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Damasus II - Short-lived Bavarian

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Mosaic of Damasus IIWhen 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 St. Lawrence-Outside-the-Walls.

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

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