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Leo VII - Another Political Pawn

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Mosaic of Leo VIIAlberic II, now holding supreme temporal power in Rome, had no intention of seeing an independent pope arise who might try to get back the papacy's temporal power.

Accordingly, Alberic saw to it that the clergy always chose his man. This much must be said for Alberic: usually his man was a good man. After the death of his brother, John XI, Alberic secured the election of Leo VII. Leo was a Roman, the priest of St. Sixtus. He was probably a Benedictine monk. He was certainly a pious and spiritual man. Learned and gracious, Leo was not interested in becoming pope, and it took a little pressure to gain his consent. His lack of ambition probably commended him highly to Prince Alberic.

Leo VII granted privileges to various monasteries, especially to Cluny. He sent for St. Odo, the abbot of Cluny, to help bring peace to wartorn Italy. Hugh of Provence, though driven from Rome by his stepson Alberic, was still king of Italy, and actually had some power in the North. Not the man to accept defeat easily, Hugh continually attacked Alberic and on three occasions laid siege to Rome itself. It was on one of these occasions that Pope Leo VII asked St. Odo to come down from France and mediate between Hugh and Alberic. The great abbot worked hard and produced a patched-up peace. Alberic agreed to marry Alda, Hugh's daughter, and Hugh agreed to take his army home. Alberic and Pope Leo saw eye to eye in their attitude toward monks and monasteries. Alberic persuaded St. Odo to take over the supervision of all the monasteries around Rome. He also gave his old home where he had been born to be a monastery in honor of Our Lady. To this day the monastery of Our Lady on the Aventine survives as a memorial to the piety of Prince Alberic II.

Pope Leo VII cooperated in the grand work of restoration being done in Germany by Henry the Fowler and his son Otto. He appointed Frederick, archbishop of Mainz, to be his legate for all Germany so that he could reform the clergy. He refused to allow the overzealous German to baptize Jews by force, but he was enough the child of his age to permit Frederick to drive the Jews out of the cities if they would not accept baptism. Leo VII died in July, 936.  

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

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