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Biography - Pope Pius IV - The Papal Library

by Catherine Frakas 17 Mar 2021

Pius IV1559 -1565 Giovanni Angelo de' Medici born 1499 Paul IV had ruled Rome rigidly and austerely and death was the occasion of an orgy of rioting and looting. The cardinals could not meet until 5 September, 1559 and it took them another fifteen weeks to make an election. The French had conceded defeat in Italy did not seek to influence the election: Philip II of Spain let it be known he would accept any worthy pope.At last on 26 December they chose Cardinal Giovanni de' Media, very much a compromise candidate. The new pope was born in Milan in 1499. His family was neither distinguished nor connected with the famous Florentine Medici. He had been a law student and gained the favor of Paul III although his private life not, as a young man, altogether suitable. He was ordained in 1545 on his appointment to the archbishopric of Ragusa: he did not reside in his see. He was made cardinal in 1549, one of Paul III's last creations. He not shown himself a very spiritual man; he was privy to schemes concocted by the Florentine Medici and Farnese families to aggrandize themselves. He had particular competence in theology but was a learned canon lawyer and an able administrator. He was certainly determined to look after his family, and he called his young nephew, then aged twenty-one, to Rome where he became the pope's principal adviser. Fortunately for the Church this young man, named Charles Borromeo, was a great saint and well equipped for his unexpected task. Early in 1560 he was made cardinal and held the office later named Secretary of State. This promotion was not in itself proper and the young man risked being spoiled by his riches, but the sudden death of his brother in 1562 induced a kind of conversion after which Charles threw aside ambition, and became enthusiastic about church reform. Henceforth he encouraged the pope in his desire to complete the work of reform, although it was the pope himself who took the initiative and the important decisions. The first was to reopen the Council of Trent. Here there were difficulties. The Spanish, French, and Germans were inclined to reform themselves locally, in national synods closely supervised by their rulers. The year 1560 was taken up with attempts to get the Catholic princes to agree to a resumption of the general council at Trent. In the end the pope's tact and persistence aided by some classical letters addressed to the princes and composed by St. Charles Borromeo, succeeded. The council reopened in January 1562. As a kind of preparation for the council, the pope reformed the college of cardinals. On the death of Paul IV his erring nephew, Cardinal Carafa, had been in exile. He had been restored to the exercise of his voting rights and had played a prominent part in the election of the new pope. Unfortunately be became involved in a tragic family quarrel between his brother and his sister-in-law in which murder had been committed. He trusted to the gratitude which he felt the pope owed him to rescue him from the consequences. In this he was mistaken and be was executed in March 1561. The other Carafa cardinal was sent to his archbishopric of Naples and in general the consequences of Paul IV's mistakes of judgment were successfully undone. On the more positive side Pope Pius created an unusually large number of the new cardinals, eighteen in all. They included some distinguished names, among them the General of the Augustinians, the principal theologian of the earlier sessions of the council, Seripando. The reopened council began work straightaway. One of the first things it did was to create the Index in substantially its modem form. The emperor, to conciliate the Protestants, wanted the council to allow the laity to communicate under the form of wine as well as bread, and for the marriage of priests to be permitted. The pope had permitted the council to decide. In the absence of any sign of any conciliatory step on the Protestant side the fathers were hostile to concessions, and the emperor withdrew his request. It is possible that these issues will be raised again in our time. Steps were taken to stop the trafficking in benefices altogether, and bishops were instructed to scrutinize candidates for the priesthood much more closely. The freedom to use clerical incomes was somewhat curtailed for the needs of the Church. The abuses of episcopal non-residence were at last effectively curtailed in the spirit of the work of Paul IV: provisions were made for the setting up of diocesan seminaries. The council finally closed on 3 December, 1563. The ground-plan of Catholic reform had been laid, and work on building it up had begun. This may have been at least forty years too late but it was done at last and in time. The decrees of the council were remitted to Rome for the pope's approval. In spite of the fact that they contained implied criticism of the papal Curia and required considerable changes in the way of life commonly followed by cardinals, the pope approved its decrees without alteration on 26 January, 1564. Henceforth he took the new title of honor accorded him by the council, catholice ecclesie episcopus, the bishop of the Catholic Church. On 24 March the bull Dominici gregis set up the Index of prohibited books as required by the council. The Roman Catechism, largely due to the efforts of Charles Borromeo, was completed, although it was not authorized until a few months after the death of Pius IV. Work on a breviary was begun on Pius' instructions, but it was not completed until I568 under Pius V. The revision of the Missal, to be completed by 1570, was also begun. The pope himself set an example to the cardinals and bishops by greatly reducing the state he lived in and dismissing many members of his household. He had time to encourage St. Teresa's reform of the Carmelites before he died on 9 December, 1565. *Disclaimer*—This biographical data is from The Popes edited by Eric John. Published by Hawthorn Books, Inc of New York. We have attempted to contact the publishing company which is apparently out of business. If there is a problem with using this material please contact the Project Manager

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