Pope Gregory XIV

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Pope Gregory XIV (11 February 1535 – 16 October 1591), born Niccolò Sfondrati, was Pope from 5 December 1590 until his death in 1591.

Contents

Early career

Niccolò Sfondrati was born at Somma Lombardo, then part of the Duchy of Milan, in the highest stratum of Milanese society. His mother, of the house of Visconti, died in childbirth. His father Francesco, a senator of the ancient comune of Milan, was created Cardinal-Priest by Pope Paul III in 1544.

In his youth he was known for his modest lifestyle and stringent piety. He studied at Perugia and Padua, was ordained a priest and swiftly appointed Bishop of Cremona, in 1560, in time to participate in the sessions of the Council of Trent from 1561 to 1563. Pope Gregory XIII made him a Cardinal-Priest of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere on 12 December 1583. Sfondrati was a close follower of Carlo Cardinal Borromeo, and when cardinal he celebrated the Requiem Mass for Borromeo on 7 November 1584.[1] Sfondrati was an intimate friend and a great admirer of Philip Neri, an Italian priest who died in 1595 and was canonised in 1622.

After the death of Pope Urban VII on 27 September 1590, the Spanish ambassador Olivares presented the conclave a list of the seven cardinals who would be acceptable to his master Philip II of Spain. On 5 December 1590, after two months of deadlock, Sfondrati, one of Philip II's seven candidates but who had not aspired to the office, was elected pope. Alessandro Cardinal Montalto came to Sfondrati's cell to inform him that the Sacred College had agreed on his election and found him kneeling in prayer before a crucifix. On the next day he was elected Pope Gregory XIV he burst into tears and said to the cardinals: "God forgive you! What have you done?" In his bull of 21 March 1591, Cogit nos, he forbade under pain of excommunication all betting concerning the election of a Pope, the duration of a pontificate, or the creation of new cardinals.

Papacy

Gregory XIV's brief pontificate was marked by vigorous intervention in favour of the Catholic party in the French Wars of Religion. Instigated by the king of Spain and the duke of Mayenne, he excommunicated Henry IV of France on 1 March 1591, reiterating the 1585 declaration of Pope Sixtus V that as a heretic (Protestent) Henry of Navarre was ineligible to succeed to the throne of Catholic France and deprived of his dominions.

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