Part two of our blog looking at the greatest ever popes in history focuses on other great men that came to the fore during their tenure as Pope of the Catholic Church. The heavy burden of following two thousand years of previous other great men weighs heavily on newly appointed popes.
Pope John XXIII
Pope John XXIII actually entered the priesthood when he was just eleven years old. And was elected pope in 1958 when he was seventy six after serving fifty five years in the clergy. This pope liked to break tradition and he had great kindness and mercy.
During WWII he served as a military chaplain and was involved greatly in the desperate flight of the Jews, by arranging visas and documents to aid their plight. For this dangerous and often life-threatening work he was awarded the Righteous Among Nations award. Which is given to non- Jews who risk their own lives to save the life of a Jew.
Pope John XXII also worked tirelessly to build relationships between different faiths, he actually removed anti-Sematic words from the highly traditional Good Friday prayer. He also worked hard on spreading the word of God’s love and the quality of peace.
Pope Pius XII
Elected in 1939, Pope Pius XII was in position to witness the horrors of WWII. In some quarters he was criticized for being too neutral during the start of the war, especially with the horrors of the Holocaust.
And in some ways he did publicize his neutral stance as the war was threatening to bring down the Vatican and the Catholic Church with it. His attitude changed as the sheer violence by the Nazis was too bad to ignore.
He made many public statements against the Nazi’s and indeed was a leading figure in supervising a rescue network which was responsible for saving thousands of Jews. Pope Pius XXII also made sure that food and aid was delivered to any oppressed Jewish communities.
Pope Innocent III
The oldest pope on our list is Pope Innocent III, and he is supposed to have been the most qualified and powerful man to ever have held the papal office. It is widely regarded that it is this pope that saved the Catholic Church from extinction.
Pope Innocent III was a very scholarly and learned man who was elevated to be pope in 1198. During his tenure great power came to the position and he amassed powerful influence over European Kings and other Christian states around the world.
During this period in history the Catholic Church was facing grave challenges to their very existence, some of these challenges threatened to dissolve it completely. It was this pope’s tireless work that made the Church grow strong again and fended off disaster.
Corruption was one of the biggest problems within the Church at that time, by making policies more rigid and castigating those that dissented, corruption was defeated. Unfortunately the side effect was that it was almost impossible to offer honest criticism.
It was something that the Catholic Church had to live with in order to build their house once more. These men all had one thing in common and that is they worked not for themselves but for the greater good of humanity.