Popes in a Year
#173 - Pope Gregory VIII
Pope from October 21, 1187 - December 17, 1187
Lived: c. 1100 - December 17, 1187
Birth name: Alberto di Morra
Who was this guy before he was pope?
Born Alberto di Morra in Benevento, Italy, he was of noble descent and entered the monastic life as a young man. Alberto joined the Norbertine order in his 20s, then went on to become a canon law professor in Bologna before being elevated to cardinal by Pope Adrian IV. As a churchman, Alberto was a slam dunk. He was both smart
holy, so Pope Alexander III was eager to send him all over as a papal legate. By the time of his election, Alberto had served in Portugal, to crown King Alfonso II; Germany, to offer reconciliation to the excommunicated Barbarossa in 1163; and in England, to investigate the murder of St. Thomas Becket. For the decade prior to his election, Alberto was chancellor of the Roman Church.
Give me the scoop on Gregory VIII.
Pope Gregory VIII was elected the day after Pope Urban III’s death, on October 21, 1187. Relations with Barbarossa were night-and-day compared to Gregory’s predecessor, given Gregory’s cordial meeting with the emperor nearly 25 years prior. He was busy in his 57 days in office, traveling to Pisa to help the locals make peace with Genoa, then stopping at Lucca on his way back to have the remains of Antipope Victor IV dug up and thrown out of the church, maybe even literally. Subtle. Gregory VIII died of a fever on December 17, 1187 and was buried in the Duomo in Pisa.
What was he known for?
Gregory VIII’s crowning achievement, made even more remarkable by his short stint as pope, was his coming to the aid of defeated Christians in Jerusalem by calling the Third Crusade. Responding to the Christian defeat by Saladin, the notorious Muslim sultan, Gregory issued the papal bull
barely a week after his election, which endured long past the penitential campaign it ushered in.
In it, Gregory paints the bleak picture of Saladin’s triumph while encouraging Christians to take heart that God had not completely abandoned them; that victory through penance was possible. The pope made apparent that a crusade was not a gratuitous battle against an innocent people, but rather was an act of reparation for sins toward the goal of recovering the land where Christ himself once walked. On God’s mercy,
“His anger is not quick, but he puts off the punishment, and gives time for repentance. [He] does not lose his judgment in mercy, but exercises his protection for the punishment of sinners and for the surety of those to be saved.”
Pope Gregory VIII
Gregory VIII took his name to honor his previous namesake, Gregory VII, but also to do homage to St. Gregory the Great, a fellow monk.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
Advent started. That’s pretty much it.
Coming Tomorrow...Pope Clement III
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
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Wednesday, August 23, 2017 at 2:00AM