Christ's Faithful People
1271 - 1276 AD
After Clement V died in 1268, the cardinals promptly began election proceedings at Viterbo, but they were decidedly slow to elect a new pope. To help the hopelessly split cardinals come to a decision the people of Viterbo threatened to cut off their food supply and actually did tear the roof off the house in which they were deliberating! Even this vigorous measure did not end matters. Not until almost three anxious years had slipped by did the Cardinals agree to a compromise. Six cardinals were delegated to choose a pope. They chose the archdeacon of Liege Tedaldo Visconti, who at that very time was on a crusade. If the cardinals had caused much grief by their unconscionable slowness, at least they gave the Church a great leader.
Tedaldo Visconti was born in Piacenza in 1210. Although only archdeacon when elected, Tedaldo had wide experience in the service of the Church. He had been on missions to France, Germany, and England. He attended the First Council of Lyons in 1245. He was a friend of St. Louis and a companion of Prince Edward in the Holy Land. He was consecrated March 13, 1271, and took the name of Gregory X.
Gregory X was a man of large ideas, one of the great medieval popes. He yearned to save the Holy Land so sorely beset by the Moslem. The great- souled Pope strove to promote concord among Christians, and with some notable success. He saw the end of Germany's interregnum with the election of Rudolph of Hapsburg in 1273. He called a general council in 1274. This council, the Second Council of Lyons, might be called a high-water mark of the Middle Ages. St. Thomas died trying to reach it. St. Bonaventure shed luster on it until he died. And at it the Eastern Church returned to Catholic unity.
The Eastern emperor, Michael Paleologus, considerably alarmed by the activity of Charles of Anjou, for several years had entertained thoughts of reunion. Now he sent delegates to Lyons, and there the Greeks agreed to return to Catholic unity. It was a great day for Christians, even though there were not lacking some who doubted the sincerity of the conversion. At all events it was a great step and had the union been as carefully nourished as it was painfully born, it just might have endured.
Pope and council did not neglect reform. Notably they decreed a series of severe regulations regarding papal elections. The Pope, understandably alarmed, planned to make future conclaves finish in reasonable time.
Gregory proved to be an efficient ruler of the Papal States and a charitable father to the poor. He began work on repairing St. Peter's that might have saved the venerable basilica had it been continued. But Gregory's career was cut short. Just after celebrating Christmas the great- souled Pope died, January 10, 1276. He has been beatified. He well deserved the honor.