Pope Sylvester III (1045)

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Who was Pope Sylvester III?

Pope Sylvester III or Silvester III (c. 1000 – 1062 or 1063), born Giovanni dei Crescenzi–Ottaviani in Rome, was the head of the Catholic Church from 20 January to 10 February 1045.

When Pope Benedict IX was driven from Rome in September 1044, John, bishop of Sabina, was elected after fierce and protracted infighting. He took the name Sylvester III in January 1045. He was later charged with having bribed his way into the election, a charge that was never confirmed. Benedict IX issued an excommunication of the new Pope and within three months returned to Rome and expelled his rival, who himself returned to Sabina to again take up his office of bishop in that diocese.

Nearly two years later (in December 1046), the Council of Sutri deprived him of his bishopric and priesthood and ordered him sent to a monastery. This sentence was obviously suspended because he continued to function and was recognized as Bishop of Sabina until at least 1062, having occupied that see for over twenty years (from 1041). A successor bishop to the see of Sabina is recorded for October 1063, indicating that John must have died prior to that date.

Though some consider him to have been an antipope, Sylvester III continues to be listed as an official Pope (1045) in Vatican lists. A similar situation applies to Pope Gregory VI (1045–1046). His pontifical name was used again by Antipope Theodoric because, at that time, he was not considered a legitimate pontiff.


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