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Benedict VI - Murdered In Rome

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Mosaic of Benedict VILittle as is known of the achievements of Pope Benedict VI, the somber circumstances of his death throw a baleful light on conditions in tenth- century Rome.

Benedict VI was a Roman from the Forum district. His father's name was Hildebrand. At the time of his election, Benedict was cardinal- deacon of the Church of St. Theodore at the foot of the Palatine Hill. Though elected shortly after the death of John III in September 972, Benedict was not consecrated until January 19, 973. This delay was doubtless due to the wait for Emperor Otto's approval of the election.

Except for a few privileges granted by Benedict, nothing is known of his rather short pontificate until the events leading to his death. Otto I died May 7, 973, leaving the throne to his son Otto II, then eighteen years old. The next year young Otto had to fight a civil war with Henry the Wrangler, duke of Bavaria. While the young emperor had his hands full in Germany, some Romans planned a revolution. In 974 Crescentius, a brother of the late Pope John XIII, and a scheming deacon Boniface Franco, seized control of the city. Crescentius made himself Patrician; Boniface took over the papacy. He called himself Boniface VII. Benedict VI was shut up in the Castle of St. Angelo. When Otto II heard of this outrageous attempt, he sent Count Sicco to restore order.

 Sicco demanded the release of Pope Benedict, but the antipope hastened to have the Pope killed. Before Count Sicco could overthrow the usurpers, a priest named Stephen strangled poor Pope Benedict. Benedict VI seems to have been a good pope. He was certainly an unfortunate one.  

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

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