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Eugene III - A Holy Man

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Eugene IIIAfter the death of Lucius the cardinals withdrew to the Monastery of St. Caesarius where, protected by Frangipani swords, they could elect a pope in peace. The election was speedy and surprising.

Quickly the cardinals chose, not one of their own number, but Bernard, the Cistercian abbot of St. Anastasius. He took the name Eugene III. Bernard Paganelli was born in Pisa. He was a canon of the cathedral there and a high official when he met St. Bernard. This meant a radical change. He resigned his high offices to follow St. Bernard, that spiritual pied piper, into a Cistercian monastery. When Innocent II asked St. Bernard to send Cistercians to Rome, it was Bernard Paganelli who led the monks to St. Anastasius. There he attracted many vocations and the monastery was flourishing when Bernard was elected pope.

Eugene was a man of real holiness, humble, kindly, and cheerful. If he was severe, he was severe on principle as when he deposed the archbishops of Mainz and York. He accomplished much for the church. He might have done more if he had not been so troubled by the perennial Roman problem. Eugene had to go to Farfa to be consecrated in peace. But soon, tired of the excesses of Jordan, the Patrician, the Romans welcomed the Pope back and agreed to a compromise. The office of Patrician was abolished. The senate was to remain but to acknowledge the lordship of the Pope. This did not work well and soon the disgusted Pope once more left the city. The fall of Edessa. a bastion of the crusader kingdom, had alarmed Europe. Eugene proclaimed the second crusade. St. Bernard preached it. Louis VII of France and Emperor Conrad III were its leaders. Weak leaders they proved to be. The Germans were cut up in Asia Minor, the French butchered in a mountain defile. Louis and Conrad reached Jerusalem indeed, but rather as pilgrims than war leaders. The crusade which had begun in hope ended in disillusionment. So keenly did Eugene feel this that he left France.

The Pope was active in promoting the spiritual welfare of the church. He received an embassy from the Catholic Armenians and sent those good people a letter of instruction. He arranged discussions with the Greeks. He held a council at Rheims at which the Trinitarian vagaries of Gilbert de la Porree were condemned. On the other hand the pope approved of the visions of the holy mystic Hildegarde. Though he had actually been guardian of France during the crusade, Eugene could not control his own city. Arnold of Brescia, whom the pope had once pardoned, was now the idol of the factious Romans. Diplomacy and a show of force enabled Eugene to enter Rome once more in 1149, but he had so hard a time keeping order that he appealed to Conrad to come down and settle matters. The Emperor died before he could do so. His nephew and successor agreed to come into Italy. He was to come many times and the popes would not be pleased. Conrad's successor was Frederick Barbarossa. Blessed Eugene died at Tivoli July 8, 1153. He was buried in St. Peter's with great marks of veneration.

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

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