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GREGORY XV

1621 - 1623 AD

It was Alessandro Ludovisi, an amiable old gentleman of sixty-seven, that the cardinals finally chose to succeed Paul V. He took the name Gregory XV. Alessandro Ludovisi was born of noble parents in 1554 at Bologna. After studies under the Jesuits at the Roman and German Colleges, he took a degree in law at Bologna. After distinguished service in the legal department of the papacy, Alessandro was made a cardinal and archbishop of Bologna by Paul V.

Though Gregory XV was a sick old man and had only a short pontificate, he had great ability, and it had distinction. He began by securing a valuable helper. He made his young nephew Ludovico a cardinal and his right-hand man. Ludovico proved to be a real staff to his old uncle. He was a pious, hard-working, and loyal servant.

There had been much dissatisfaction with the conduct of papal elections. Reform-minded men felt that politics had too much scope in the conclaves. Other popes had given thought to the matter, but sick old Gregory provided a solution. He made a series of regulations so sound that to this day, in essentials at least, they govern the conduct of papal elections. Other popes had set up congregations to regulate missionary activity, but to Gregory XV goes the honor of having established on a permanent basis the great Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. A congregation is a committee to assist the pope in ruling the Church. This committee oversees, regulates, and fosters mission activities all over the globe.

Gregory XV encouraged the Catholics of Germany, now engaged in the grim Thirty Years' War. He did much to obtain the electorate for Maximilian of Bavaria. By diplomacy he averted war between France and Spain over the Valtelline Pass. Gregory's foreign policy was wholeheartedly Catholic and supranational, and by it he increased the prestige of the papacy.

A pious man himself, Gregory XV did much to promote devotion to the saints. Devotion to St. Joseph and St. Anne, so popular in modern times, received great impetus from Gregory. He also defended the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception, though he did not feel that the time was ripe for declaring it a dogma. In a great ceremony at St. Peter's he canonized Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Francis Xavier, Philip Neri, and a Spanish farmer named Isidore. Naturally, so devout a pope was interested in enforcing the reform decrees of Trent.

Gregory XV suffered a great deal from gout and from stone. A fever carried him off on July 8,1623. His pontificate was short but glorious.


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