Innocent XI

Pope from 1676. Born Benedetto Odescalchi at Como, he was educated there at the Jesuit College, then gained the doctorate in civil and canon law from the University of Naples (1639). He was appointed apostolic protonotary by Urban VIII and became a powerful influence in the Curia because of his model Christian life. He was made cardinal in 1645 and cardinal legate to Ferrara in 1648. In 1650 he took holy orders and was consecrated bishop of Novara, distinguishing himself here as at Ferrara by charitable works. He returned to Rome in 1656, and he served in the Curia till his election as pope.

His pontificate is one of continuous reform, continuous struggle against vested interests, and concerted effort against the forces of Islam. Perhaps his most famous work was his defense of the traditional rights and freedoms of the church against the Gallicanism* of Louis XIV of France. He opposed Louis’s use of the régale (right to use the revenues of a bishopric when vacant), of the franchise (right of ambassadors to the papal court to grant asylum to anyone in their compounds), of the Gallican Articles of 1682, and also Louis’s effort to secure the archbishopric of Cologne for a pro-French candidate. Innocent eventually excommunicated Louis and firmly followed policies he felt were best for the church. He also decreed against laxity in moral theology, seeming to favor the Jansenists over the Jesuits, and he decreed against Quietism.* He was beatified in 1956.

Bibliography: E. Michaud, Louis XIV et Innocent XI (4 vols., 1882-89); Epistolae, ad principles (2 vols., 1891-95); J. Orcibal, Louis XIV contre Innocent XI (1949).