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Sergius IV - Peter Pig Mouth!

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Mosaic of Sergius IVSergius IV had what was probably the most unusual name of any of the long line of St. Peter's successors. Before his election to the papacy, Sergius was known as Peter Pig's Mouth!

Peter Pig's Mouth ( Buccaporca ) was born of a poor family in the Pina district of Rome. His father, likewise named Peter, was a shoemaker. His humble origin did not prevent Peter from rising in the ranks of the Church. A pious and intelligent young man, he rose to be cardinal-bishop of Albano in 1004 and in 1009 he was elected pope. He was enthroned under the name of Sergius IV. In 1010 Christendom was deeply moved by the news from the East that the fanatical caliph of Egypt, El Hakim, had destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

This vandalism had two effects in the West; one bad and one good. The bad one was that the Jews were attacked because of rumors that they had incited El Hakim to act against the Christians. This was quite probably false for that madman mixed up Jews and Christians in his violent vagaries. The good result was that devotion to the Holy Sepulcher of Christ grew and pilgrimages increased as a reaction to the horrifying news. Pope Sergius, if a bull attributed to him be authentic, called on the kings and princes of the West to drive the Saracens out of the Holy Land. Whether or not the bull is authentic, the crusading idea is beginning to show signs of life.

Sergius continued the policy of his predecessors in exempting monasteries from episcopal control. At Rome he evidently chafed under the yoke of the Patrician Crescentius, for there is evidence that the Pope was working to foster an imperialist party. Indeed an old twelfth-century chronicle of the counts of Anjou has a curious account of how Crescentius met his death. According to this chronicle when the fierce Count Fulk the Black was passing through Rome on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Sergius IV complained to him about the evil deeds of Crescentius. Thereupon the redoubtable Angevin, without much ado, had the Patrician shot down by his archers. An interesting story, but definitely not true. Crescentius, though he died at this time, did not perish at the hands of Angevin archers. But the story does reflect the tension between Pope and Patrician. When a famine hit Rome, Sergius showed himself to be a true shepherd of his flock and worked devotedly to help his hungry people.

Sergius IV died on May 12, 1012. He is buried in the Lateran. Though not canonized, Sergius is venerated as a saint by the Benedictines.

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

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