Pope Gregory VII

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Pope St. Gregory VII (c. 1015/1028[1] – May 25, 1085), born Hildebrand of Sovana (Italian: Ildebrando da Soana), was Pope from April 22, 1073, until his death. One of the great reforming popes, he is perhaps best known for the part he played in the Investiture Controversy, his dispute with Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor affirming the primacy of the papal authority and the new canon law governing the election of the pope by the college of cardinals. He was at the forefront of both evolutionary developments in the relationship between the Emperor and the papacy during the years before becoming pope. He was beatified by Gregory XIII in 1584, and canonized in 1728 by Benedict XIII as Pope St. Gregory VII.[2] He twice excommunicated Henry IV, who in the end appointed the Antipope Clement III to oppose him in the political power struggles between church and Empire. Hailed as one of the greatest of the Roman pontiffs after his reforms proved successful, Gregory was during his own reign despised by many for his expansive use of papal powers.[3] Joseph McCabe describes Gregory VII as a "rough and violent peasant, enlisting his brute strength in the service of the monastic ideal which he embraced."[4]


Election to the Papacy

On the death of Alexander II (April 21, 1073), as the obsequies were being performed in the Lateran basilica, there arose a loud outcry from the whole multitude of clergy and people: "Let Hildebrand be pope!", "Blessed Peter has chosen Hildebrand the Archdeacon!" Later, on the same day, Hildebrand was conducted to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, and there elected in legal form by the assembled cardinals, with the due consent of the Roman clergy and amid the repeated acclamations of the people. That this extraordinary outburst on the part of the clergy and people in favour of Hildebrand could have been the result of some preconcerted arrangements, as is sometimes alleged, does not appear likely.[2] Hildebrand became pope, taking the name of Gregory VII. The mode of his election was highly criticized by his opponents. Many of the charges brought may have been expressions of personal dislike, liable to suspicion from the very fact that they were not raised to attack his promotion until several years later; but it is clear from his own account of the circumstances of his election that it was conducted in a very irregular fashion, and that the forms prescribed by the law of 1059 were not observed; above all, the command of Nicholas II that the German emperor be consulted in the matter. However, what ultimately turned the tide in favor of validity of Gregory's election was the near universal acclaim of the populus Romanus. In this sense, his election hearkened back to the earliest centuries of the Church of Rome, regardless of later canonical legislation. Gregory's earliest pontifical letters clearly acknowledge this fact, and thus helped defuse any doubt about his election as immensely popular. On May 22 he received sacerdotal ordination, and on June 30 episcopal consecration.[5]

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