National Catholic Reporter

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Blast from the Past: Pope Celestine V

“Celestine was a visionary, the founder of a brotherhood of hermits with strong links to the radical Franciscans. He therefore represented precisely that dimension of the thirteenth-century Church which most detested the wealth, worldliness and legal and political entanglements of the papacy. His election fed apocalyptic hopes of a Papa Angelicus, a holy and unworldly pope who would cleanse the Church and prepare the world for the advent of Christ. The notion of an unworldly pope, however, was by now almost a contradiction in terms.”

Eamon Duffy, commenting on Pope Celestine V, at whose shrine in Sulmona, Pope Benedict XVI prayed on Sunday. The papacy of the early twenty-first century lacks many of the explicit political entanglements of the papacy of the thirteenth century, but it remains a conundrum for all leaders in the Church, and indeed for us in the laity too: How to be in the world but not of it?

Be sure to check out my colleague John Allen's excellent commentary on the visit.

Read our new blog series, La Iglesia Hispana, focusing on Hispanic Catholics, the church's new emerging majority.
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