Innocent XIII, Pope

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Pontificate: May 8, 1721, to March 7, 1724; b. Michelangelo de' Conti, Poli, Papal States, May 13, 1655. Son of the Duke of Poli, his family was illustrious for its three thirteenth-century popes: Innocent III, Gregory IX, and Alexander IV. Michelangelo studied first at Ancona, then with the Jesuits at Rome. He chose the Church for his career and rose steadily in the papal service. He became a monsignor under Alexander VIII and was appointed governor of three Papal States in succession: Ascoli, Frosinone, and Viterbo. In 1695 Innocent XII sent him as nuncio to Switzerland and made him titular archbishop of Tarsus. Three years later he went as internuncio to Lisbon, where he remained until 1710. Clement XI raised him to the purple in 1706 as cardinal-priest of Santi Quirico e Giulitta. He became bishop of Osimo (170912), and then of Viterbo (171219), which he relinquished because of ill health. In the conclave that followed the death of Clement XI (1721), the early favorite was Clement's secretary of state, Cardinal Fabrizio Paolucci, but when his election seemed near, he was excluded by the veto of Emperor Charles VI. The vote then swung to Conti (May 8, 1721), who was noted for his prudence and diplomacy. His missions to Switzerland and Portugal had not caused him to fall into the bad graces of any of the great powers. He assumed the name of Innocent in memory of Innocent III, from whose family he descended.

Innocent XIII met the stubborn Jansenists with firmness, insisting on submission to Clement XI's constitution unigenitus (1713). He also took a firm stand in the vexed controversy over the so-called Chinese rites and forbade the Jesuits to receive novices if within three years they did not satisfy him as to their obedience. Innocent also set up a commission to study ecclesiastical problems in Spain caused by the upheaval of the Spanish Succession War. He recognized James as king of England, promising subsidies contingent upon the re-establishment of Roman Catholicism in England.

Bibliography: l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages (LondonSt. Louis 193861) 34:197. a.f. artaud de montor, The Lives and Times of the Popes, 10 v. (New York 191011) 6.1:218229. Bullarium Romanum (Magnum), ed. h. mainardi and c. cocquelines, 18 folio v. (Rome 173362) 21:867958. m. mayer, Die Papstwahl Innocenz XIII (Vienna 1874). j. paquier, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) 7.2:201516. g. schwaiger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765)2 5:695696. h. gross, Rome in the Age of the Enlightenment (Cambridge 1990). j. dulumeau, Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire (London 1977).

[j. s. brusher]