Nothing of note about Pope Francis in the media this week, so time to take up a topic that fascinates PopeWatch: favorite popes. The favorite pope of PopeWatch is Urban II who summoned the First Crusade.
Otho de Lagery was a fervent proponent of the Gregorian reforms. Named cardinal bishop of Ostia at the age of 38 in 1080. Elected Pope in 1088, he headed a divided Church with the foes of the Gregorian reforms having their own anti-Pope Clement III who controlled Rome, supported by Emperor Henry IV, the archenemy of Pope Gregory VII. The first years of his pontificate he wandered in exile, calling reforming Synods, until the pendulum of war turned against Henry. It was six years before he was able to sit on the papal throne in the Lateran Palace.
Although remembered for the First Crusade, Pope Urban also forged an alliance with Roger I to spread Latin Christianity throughout southern Italy and Sicily. His papacy saw the victory of the reforms of the great Pope Gregory. He was ever a friend of learning, as typified by his extensive correspondence with Saint Anselm, the foremost philosopher of his day as well as Archbishop of Canterbury.
Pope Urban would be regarded as anathema by the powers that be in the Vatican today. One can imagine the mass faintings of Cardinals if these words were uttered by a Pope:
“All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested. O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race, which worships demons, should conquer a people which has the faith of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of Christ! With what reproaches will the Lord overwhelm us if you do not aid those who, with us, profess the Christian religion! Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians. Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for small pay now obtain the eternal reward. Let those who have been wearing themselves out in both body and soul now work for a double honor. Behold! on this side will be the sorrowful and poor, on that, the rich; on this side, the enemies of the Lord, on that, his friends. Let those who go not put off the journey, but rent their lands and collect money for their expenses; and as soon as winter is over and spring comes, let hem eagerly set out on the way with God as their guide.”
Yet the viewpoint of Pope Urban II is the traditional view of the Church as indicated by his beatification by Pope Leo XIII in 1881. If Pope Urban II seems strange to our eyes, perhaps the fault lies with us rather than him.