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Benedict XIII

Pope from 1724. Born Pierfrancesco Orsini into a wealthy ducal family, he renounced title and wealth to join a religious order. His promotion in the church was rapid: he became a cardinal at twenty-three, an archbishop at twenty-six. He accepted the pontificate with great reluctance and tried unsuccessfully to reform clerical morals. At the Vatican he refused to live in pomp, choosing modest rooms and living in simplicity. Despite Jansenist* opposition he allowed Dominicans to preach Augustine’s doctrine of grace. Though personally saintly, scholarly, and well-intentioned, he showed no aptitude for practical affairs. Administration of the Papal States* was entrusted to the unscrupulous Nicolo Cardinal Coscia, who did great harm to the papacy.

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