Pope Leo VIII

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Leo VIII (died March 1, 965), a Roman by birth, is considered by the Church an Antipope from 963 to 964 and a true Pope from 964 to 965. He held the lay office of protoserinus when he was (allegedly invalidly) elected pope by the Roman synod in December 963, when it also invalidly deposed Pope John XII (955–964), who was still alive. Because of shifting allegiances this had occurred at the insistence of Emperor Otto I the Great (936–973) 'the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy',[1] who on 2 February 962, John XII had crowned emperor of what would later become the Holy Roman Empire.

Having been hurried with unseemly haste through all the intermediate orders, he received consecration two days after his election, which was unacceptable to the Roman populace. In February 964, the Emperor having withdrawn from the city, Leo VIII found it necessary to seek safety in flight, whereupon he was deposed by a synod held under the presidency of the restored John XII. On the sudden death of John XII, the populace chose Pope Benedict V (964–966) as his successor; but Otto I, returning and laying siege to the city, compelled their acceptance of Leo VIII.

With the consent of all his would-be judges, Benedict was degraded to the rank of a deacon, Leo himself tearing the pallium from his shoulders (July, 964). If it be the fact, as is asserted by a contemporary, that Benedict validly acquiesced in his deposition, and if, as seems certain, no further protest was made against Leo's position, he may well be regarded as a true pope from July, 964, to his death in 965, about the month of March.

It is usually said that, at the synod which deposed Benedict V (with his ultimate consent), Leo VIII conceded to the Emperor and his successors as sovereign of Italy full rights of investiture, but the genuineness of the document on which this allegation rests is more than doubtful.

Leo VIII was succeeded by Pope John XIII (965–972).


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