When an embassy from Rome reported the death of Clement II to Emperor Henry III
and asked him to name a new pope, the Emperor did not reply at once. A
conscientious man, he asked the advice of Wazo, bishop of Liege. Wazo, after
mature deliberation, informed the Emperor that Gregory VI should be sent back to
Rome. But Wazo's reflection was a little too mature. Henry had grown impatient,
and by the time Wazo's answer reached him, he had already made his choice.
The Romans had asked for Halinard, bishop of Lyons, but Halinard would not hear
of becoming pope. Henry then named the Bavarian Poppo, bishop of Brixen. It was
one thing for the Emperor in far-off Saxony to name Poppo as the next pope. It
was something else to get him seated on the papal throne in St. Peter's. That
throne was once more occupied by ex-Pope Benedict IX!
After Clement's death, Benedict, by judicious spending, had gained enough
supporters in Rome to make a comeback, and he was also backed by Boniface, the
powerful marquis of Tuscany. Henry was detained in Germany, but he ordered
Marquis Boniface to escort Poppo to Rome and see to it that he was enthroned in
St. Peter's. Boniface dared not disobey openly. He simply told Poppo that
Benedict now had full control over the city, and that now a poor old man, he did
not feel equal to the task of dislodging the ex-pope. Back went Poppo to Henry
with this disheartening message. Henry, not unnaturally, was furious. He sent
Poppo right back to the reluctant marquis with an order to get Benedict out of
Rome and install Poppo or face trouble. This time Boniface's age did not
interfere with his obedience. He promptly ousted ex-Pope Benedict and finally on
July 17, 1048, Poppo was enthroned as Pope Damasus II. Damasus had no chance to
show what he could do as pope. July is a hot month in Rome and was probably too
hot for the Bavarian pope.
Though he quickly got out of Rome and retired to rural Palestrina, he was soon a
very sick man. By August 9, Damasus II was dead. He was buried in the Church of
Excerpted from "Popes
Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.