Popes in a Year
#160 - Pope Paschal II
Pope from August 13, 1099 - January 21, 1118
Lived: 1050 - January 21, 1118
Birth name: Rainierius
Give me the scoop on Paschal II.
Born in the year 1050, Pope Paschal II was a Benedictine monk from an early age. Elevated to cardinal at the young age of 23, Paschal was put in charge of the Church of St. Clement following a trip to Rome, and was kept in the court of Pope St. Gregory VII for good measure. Paschal was elected pope in his own church, 918 years ago next Sunday, but was vehemently opposed to his unanimous selection, claiming that he, as a monk, was woefully ill-prepared for the political and diplomatic demands of the papacy. He ended up being right. At least he was honest.
Paschal II still gave it the ol’ college try during an unusually long tenure -- over 18 years -- for a medieval pope. He followed closely with Gregory VII’s reform policies, experienced a time of peace during the early years, but had to contend with an unprecedented
antipopes during his time in office. Paschal was imprisoned for two months in 1111 after refusing to coronate the double-crossing Emperor Henry V, and spent the last two years of his papacy in exile for a similar reason. Though he did return to Rome eventually, Paschal died soon afterward on January 29, 1118.
What was he known for?
The Holy Father was best known for having dealt with the “investiture controversy” - a period in Church history where lay leaders called dibs on having the right to pick new bishops and abbots in their regions. In England, St. Anselm, the archbishop of Canterbury, was feuding with King Henry I over the issue, so Paschal decided to let secular leaders nominate, while retaining the actual consecrations for himself alone. There would still be problems in England before Paschal’s death, however.
His dealings with investiture elsewhere in Europe also hit snags. He struggled with Henry V for practically his entire pontificate, despite the best efforts of the French royalty, King Philip I and Prince Louis, at mediation. At one point, Paschal sanctioned the excommunication of Henry, and at another point a concession was coerced out of the pope. The investiture controversy was never fully resolved during his lifetime.
It’s thanks to Pope Paschal II that the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a lay religious order dedicated to defending the Church and serving the poor, is still in existence today. In 1113, Paschal II officially recognized the order with the papal bull
Pie Postulatio Voluntatis
(spoiler alert: it’s not about pie), given to its leader Blessed Gerard Thom. The bull confirmed the order’s independence from all authority other than that of the pope and bound her knights by three vows: poverty, chastity, and obedience. That
, kept at the National Library of Malta, actually still serves as the legal basis for its sovereignty as an independent governing body.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
At some point during the papacy of Paschal II, and nearly four centuries before Columbus sailed there, the first bishop of America was appointed. Erik Gnupsson, a native of Iceland, was created Bishop of Greenland and given responsibility for both Greenland and Vinland, the region thought to be modern-day Newfoundland.
Coming Monday...Pope Gelasius II
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Guruge, A. (2010). The Next Pope. New Hampshire: WOWNH
Pope Paschal II -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Friday, August 4, 2017 at 2:00AM