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Pope Adrian VI
Pope Adrian VI or Hadrian VI, born as Adrian Florisz Boeyens (March 2, 1459 – September 14, 1523), served as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and its Eastern Churches in communion with the Holy See from 1522 until his death. He was born in Holland, which at that time was governed by its bishop but was also a Low German-speaking part of the Holy Roman Empire— it was sold outright to the Habsburg emperor after Adrian's death. His ancestors were from present-day Germany. Therefore, Adrian is considered to have been both Dutch and German. He was the last pope to have come from outside Italy until the election of the Polish Pope John Paul II in 1978. Adrian VI was in addition the only pope from the Netherlands as well as the last German pope until the 2005 papal conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. Adrian was known for having attempted to launch a Catholic Reformation as a defense against the Protestant Reformation. He was, however, ignored by his contemporaries.
Adrian VI was born under very modest circumstances in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and studied under the Brethren of the Common Life, either at Zwolle or Deventer. Some texts mention his name as Adrian or Adriaan Florisz, A. Florisz Boeyens, A. Florens or any other combination. 'Florens' or 'Florisz' means 'Floriszoon' - son of Floris.
At the University of Leuven he pursued Philosophy, Theology and Canon Law, with a scholarship granted by Margaret of Burgundy, becoming a Doctor of Theology in 1491, dean of St. Peter's and vice-chancellor of the university. His lectures were published, as recreated from his students' notes--among those who attended them was the young Erasmus.
In 1507 he was appointed tutor to the seven-year-old Charles, grandson of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian, who was to reign as Charles V. He was sent to Spain in 1515 on a diplomatic errand. After his arrival at the imperial court in Toledo, Charles secured his succession to the see of Tortosa, and on the 14th of November 1516 commissioned him Inquisitor General of Aragon. The following year, Pope Leo X created him a cardinal, naming him Cardinal Priest of the Basilica of Saints John and Paul.
During the minority of Charles, Adrian was named to serve with Cardinal Jimenez as co-regent of Spain. After the death of the latter, Adrian was appointed, on the 14th of March 1518, general of the reunited inquisitions of Castile and Aragon, in which capacity he acted until his departure for Rome on the 4th of August 1522 to assume his pontificate. During this period, Charles left for the Netherlands in 1520, making Adrian regent of Spain, in which capacity he had to cope with a very serious revolt.
In the conclave at the death of the Medici pope, his cousin, Cardinal Giulio de' Medici was the leading figure. With Spanish and French cardinals at a deadlock, the absent Adrian was proposed and on January 9, 1522 he was almost unanimously elected pope. Charles V saw, in the elevation of his former tutor, a papacy that would be an instrument of imperial policym but was soon disabused, when, crowned in St. Peter's Basilica on the 31st of August, at the age of sixty-three, Adrian entered upon the lonely path of the reformer. The Catholic Encyclopedia characterized the task that faced him:
- "To extirpate inveterate abuses; to reform a court which thrived on corruption, and detested the very name of reform; to hold in leash young and warlike princes, ready to bound at each other's throats; to stem the rising torrent of revolt in Germany; to save Christendom from the Turks, who from Belgrade now threatened Hungary, and if Rhodes fell would be masters of the Mediterranean."
His program was to attack notorious abuses one by one; but in his attempt to improve the system of granting indulgences he was hampered by his cardinals; and reducing the number of matrimonial dispensations was impossible, for the income had been farmed out for years in advance by Leo X.
The Italians saw in him a pedantic foreign professor, blind to the beauty of classical antiquity, penuriously docking the stipends of great artists. Musicians such as Carpentras, the composer and singer from Avignon who was master of the papal chapel under Leo X, left Rome at this time, due to Adrian's indifference or outright hostility to the arts. Musical standards at the Vatican declined significantly during his tenure.
As a peacemaker among Christian princes, whom he hoped to unite in a protective war against the Turks, he was a failure: in August 1523 he was forced openly to ally himself with the Empire, England, Venice, etc., against France; meanwhile in 1522 the sultan Suleiman I had conquered Rhodes.
In dealing with the early stages of the Protestant revolt in Germany Adrian did not fully recognize the gravity of the situation. At the diet which opened in December 1522 at Nuremberg he was represented by Francesco Chiericati , whose private instructions contain the frank admission that the whole disorder of the church had perhaps proceeded from the Roman Curia itself, and that there the reform should begin. However, the former professor and Inquisitor General was stoutly opposed to doctrinal changes, and demanded that Luther be punished for heresy.
The statement in one of his works that the pope could err in matters of faith (haeresim per suam determinationem aut Decretalem assurondo) has attracted attention. Catholics claim that it was just a private opinion, not an ex cathedra pronouncement, therefore it doesn't conflict with the dogma of papal infallibility, while others claim that the concept of ex cathedra was only invented in the 19th century. On the 14th of September 1523 he died, after a pontificate too short to be effective.
Most of Adrian VI's official papers disappeared soon after his death. He published Quaestiones in quartum sententiarum praesertim circa sacramenta (Paris, 1512, 1516, 1518, 1537; Rome, 1522), and Quaestiones quodlibeticae XII. (1st ed., Leuven, 1515).
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope Adrian VI
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