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Pope Innocent XI

Pope Innocent XI 240th Roman Catholic Pontiff from 1676 to 1689

240th Pontiff (1676-1689)

Pope Innocent XI was a man of piety, ability, and firmness, and was deemed to be one of the greatest seventeenth century pontiffs.

Benedetto Odescalchi was born to a family of wealthy merchants in Como, Italy, on May 16, 1611. A lawyer who declined court fees so as not to contaminate his soul, Benedetto Odescalchi wanted a military career but was persuaded by his cardinal to enter the priesthood.

As papal legate to Ferrera and Bishop of Novara, Cardinal Odescalchi combated famine.

After reluctantly accepting the papacy on September 21, 1676, Pope Innocent XI was committed to saving Catholic Austria from Muslim Turkey by lobbying the kings of Europe to help Austria.

While the French Catholic monarch, King Louis XIV, defiantly supported Turkey, patient diplomacy by Pope Innocent XI obtained help for Austria from Poland’s fighting King John III (Sobieski).

Pope Innocent XI was strong in his dealings with King Louis XIV, but also prudent, as The Sun Monarch was popular and would not sanction opposition from the pope.

King Louis XIV illegally extended the régale, the ancient privilege of French kings whereby the kings seized revenue from vacant dioceses and made appointments.

With three successive legal briefs, Pope Innocent XI protested the régale, but King Louis XIV, through an assembly of subservient clergymen, replied in 1682 with the passage of four famous articles, Déclaration du clergé français. This manifesto of Gallicanism was highly objectionable and further strained the relationship between the pope and the king.


Edit of Nantes - Freedom of Religion

In 1685, King Louis XIV revoked The Edict of Nantes, which guaranteed freedom of religion, and sanctioned persecution of French Protestants.

In his May 7, 1685 decree, Pope Innocent XI, irritated by King Louis XIV's extreme measures, abolished the much abused right of asylum whereby ambassadors to Rome could harbor criminal suspects wanted by the papal judiciary.

King James II, the Catholic King of England, was a staunch supporter of France's King Louis XIV in matters hostile to the Church.  When King James II sought Pope Innocent XI’s support for his plan to restore Catholicism to England, Pope Innocent XI evaluated King James II’s efforts as irresponsible.

Pope Innocent XI's diplomatic skill was rewarded with a decisive victory.

King John III (Sobieski) of Poland, and Charles V, Duke of Lorraine, fighting under command of the Holy Roman Empire, shattered the Turks as they attempted to break through Vienna’s walls. Turkey was forced to adopt a defensive posture after 1683.

As a fiscal conservative, and financial administrator, in addition to  lowering taxes, Pope Innocent XI produced a surplus in the papal budget. And because of his strictly observed moral principles, Pope Innocent XI repudiated nepotism.

Pope Innocent XI died on August 12, 1689, and was buried under the altar of San Sebastiano in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Pius XII beatified Pope Innocent XI on October 7, 1956.

Catholic Pontiffs Main Page





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