Spirituality for Today – April 2015 – Volume 19, Issue 9

The 104th Pope
Benedict III

An image of Benedict III, the 104th PopeBenedict III, the 104th Pope

Pope Benedict III (855–858) – In 855, being elected pope seemed to be the equivalent of being exposed to the plague. After the death of Pope Leo V, the people of Rome chose the cardinal-priest, Hadrian, but he did not accept the election results. Then, the devout and intellectual cardinal-priest, Benedict was chosen, but he demurred. The crowd compelled him to take the throne of Peter. It proved to be a slippery seat. Anastasius, a cardinal-priest known as the Librarian, was placed on the throne in the Lateran Palace – Benedict being dragged off to prison – by a group of pro-imperial politicians. Pope Benedict, however, was extremely popular among the people and the pro-imperialists relented. Anastasius took up residence in a monastery, but would serve a number of future popes as a valuable counselor.

There is not much else verifiable in the papacy of Benedict III. He is known to have affirmed the primacy of Rome over the universal Church. In the realm of legend, this was the time of the alleged Pope Joan – a devout and scholarly woman who hid her feminine gender for some time until she gave birth during a procession (startling to be sure). Another version of the legend had her succeeding Pope Victor III in the Eleventh Century. She has to be credited for astonishing persistence and longevity.

Pope Benedict III is buried in the Basilica of Saint Peter.

Habemus papam