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Clement II - Yet More Reform

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Clement IIAfter Henry III had disposed of Gregory VI (and Sylvester III and Benedict IX) the way was open for a new election. When the Romans meekly told Henry to select the new pope, he chose Adalbert, archbishop of Hamburg.

Adalbert definitely refused, but he suggested a substitute, Suidger, bishop of Bamberg. Suidger was not particularly anxious to exchange his beloved Bamberg for turbulent Rome; but Henry liked the idea and persuaded Suidger to accept. He was enthroned as Clement II. Suidger was born in Saxony of noble parents.

He entered the ecclesiastical state and became chaplain of Herman, archbishop of Hamburg, canon of Halberstadt, and finally in 1040, bishop of Bamberg. He was a holy man and a kind one. On Christmas Day 1046, Clement was enthroned. Immediately after the ceremony the new pope crowned Henry and his wife Agnes. Henry not only became emperor but assumed the title of Patrician, and to him the Romans conceded the right of nominating the pope. So general was the disgust at the irresponsible conduct of the Roman nobility that this act, which tended to place the papacy in thraldom to the Emperor, was actually hailed with joy even by reformers. And indeed as long as Henry III lived it worked well enough. But the danger is that not every emperor is a Henry III. Clement II wasted no time in starting his reform campaign.

Early in January 1047 he held a synod in Rome which condemned simony and punished those guilty of this sin by excommunication. Indeed, anyone who knowingly even accepted ordination at the hands of a simoniacal bishop was condemned to do penance for forty days. Clement sought the advice of the great St. Peter Damian. This monk, whose outspokenness in denouncing abuses would make a modern gasp, did much to help Clement. Clement accompanied Emperor Henry III in a progress through Southern Italy.

At the Emperor's wish, the Pope excommunicated the people of Benevento when they refused to open their gates to the imperial party. Clement then accompanied Henry at least to Northern Italy. At Pesaro he was struck down by illness and on October 9, 1047, Clement II died. There was suspicion that ex-Pope Benedict IX had poisoned him, but this suspicion does not seem to be justified.

Clement was an able and holy pope, but his pontificate had been too brief to allow him to do more than make a good start toward reform. He granted a number of privileges especially, of course, one to his beloved see of Bamberg.

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

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