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Agapetus II - The Reformer Pontiff

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Agapetus IIAgapetus II was a Roman and an excellent man. And that is about all that is known of him before he became pope. He was consecrated pope on May 10, 946. Agapetus II finally settled the vexed dispute between Artaud and Hugh for the see of Rheims by deciding in favor of Artaud.

This settlement was in line with the papal policy of supporting the house of Charlemagne. Louis IV wished to see Artaud archbishop of Rheims because he did not want that influential see to fall into enemy hands. Hugh was the nephew of Hugh the Great, duke of Francia, and trouble-maker-in-chief to the King. Agapetus II worked well for reform and spreading the gospel. He cooperated with German efforts to christianize the Scandinavians. He confirmed the privileges of Hamburg as metropolitan see for the nascent church in Denmark. From Jutland he received an embassy asking for missionaries. He worked well, too, for reform of the monks and clergy. He granted many privileges to monasteries.

One religious house which received a privilege from Pope Agapetus II was Gandersheim, famous for its talented nun Hroswitha. Hroswitha was a poet and a dramatist. Agapetus also protected monks from greedy princes. The pontificate of Agapetus II is marked by the entry on the Italian scene of a great man and a great precedent. The man was Otto I, king of Germany. The precedent was the interference of German kings in Italian politics. North Italy was again in turmoil. Hugh of Provence abdicated as King of Italy and went back to Provence to die. His son Lothair died in 950 and Berenger, marquis of Ivrea, was recognized as king. But Berenger proved worthless. He stirred up enemies on all sides and he treated Adelaide, the beautiful young widow of Lothair, with harshness. Adelaide escaped from his clutches and appealed to Otto. The great German promptly marched into Italy, overthrew Berenger, married Adelaide, and was crowned King of Italy. But when he wished to come to Rome to be crowned emperor, Prince Alberic said no. He had no wish to see the powerful German in his preserves. Pope Agapetus was probably willing enough to crown Otto, but in Rome Alberic was still the real temporal ruler.

Agapetus II died in December 955. He is buried in the Lateran.

Excerpted from "Popes Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.

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