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Thursday, 5 January 2012

The “Babylonish Captivity”

In 1309 Pope Clement V found himself so much under the thumb of King Philip IV of France that he moved the papacy to Avignon. This marked the beginning of the “Babylonish Captivity” so called as due to the predominance of French popes and cardinals in the following seventy years, it was suggested that the popes had become French captives. To their credit the Avignon popes sent missionaries to countries as far distant as Asia, reorganized the church’s administration and made various attempts to promote peace between Europe’s rival kings and princes.

However the Italians were angered by the popes’ desertion of Rome and the papacy lost much prestige in England and Germany where it was viewed as a vassal of the French king. In addition the papacy’s popularity was hardly helped by their extravagant lifestyle, nepotism and imposition of heavy taxes.

Finally in 1377 Catherine of Siena, a lay member of the Order of St Dominic, after a forthright campaign of correspondence, persuaded the pope, Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome. This marked the end of the “Babylonish captivity”.

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