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GREGORY XII

1406 - 1415 AD

Once again the cardinals bound themselves by oath that the man elected would abdicate to end the schism if Benedict XIII would do likewise. To make doubly sure, the cardinals elected Angelo Corrario, an austere old man in his seventies. He took the name Gregory XII. Angelo Corrario was born at Venice of noble parents. Bishop of Castello in 1380, he became a cardinal in 1400. A pious man, he was outstanding for his desire to end the schism.

At first it looked as if Gregory really meant business about abdicating. He notified Benedict of his election and of his intention to abdicate if Benedict would do so too. Hopes rose when Benedict agreed at least to meet Gregory, but it soon became evident that neither was anxious to abdicate and they never reached agreement. Benedict's conduct is not surprising, but Gregory's was a disappointment. The truth seems to have been that his relatives, of whom he was inordinately fond, badgered the old man into forsaking his good intentions. Ladislaus, king of Naples, added his pressure to that of Gregory's relations.

Gregory's cardinals, growing ever more disgusted, were driven to rebellion when against his word Gregory created four new cardinals--all nephews! Some of his cardinals now left Gregory and began negotiations with equally disgusted Avignon cardinals. Together they called a general council to meet at Pisa on their own--quite inadequate--authority and summoned both Gregory and Benedict to appear. When neither did, the Council of Pisa in 1409, first declared Gregory and Benedict deposed, then proceeded to confound confusion by electing a third pope! Gregory was not idle before this threat. He created ten new cardinals to replace the rebels and held his own council, a small affair, at Cividale. This little gathering denounced Benedict XIII and Alexander V, as the Pisa pope was known.

The condition of the Church was now darker than before, but it was the proverbial darkest hour before dawn. Events marched rapidly. Alexander V died in 1410. John XXIII, who was elected to succeed him by the Pisa cardinals, was put under great pressure to call a new general council. This council, which met at Constance in 1414, finally did end the schism. The heroes of the council were Emperor Sigismund, who did so much to get the council under way, Charles Malatesta, count of Rimini, and Gregory XII. Malatesta, who was Gregory's friend and protector, urged him to live up to his good resolutions and do his part to end the schism. Gregory at last agreed and sent a legate to the Council of Constance, first to convoke the council in Gregory's name and then to announce his abdication. The council accepted Gregory's convocation, thus implicitly recognizing his legitimacy. On July 4, 1415, Gregory abdicated, and the way was open to end the sad business of the schism. John XXIII accepted deposition; Benedict XIII, stubborn to the bitter end, refused to abdicate. Abandoned by all the powers and all but three of his cardinals, he was passed over.

Gregory XII had been treated by the council as legitimate pope, and after his abdication he was made bishop of Porto and perpetual legate of Ancona. He died piously at Recanati on October 18, 1417.


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