Pope Gregory XIV
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|Papacy began||5 December 1590|
|Papacy ended||16 October 1591|
by St. Charles Borromeo
|Created Cardinal||12 December 1583|
|Birth name||Niccolò Sfondrati|
11 February 1535|
Somma Lombardo, Duchy of Milan
|Died||16 October 1591
Rome, Papal State
|Other popes named Gregory|
Niccolò Sfondrati was born at Somma Lombardo, then part of the Duchy of Milan, in the highest stratum of Milanese society. His mother, of the house of Visconti, died in childbirth. His father Francesco Sfondrati, a senator of the ancient comune of Milan, was created Cardinal-Priest by Pope Paul III in 1544.
In his youth he was known for his modest lifestyle and stringent piety. He studied law at Perugia and Padua, was ordained a priest and swiftly appointed Bishop of Cremona, in 1560, in time to participate in the sessions of the Council of Trent from 1561 to 1563. Pope Gregory XIII made him a Cardinal-Priest of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere on 12 December 1583. Sfondrati was a close follower of Carlo Cardinal Borromeo, and when cardinal he celebrated the Requiem Mass for Borromeo on 7 November 1584. Sfondrati was an intimate friend and a great admirer of Philip Neri, an Italian priest who died in 1595 and was canonised in 1622.
After the death of Pope Urban VII on 27 September 1590, the Spanish ambassador Olivares presented the conclave a list of the seven cardinals who would be acceptable to his master Philip II of Spain. On 5 December 1590, after two months of deadlock, Sfondrati, one of Philip II's seven candidates but who had not aspired to the office, was elected pope. Alessandro Cardinal Montalto came to Sfondrati's cell to inform him that the Sacred College had agreed on his election and found him kneeling in prayer before a crucifix. On the next day he was elected Pope Gregory XIV he burst into tears and said to the cardinals: "God forgive you! What have you done?" In his bull of 21 March 1591, Cogit nos, he forbade under pain of excommunication all betting concerning the election of a Pope, the duration of a pontificate, or the creation of new cardinals.
|Papal styles of
Pope Gregory XIV
|Reference style||His Holiness|
|Spoken style||Your Holiness|
|Religious style||Holy Father|
Gregory XIV's brief pontificate was marked by vigorous intervention in favour of the Catholic party in the French Wars of Religion. Instigated by the king of Spain and the duke of Mayenne, he excommunicated Henry IV of France on 1 March 1591, reiterating the 1585 declaration of Pope Sixtus V that as a heretic (Protestent) Henry of Navarre was ineligible to succeed to the throne of Catholic France and deprived of his dominions.
Gregory XIV levied an army for the invasion of France, and dispatched his nephew Ercole Sfondrati to France at its head. He also sent a monthly subsidy of 15,000 scudi to Paris to reinforce the Catholic League. By coming down solidly on the side of Spanish interests, in part because Gregory XIV was elected due to the influence of the Spanish cardinals, the recent papal policy of trying to maintain a balance between Spain and France was abandoned.
Gregory XIV created five Cardinals, among whom was his nephew Paolo Emilio Sfondrati, his Secretary of State. He attempted to convince Philip Neri, a long-time friend, to accept the post of Cardinal, but Neri refused, saying that there were many more deserving of the honour than him.
In a decree dated 18 April 1591 (Bulla Cum Sicuti), Gregory XIV ordered reparations to be made by Catholics in the Philippines to the natives, who had been forced into slavery by Europeans, and he commanded under pain of excommunication of the owners that all native slaves in the islands be set free.
Also in 1591, Gregory XIV modified the Apostolic Constitution Effraenatam of Pope Sixtus V (1588) so that the penalty for abortion did not apply until the foetus became animated.
The biographers mention that Pope Gregory XIV had a nervous tendency to laughter, which occasionally became irresistible and even manifested itself at his coronation. Gregory, who was in poor health before his election to the papacy, died due to a large gallstone and was succeeded by Innocent IX.
- "Pope Gregory XIV" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
- Biography on St. Michael's Call Papal Library
- Defending the Faith website: Gregory XIV
|Catholic Church titles|
5 December 1590 – 16 October 1591