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Monsters, Saints and intrigues: The fascinating history of the popes

Historian John Julius Norwich publishes an entertaining and rigorous history of the Roman pontificate

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Monsters, Saints and intrigues: The fascinating history of the popes

Read in cold, it would scandalize any history of Roman papacy that states that " Vatican is an ideal place to commit a crime". It does historian John Joules Norwich in book The Popes. A story, which edits kingdom of round with a delicious (and long) prologue by Antony Beevor. Norwich argues and documents it long before reaching chapter dedicated to John Paul I, who reigned re only thirty days, in summer of 1976.

More information
  • Two thousand years of intrigue
  • The two great pontiffs of Vatican II and Luciani mystery

Killed in your sleep? According to Norwich, "it is greatest papal mystery of modern times." John Paul I hated pomposity and was committed to returning church to its origins, to humility and simplicity, honesty and poverty of Jesus Christ. His refusal to be crowned with all usual paraphernalia had horrified traditionalists. If he comes to live for many years, he would certainly have made revolution that John XXIII could not carry out with Vatican Council II. The Curia was all but frightened.

"At start of my investigations I found it most likely that he had died murdered; Now I'm not so sure, "says prestigious British historian. He stresses that John Paul, who died in his sleep at age of 67, enjoyed excellent health, certified a few weeks earlier, and that no post-mortem examination or autopsy was done. "The Vatican is an independent state, without a police force of its own; The Italian police can only enter if it is invited to do so, but it was not, "he warns.

The supreme pontiff of Catholic Church is said to be Vicar of Christ, successor of Peter and Holy Far, all in capital letters. He is also treated by His Holiness and is head of state of a so-called Holy See. The Inquisitor Roberto Belarmino (1542-1621), first Jesuit cardinal and executioner of Giordano Bruno and Galileo, in his famous Catechism answered question "Who is a Christian?" thus: "It is Christian who obeys pope." A god, a Christ, a pontiff invested by extravagant dogma of infallibility.

One might suppose that such a papolatría would have elevated altars, proclaimed saints, to all popes in history. Nothing farr from reality. Only 56 have been canonized by ir successors, overwhelming majority as martyrs during some of persecutions that Christians suffered in first centuries. Later, official holiness of ' ir holys ' shone out of absence. For example, between St. Pius V, Pope from 1566 to 1572, and St. Pius X, which was between 1903 and 1914, re were 342 years of drought. Instead, this 21st century begins with two Holy popes and several on way. They are St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII, canonized by Francis spring of 2014. The first, who suppressed figure of devil's Advocate to facilitate processes, was blessed by his close friend and successor, Benedict XVI.

"If you continue current fashion of canonizing all Popes, holiness, in principle, will become a mockery," Norwich sentence. A race historian in best way of those of Oxford, this second viscount of Norwich (born on September 15, 1929), wrote before, among his many books, stories of Venice and Byzantine Empire, and personally met several popes of last century. This time he could have written, recognizes, "memoirs", such has been direct knowledge of papacy in last century. What he publishes, on or hand, is a great saga, often amusing, seen from outside, in best ironic style of great Edward Gibbon in his rough stories about decline of Roman Empire.

If it continues current fashion of canonize all Popes, holiness, in principle, will become a mockery "

Norwich underlines history of popes of enormous stature, like only two recognized like Great ones: lion I Great, which liberated Rome from assault of Attila; Or Gregorio Magno, one who did most to consolidate temporal power of pontificate, to which he agreed after being civil governor of Rome. But it also stops in pontiffs of Presidio: Popes who abused maidens of palate, popes with children of several women, popes criminals. Although it does not discover anything that is not known, its history is a delicious, ironic and sometimes amusing morsel on " imposing, astonishing and so many times rugged, terrible, scandalous and even criminal absolute monarchy oldest of world". It does not exaggerate with se qualifiers (it uses ors even more resounding), nor to praise so many good potatoes, nor to exec rate so many bad popes.

The potatoes. A story contains a chapter titled Monsters. "In spite of everything, Roman Catholic Church flourishes as perhaps never before. If St. Peter could see her now, he would surely be proud, "he sums up, astonished at how message of Jewish Jesus, Christian founder, who entered Jerusalem on back of a donkey and was crucified with two thieves, has been able to survive such a story Extravagant times, and be revered and known all over world. More imposing it turns out that a great part of humanity counts years and centuries, and develops calendars, from date of birth of unruly Nazareno, even though exact date is not known (but it was not one that has been said) , not even place of his birth.

The popes were nobody for centuries. They were not even called that until Bishop Siricius assumed that name as a title of honor, at end of fourth century. In fact, pope, derived from Greek, meant n well little thing: "Little far". Until Siricius, who reigned in Rome between 384 and 399, was called ' small fars ' to old members of Christian communities, persecuted or discredited until Emperor Constantine proclaimed year 313 that Christianity was official religion of Empire Roman. Sixty years later, Theodosius forbade rest of cults. "A persecuted church had become a persecuting church," concludes John Julius Norwich.

Lost pomposity

Autocratic monarchs, popes practiced until very recently doctrine of Gregory VII in Dictatus Papae, of 1075: Only Roman Pontiff can use imperial insignia, "Only of Pope kiss feet all princes", only it is his responsibility to depose Emperors, your judgments should not be reformed by anyone while he can reform those of all.

The last in believe was aristocratic Pius XII, pontiff between 1939 and 1958. The servants were to kneel when pope began to speak, to go to him kneeling and to leave room walking backwards. The pontificate had been for half a century without temporal power, at least oretical, as Stalin did when at Yalta conference, in 1945 he was surprised when Winston Churchill suggested pope's possible involvement in peace talks. "How many divisions does that Pope have?" settleded Soviet dictator. But no monarch was surrounded by so much ceremonial.

Norwich illustrates how that pomposity has come to our times. For example, on Leo XIII, Pope between 1878 and 1922, he says that all his visitors should remain kneeling throughout hearing and that members of his entourage were obliged to stand in his presence. "It is said that during twenty-five years of his pontificate he never once addressed word to his chauffeur."

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