07 July 2009

Blessed Pope Benedict XI

7 JULY 2009. Today is the optional memorial of Blessed Pope Benedict XI. Born Nicola Boccasini, in 1240, Pope Benedict XI had a short pontificate lasting only eight months from October 22, 1303 until July 7, 1304. Pope Benedict XI was a Dominican and, prior to becoming pope, was made Master of the Order in 1296.

Pope Benedict XI took the papal throne in a period of great tumult. Prior to his election as pope, his predecessor, Pope Boniface VIII, was facing great adversity. King Philip IV of France and Boniface engaged in an open conflict, resulting in Philip's excommunication by Pope Boniface VIII, and Philip slapping Boniface, who was then beaten and later died. Upon becoming pope, Benedict XI removed the excommunication of Philip IV and restored peace with the French royal court. However, Benedict XI did not lift the excommunication of Guillaume de Nogaret, who was responsible for the attack on Pope Boniface VIII.

When Pope Benedict XI died after only eight months as pope, there was suspicion that he had been poisoned by Guillaume de Nogaret, but no direct evidence was ever found linking Nogaret to the death of Benedict XI.

Pope Benedict XI is probably best remembered for his volume of sermons and commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, the Book of Psalms, the Book of Job, and John's Apocalypse.

POST SCRIPT - Pope Benedict X is now considered to be an antipope. At the time, however, the antipope status of Benedict X was not recognized, so Nicola Boccasini took the papal name of Benedict XI, rather than Benedict X. This advanced the lineage of all future Benedicts by one. So, Pope Benedict XI through the current Benedict XVI, are in fact the tenth through fifteenth pontiffs to officially use the name Benedict.

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

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