Thursday, October 20, 2011
Papal Profile: Pope St Celestine V
Discontent grew as many began to complain that the Pope had simply become a rubber-stamp pontiff for the Sicilian king. One of those most disconcerted with this state of affairs was the Cardinal-Priest Benedetto Caetani, an aristocrat who had very definite ideas about papal supremacy (which he would later, famously articulate without ambiguity) even at the expense of royal power. Pope Celestine V was without doubt a good and pious man. Even in his own time word spread of his miraculous deeds, however, his innocence of the world of power politics had left him as a pawn in the hands of others and reduced him to being little more than the chaplain to the King of Sicily. His religious sincerity remained admired by all but it became ever more clear with each passing day that he was simply not cut out to be the Supreme Pontiff. Never wanting the job in the first place, no one would have agreed with his unsuitability for the office more than Celestine V himself. He knew he was not up to the task and in quick order began looking for a way out.
Former Pope Celestine V endured his confinement as he did all the other misfortunes of his life but the conditions of the area in which he was held soon ruined his health and he died only ten months later on May 19, 1296. There were, of course, rumors that he had been murdered by his successor but no proof was or has ever been produced to support that theory. Even after his death he was used as a political pawn. In 1313 he was canonized by Pope Clement V and though none deny his saintliness, the canonization was done at the urging of King Philip IV of France as a way of further smearing the name of Pope Boniface VIII who had been his antagonist. Nonetheless, despite all the misfortunes of his reign, St Celestine V has remained blameless. His sincerity, piety and compassion have never been challenged and his intentions and motives were always pure. The fault lay with those who had used the innocent and uninformed saint to advance their own agendas.