Christ's Faithful People
Peter of Tarentaise was born in Savoy, probably in 1225, of noble and wealthy parents. He grew up good-looking and bright. While still a youngster, he abandoned wealth and position to enter the Order of Preachers. These were stirring times in the intellectual life of Europe and the Dominicans were in the van of progress. To Paris, the thought capital of medieval Europe, went the young Peter to study under St. Albert the Great, and to become a master in theology and a colleague of St. Thomas Aquinas. He wrote much. Indeed his busy pen got him into trouble. His writings were attacked as unsound; but a colleague, quite possibly great Thomas himself, came to his rescue and defended his orthodoxy.
Peter proved to be no ivory-tower scholar. A born ruler of men, he served with distinction as prior provincial of the French Dominicans, then as vicar general of the Order. In 1272 he was made archbishop of Lyons and cardinal. The very next year Pope Gregory X chose Lyons as the site of a general council of the Church. Naturally preparations for the great event kept the archbishop busy, and once the council convened, Peter was in the thick of things. He worked much with St. Bonaventure, and when the lovable Franciscan died, Peter preached his eulogy. He had the consolation of baptizing one of the Tartar envoys to the council. He worked hard and with great joy for the reunion of the Eastern Church.
After the council, Peter's reputation stood high, and when Gregory X died in 1276, the cardinals thought at once of the charming and capable archbishop of Lyons. He was elected on the first scrutiny.
Peter took for his name Innocent V and for his motto: "My eyes are ever toward the Lord" (Ps. 24:15). He might well have taken "Blessed are the peacemakers," for bringing peace was his favorite task. As archbishop he had put an end to strife between the episcopal palace and the citizens. He had soothed King Philip in a dispute over temporal jurisdiction. He had been instrumental in promoting good relations between the friars and the secular clergy. Now as Pope Innocent he continued this Christlike work. To Genoa, torn with civil war, the Pope sent a letter pleading for peace, and it was consolation to Innocent that on his deathbed word was brought of his success. He removed an interdict from Florence. He strove to keep peace between Emperor Rudolph and the ambitious Charles of Anjou.
Though a man of peace, Innocent was keenly alive to the plight of Christians face to face with the menace of Islam. He sought help for the Spaniards who were having another tussle with the Moors. He urged Philip of France to lead an army to the Holy Land where the old crusaders' kingdom tottered on its last legs.
But his brilliant career was abruptly cut off. Innocent V died after a short illness on June 22, 1276.