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Celestine II - Elected In Peace / Ruled In Fear

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Mosaic of Celestine IIFollowing Innocent's death, Rome enjoyed the first peaceful papal election for years. While the barons kept their swords sheathed, the cardinals unanimously elected Guido de Castellis, the cardinal-priest of St. Mark. He took the name Celestine II. Guido was born either at Citta de Castellis on the Tiber or Macerata in the March of Ancona. Authorities differ as to his birthplace, but it is certain that he was a man of excellent character. He had studied under Peter Abelard and greatly admired this powerful thinker and brilliant lecturer. Indeed, the outspoken St. Bernard, who regarded Abelard with high suspicion, warned Guido, then a cardinal, not to carry his love for his old teacher to the point of loving his errors. Learned and hard-working, Guido rose in the ranks of the Church. He served in the papal court and was created cardinal by Honorius II in 1127.

In the stormy times when Innocent II was opposed by Pierleone or Anacletus II, Guido from the first stood by Innocent. Innocent raised him to the rank of cardinal-Priest of St. Mark. Celestine's election was hailed with high satisfaction. Great hopes were entertained, but Celestine, quite an old man, was soon to die. His one achievement was the reconciliation of King Louis VII. This settled a painful problem left over from Innocent's reign. Louis had forbidden the canons of Bourges to elect Pierre de la Chatre archbishop, but the chapter defied the king and elected Pierre. Louis thereupon determined that though the canons might elect Pierre, he would see to it that the new archbishop never sat on his episcopal throne. Pierre appealed to Pope Innocent against this highhanded interference, and the Pope bluntly stated that Louis was but a boy and must be educated. He personally consecrated Pierre archbishop, and when the king still refused to let him into Bourges, Innocent put an interdict on every place the king might enter. This meant that such places could have only the most necessary church services and these performed without solemnity.

The count of Champagne, one of France's great feudal lords, gave the exiled archbishop asylum. There was bad blood between king and count, and soon, despite the efforts of St. Bernard, war flamed out in Northern France. In this struggle occurred the horrible affair in which over a thousand people were burned to death in a church at Vitry. The war still dragged on and the interdict still hung heavy over Louis when Innocent died. St. Bernard, the count of Champagne, and finally King Louis himself, all pleaded with the new pope to bring about peace. This Celestine succeeded in doing. The king allowed Archbishop Pierre to enter his cathedral city, and Celestine removed the interdict. Celestine was quite determined to choose a foreign policy of his own. Unlike Innocent, he was not satisfied with Stephen's title to rule England. Still less did he like the concessions Innocent had made to Roger of Sicily. Perhaps it was as well for the Pope that he died before trying conclusions with that tough and capable Norman. Celestine II died on March 8, 1144. He was buried in the Lateran.

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

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