Monday, 25 May 2009

Feast of Pope St Gregory VII OSB

Today is the feast of one of the great reformer Popes, Gregory VII, c1020-1085. A monk of the Congregation of Cluny, he is most famous for having faced down the Emperor Henry IV in the Investiture Controversy (over Church vs lay control of ecclesiastical appointments), forcing him to public penance at Canossa. Much of his life's work was devoted to the theology of Church-state relations. But he was also a vigorous reformer, promoting clerical celibacy, fighting simony, and curtailing the powers of bishops in favour of centralized government from Rome.

He died an exile in Salerno; his last words were: "Amavi iustiam et odivi iniquitatem; propterea, morior in exilio" ("I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore, I [now] die in exile."). His sarcophagus still lies in the cathedral church of Salerno, Italy, zealously guarded by the locals who have consistently resisted attempts to have his remains buried in St Peter's.

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