREGORY XV, POPE
Pontificate: Feb. 9, 1621, to July 8, 1623; b. Alessandro Ludovisi, Bologna, Jan. 9, 1554. Alessandro came from a noble family that had been in Bologna since the twelfth century. In 1567 he went to Rome to study under the Jesuits. On account of his health he returned home in 1569, but later that year he was again in Rome. In 1571 he began studying law at the University of Bologna and received his degree in 1575. Then he decided to become a priest.
Early Career. Gregory XIII gave him his first appointment, that of chairman in the College of Judges. Sixtus V selected him to accompany the legate to Poland, but illness prevented his going. When Clement VIII was a cardinal, he became Ludovisi's patron. Pope Clement VIII appointed him to the Segnatura di giustizia, wherehe solved the difficult cases. He advised the pope and settled disputes: one between the French and Spanish ambassadors; another between the Farnese family and the pope; another, with the assistance of Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, later Urban VIII, between the pope and Naples over Benevento. Paul V appointed him vicegerent for the cardinal vicar; in this office he arbitrated disputes among Romans. He also helped in settling the disagreement between the pope and the Venetian government. He was appointed archbishop of Bologna in 1612, but did not remain there long, since the pope needed him as a negotiator between Charles Emmanuel I of Savoy and Philip III of Spain about Monferrato. His assistance pleased both rulers and the pope. On his return to Bologna he began reforms, especially for the training and supervision of his clergy. Paul V made him a cardinal in 1616.
Pontificate. When elected pope, Gregory appointed his brother Orazio general of the Church and created his 25-year-old nephew Ludovico Ludovisi cardinal secretary of state. The favors bestowed on the cardinal made him very wealthy.
In spite of the shortness of this pontificate, there were two important and far-reaching reforms of this first Jesuit-trained pope. The first changed the method of electing a pope, thereby abolishing abuses. The practice of electing by adoration or acclamation had several weaknesses, especially the influence some cardinals or rulers wielded over timid cardinals. Sometimes there had been bargaining before the death of a pope. Immediately after the election of Gregory XV, which had some abuses, several cardinals proposed a reform. The first bull, published November 26, contained the following major changes: an election could take place only after the closing of the conclave and a candidate must receive at least two-thirds of the votes by secret ballot; no candidate could vote for himself; each cardinal must take an oath that would prevent the casting of votes as compliments. The second bull, March 12, 1622, amplified the first by regulating every part of an election. These provisions were followed in all succeeding elections until the time of Pius X.
The second important reform established the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (see propagation of the faith, congregation for the) for missionary work on January 6, 1622. Three preceding popes, Pius V, Gregory XIII, and Clement VIII, had seen the need for improvement and had started plans, but nothing was done by Paul V. The new Congregation consisted of 16 persons: two bishops, 13 cardinals, and a secretary. Juan Vives, one of the bishops, gave his palace in Piazza di Spagna as a center. The cardinals appointed were outstanding. One was Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, who as Gregory's successor continued the reform. On January 14, only eight days after its foundation, the Congregation met. From its meetings twice a month and once a month with the Pope, there followed the bull of June 22 and later additional provisions by Gregory XV. The Congregation brought unity. It gathered information, decided the regions to which missionaries would go, settled disputes, supervised colleges in Rome, and restricted the claims of Spain and Portugal to patronage (see patronato real). The work of the Congregation was not limited to the non-Christian parts of the world, as it sought to revive faith and to extend it in the European countries. These were divided into groups, and each group was placed under a nuncio. In 1922 he canonized several heroes of the Catholic revival including Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila and Phillip Neri.
Two other achievements were in keeping with Gregory XV's religious goals. Since the restoration of Elector Frederick in the Palatinate in the first phase of the thirty years' war would have extended the Protestant faith, the pope greatly increased his subsidies to the Catholics. Catholicism was restored in Bohemia, and Maximilian of Bavaria became the Palatine elector. In gratitude he gave the Palatine library to the pope. In the quarrel between France and Spain over the territory of the Valtellina, there was the possibility of war, and of Catholics losing their religious rights. The pope succeeded in preventing war by having the Valtellina placed temporarily under the Holy See. He also sought to improve the status of Catholics in the British Isles by granting a dispensation for the marriage between Prince Charles of England and a Spanish princess. The marriage never took place.
Bibliography: l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages, (London–St. Louis 1938–61) v. 27, passim. l. von ranke, The History of the Popes During the Last Four Centuries, tr. mrs. foster, ed. g. r. dennis, 3 v. (London 1913) 2:209–259, 3:220–243. d. albrecht, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 4:1190. p. moncelle, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951–) 6.2:1815–22. f. hammond, Music and Spectacle in Baroque Rome (New Haven 1994). g. labrot, L'Image de Rome: Une arme pour la Contre-Reforme, 1534–1677 (Seyssel 1987). j. w. o'malley, ed. Catholicism in Early Modern History (St. Louis, Mo. 1988).
[m. l. shay]