Innocent XI, Pope, Bl.
INNOCENT XI, POPE, BL.
Pontificate: Sept. 21, 1676, to Aug. 12, 1689; b. Benedetto Odescalchi, Como, May 19, 1611. The scion of an ancient Lombard family with a reputation for piety, he received his early education at the Jesuit college in Como. At 15 he became an apprentice in the family bank in Genoa. He attended first the University of Rome followed by the University of Naples, where he obtained a doctorate in civil and Canon Law in 1639. Less than a year later, on the advice of Cardinal de la Cueva, he received the tonsure with the intention of fulfilling his inclination to prayer, study, and works of charity. He was appointed apostolic prothonotary by Pope Urban VIII and sent as financial commissary to the province of the Marches. During the conclave following the death of Pope Urban, he acted as governor of Macerata. He was named cardinal in 1645 by Innocent X, but not at the recommendation of Donna Olimpia Maidalchini as has been alleged. In 1648 he was cardinal legate to Ferrara, where his great charity won him the title "Father of the Poor." Two years later he was ordained to the priesthood (1650) and consecrated bishop of Novara in 1651. In 1656 he resigned his see and returned to Rome to work in the Curia. Although he was favored in the conclave of 1670, the influence of Louis XIV delayed his election until the next conclave in 1676. He assumed the name Innocent in memory of Innocent X, who had made him a cardinal.
Before accepting the tiara, Innocent requested the cardinals to approve the "Summary Agreement" consisting of 12 articles of ecclesiastical reform. This formed his program of action to achieve three objectives: the completion of the work of the Council of trent, the defense of the freedom and rights of the Church, and the assurance of the safety of Christian Europe against the Muslim Turks. From 1683 to 1689 he inspired a long and eventually successful campaign against the Turks.
In defense of ecclesiastical liberty Innocent's greatest and constant struggle was against the absolutist pretensions of Louis XIV of France. The king was encouraged by professors of the Sorbonne and personal advisers to claim the right to the revenues of vacant benefices and the control of appointment to future offices in Languedoc, Provence, Dauphiné, and Guyenne. Because a decision of the Council of Lyons (1274) and a concordat between the pope and the French king restricted such extension of the régale (royal right to revenues of vacant sees), Innocent resisted. Louis called an assembly of the french clergy, which adopted the celebrated four Gallican articles on March 19, 1682 (see gallicanism). In a rescript (April 11, 1682) Innocent denounced these articles and refused papal approval to all episcopal candidates who had participated in the assembly. In 1685, as a move of conciliation, Louis revoked the Edict of nantes, but the inhuman persecution of Protestants that followed brought expressions of disapproval from the Pope and a continued firm stand on the régale. Further conflict came from the papal decree of May 7, 1685, denying the widely abused "privilege of diplomatic residence," which offered haven to criminals in Rome as long as they remained within the neighborhood of the French embassy. Innocent refused to receive the new French ambassador, the Marquis de Lavardin, who insisted on this right and with a small military force took possession of his palace. Innocent in turn placed the French church of St. Louis in Rome under interdict on Dec. 24, 1687. Relations were again strained the next year when Innocent appointed Joseph Clement to the archiepiscopal and electoral see of Cologne over Cardinal Wilhelm fÜr stenberg, the candidate of Louis. In retaliation, the king seized the papal territory of Avignon, imprisoned the papal nuncio, and threatened a general council.
Innocent worked tirelessly to unite the Christian princes, both Catholic and Protestant, against the growing threat of Turkish invasion. The victory of the forces of Emperor Leopold, King john iii sobieski of poland, and Duke Charles of Lorraine on Sept. 11, 1683, which destroyed Turkish hopes at the gates of Vienna, was attributed, even at the time, to the prayers and great financial help of the pope.
During his pontificate Innocent issued decrees on frequent Communion (Feb. 12, 1679), confession (Nov. 18, 1682), and aspects of morality (March 4, 1679; June 26, 1680; and Aug. 28, 1687). In these later decrees he condemned laxism in moral theology and defended the probabiliorism of Thyrsus Gonzalez, SJ, thus giving rise to a controversy whether the pope was condemning probabilism. He also condemned the extension of human slavery (March 20, 1686) and the doctrines of Miguel de molinos (Nov. 20, 1687). (see quietism).
Immediately following Innocent's 13-year pontificate steps were taken toward his beatification, but the process was suspended by Benedict XIV in 1744 through pressure from the French court. The cause was again encouraged in 1889 and 1895 by Leo XIII, in 1934 by Pius XI, and effectively in 1942 by Pius XII, who beatified Innocent XI in October 1956.
Feast: Aug. 13.
Bibliography: j. j. berthier, ed. Innocentii PP. XI epistolae ad principes, 2 v. (Rome 1891–95). f. de bojani, Innocent XI: sa correspondance avec ses nonces, 1676–84, 3 v. (Rome 1910–12). Bullarium Romanum (Magnum), ed. h. mainardi and c. cocquelines, 18 folio v. (Rome 1733–62) v.19. l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages (London–St. Louis 1938–61) 32:1–524. f. x. seppelt, Geschichte der Päpste von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des 20 Jh., (Leipzig 1931–41) 5.2:346–371, 534–537. c. miccinelli, Il grande Pontefice Innocenzo XI (Rome 1956). g. papasogli, Il beato Innocenzo XI (2d ed. Como 1957); last two works contain fine bibliographies. w. de vries, "Der selige Papst Innozenz XI und die Christen des Nahen Ostens," Orientalia Christiana periodica 23 (Rome 1957) 33–57. d. w. r. bahlmann, The Moral Revolution of 1688 (New Haven 1957). j. paquier, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951–) 7.2: 2006–13. j. orcibal, Louis XIV contre Innocent XI (Paris 1949). l. o'brien, Innocent XI and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (Berkeley 1930). s. monti, Bibliografia di Papa Innocenzo XI … fino al 1927, ed. m. zecchinelli (Como 1957). g. schwaiger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 5:693–695. e. de syrmia, At the Head of Nations (New York 1978). r. j. maras, Innocent XI: Pope of Christian Unity (Notre Dame 1984). i. marzola, Pastorale liturgica di b. Innocenzo XI, (Rovigo 1973). p. gini, ed., Epistolario Innoceniano (Como 1977).
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