Pope Benedict III (855-58)
Who was Pope Benedict III?
The election of the learned and ascetic Roman, Pope Benedict III, the son of Peter, was a troubled one. On the death of Leo IV (17 July, 855) Benedict was chosen to succeed him, and envoys were despatched to secure the ratification of the decree of election by the Emperors Lothaire and Louis II.
But the legates betrayed their trust and allowed themselves to be influenced in favour of the ambitious and excommunicated Cardinal Anastasius. The imperial missi, gained over in turn by them, endeavoured to force Anastasius on the Roman Church. Benedict was insulted and imprisoned. Most of the clergy and people, however, remained true to him, and the missi had to yield. Benedict was accordingly consecrated on the 29th of September, or 6th of October, 855, and though his rival was condemned by a synod, he admitted him to lay communion.
Owing to dissensions and attacks from without, the kingdom of the Franks was in disorder, and the Church within its borders was oppressed. Benedict wrote to the Frankish bishops, attributing much of the misery in the empire to their silence (cf. "Capitularia regum Francorum", ed. Boretius, II, 424); and to lessen its internal evils endeavoured to curb the powerful subdeacon Hubert (Ep. Bened., in Mon. Germ. Epp., V, 612), who was the brother-in-law of Lothaire II, King of Lorraine, and defied the laws of God and man till he was slain, in 864.
In an appeal made to Benedict from the East, he held the balance fair between St. Ignatius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Gregory, Bishop of Syracuse. He was visited by the Ango-Saxon King Ethelwulf with his famous son Alfred, and completed the restoration of the Schola Anglorum, destroyed by fire in 847. He continued the work of repairing the damage done to the churches in Rome by the Saracen raid of 846. He was buried near the principal gate of St. Peter's. One of his coins proves there was no Pope Joan between Leo IV and himself [Garampi, "De nummo argenteo Bened. III" (Rome, 1749)].
- Catholic Encyclopedia