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Eugene II - The Reformer

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When St. Paschal died, factional feeling which had flared up in the killing of Theodore and Leo, embittered the election. The nobles, who stood against Paschal's independent policy, prevailed and secured the election of the archpriest Eugene. Abbot Wala, a great minister of Charlemagne and Louis, who was present in Rome at the time, threw his weight to Eugene. Eugene, a spiritual man, may have been the candidate of a faction, but he was no tool. As archpriest he had been in charge of Santa Sabina Church and had an excellent reputation for learning and goodness.

Emperor Louis naturally was pleased at the election, and quick to seize the favorable moment, sent his son Lothair to Rome to put imperial relations with the papacy on a more favorable footing. The imperialist nobles were now reinstated. Some were brought back from exile; others recovered confiscated property. Lothair then arranged with the Pope a Roman Constitution which definitely recognized the Emperor as overlord of Rome while it conceded immediate temporal power to the Pope. Papal elections were to be held correctly, but the newly elected pope could not be consecrated until in the presence of imperial envoys he had taken an oath of loyalty to this Constitution. The increasing weakness of the Carolingian empire, however, doomed this Constitution to an early death.

The Eastern Emperor, Leo V, had been assassinated in 820. His successor, Michael II, the Stammerer, though an image-breaker, at first showed an inclination to compromise; but when he found out that the Orthodox had no wish for compromise with heretics he resumed the persecution. St. Theodore Studites had written to him urging the Emperor to consult the Pope as head of the Church. Michael did write to Pope Eugene and to Emperor Louis the Pious, but nothing came of the matter. Louis had some Frankish bishops study the matter, and they, still misunderstanding the acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, wrote an attack on the straw men their imaginative ignorance had constructed. Naturally this was no help in clarifying ideas for Michael!

In 826 Pope Eugene held a council at Rome which passed thirty-eight canons, most of them concerning reform. Simony was strictly forbidden; churches destroyed by war were to be rebuilt; schools were to be opened in all parishes.

Archbishop Abbo had given up the work of converting the Danes, but the great St. Ansgar stepped into his place. Pope Eugene encouraged the Apostle of the Scandinavians and commended him to all Catholics.

Eugene died in August, 827.

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

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