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Pope John XV
|Papacy began||August 985|
|Papacy ended||March 996|
Rome, Papal States
Rome, Papal States, Holy Roman Empire
|Other Popes named John|
Pope John XV (died March 996), born in Rome), was Pope from 985 to 996, succeeding Boniface VII. He was said to have been Pope after another Pope John who reigned four months after Pope John XIV (983–984) and was named "Papa Ioannes XIV Bis" or "Pope John XIVb". This supposed first John XIV never existed, rather he was confused with a certain cardinal deacon John, son of Robert, who was opposed to Boniface VII and is now excluded from the papal lists.
Early life and elevation to papacy
John XV was the son of Leo, a Roman presbyter. At the time he mounted the papal chair, Crescentius II was Patrician of Rome, significantly hampering the pope's influence, but the presence of the Empress Theophanu, regent for her son, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III in Rome from 989 to 991 restrained Crescentius' ambition.
The Pope's venality and nepotism made him very unpopular with the citizens of Rome, but to his credit, he was a patron and protector of the reforming monks of Cluny.
During this papacy, a serious dispute arose over the deposition in 991 of Arnulf, Archbishop of Reims, by French churchmen, the Pope's interference leading at first to no definite result. This affair is sometimes read as an early groundswell of the conflicts between Popes and the new kings of France that came to a head later in the Investiture Controversy, so it is worth relating in some detail. Hugh Capet, king of France, made Arnulf archbishop of Reims in 988, even though Arnulf was the nephew of the King's bitter rival, Charles of Lorraine. Charles thereupon succeeded in capturing Reims and took the archbishop prisoner. Hugh, however, considered Arnulf a turncoat and demanded his deposition by John XV. The turn of events outran the messages, when Hugh Capet captured both Charles and Archbishop Arnulf and convoked a synod at Reims in June 991, which obediently deposed Arnulf and chose as his successor Abbot Gerbert of Aurillac, afterwards Pope Silvester II.
At this synod, Arnulf accused John XV:
Are any bold enough to maintain that the priests of the Lord all over the world are to take their law from monsters of guilt like these—men branded with ignominy, illiterate men, and ignorant alike of things human and divine? If, holy fathers, we are bound to weigh in the balance the lives, the morals, and the attainments of the humblest candidate for the priestly office, how much more ought we to look to the fitness of him who aspires to be the Lord and Master of all priests! Yet how would it fare with us, if it should happen that the man the most deficient in all these virtues, unworthy of the lowest place in the priesthood, should be chosen to fill the highest place of all? What would you say of such a one, when you see him sitting upon the throne glittering in purple and gold? Must he not be the "Antichrist, sitting in the temple of God and showing himself as God"?
The proceedings of the Synod of Reims were repudiated by Rome, although a second synod had ratified the decrees issued there. John XV summoned the French bishops to hold an independent synod outside the French king's realm at Aachen to reconsider the case. When they refused, he called them to Rome, but they protested that the unsettled conditions en route and in Rome made that impossible. The Pope then sent a legate with instructions to call a council of French and German bishops at Mousson, where only the German bishops appeared, the French being stopped on the way by Hugh Capet and his son Robert. Through the exertions of the legate, the deposition of Arnulf was finally pronounced illegal. After Hugh Capet's death on 23 October 996, Arnulf was released from his imprisonment and soon restored to all his dignities. As for Gerbert, he set out for the imperial court at Magdeburg and became the preceptor to Emperor Otto III.
At a Roman synod held in the Lateran on 31 January 31 993, John XV solemnly canonized Bishop Ulrich of Augsburg, an event which the Pope announced to the French and German bishops in a papal bull dated 3 February. This was the first time in history that a solemn canonization had been made by a Pope.
Later life and death
In 996, Otto III undertook a journey to Italy to obtain an imperial coronation from the Pope, but John XV died of fever early in March 996, while Otto III lingered in Pavia until 12 April to celebrate Easter. The Emperor then elevated his own kinsman Bruno to the papal dignity under the name of Gregory V.
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
- Schaff, Philip; Schley Schaff, David (1885). History of the Christian Church. Charles Scribner & Sons. Retrieved 2009-01-18.