Pope Innocent XI

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Blessed Pope Innocent XI (16 May 1611 – 12 August 1689), born Benedetto Odescalchi, was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1676 to 1689.


Early life

Benedetto Odescalchi was born at Como in 1611 (either on 16 or 19 May), the son of a Como nobleman, Livio Odescalchi, and Paola Castelli Giovanelli from Gandino. In 1626 his father died, and Benedetto began schooling in human sciences taught by the Jesuits at his local college, before transferring to Genoa. In 1630 he narrowly survived an outbreak of plague, which killed his mother.

The Odescalchi family, although only of minor nobility, were nevertheless determined entrepreneurs. In 1619, Benedetto's brother founded a bank with his three uncles in Genoa which quickly grew into a successful money-lending business. After completing his studies in grammar and letters, the 15-year old Benedetto moved to Genoa to take part in the family business as an apprentice. Lucrative economic transactions were established with clients in the major Italian and European cities, such as Nuremberg, Milan, Cracow, and Rome.

Some time between 1632 and 1636, Benedetto decided to move to Rome and then Naples in order to study civil law. This led to securing the offices of protonotary apostolic, president of the apostolic chamber, commissary of the Marco di Roma, and governor of Macerata; on 6 March 1645, Pope Innocent X (1644–55) made him Cardinal-Deacon with the deaconry of Santi Cosma e Damiano. He subsequently became legate to Ferrara. When he was sent to Ferrara in order to assist the people stricken with a severe famine, the Pope introduced him to the people of Ferrara as the "father of the poor."

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