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John Pecham

Archbishop of Canterbury, b. about 1240; d. December 6, 1292

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Pecham (PECCHAM), JOHN, Archbishop of Canterbury, b. about 1240; d. December 6, 1292. His birthplace was Patcham in Sussex, called in the Middle Ages Pecham (Peccham), in common with Peckham in Surrey and Kent. He received his education from the monks of Lewes, but it is doubtful whether he was a student at Merton College, Oxford. He also studied at Paris, was tutor to the nephew of H. de Andegavia, and later entered the Order of Friars Minor. He succeeded Thomas de Bungay, O.F.M., and taught divinity, being the first to dispute de Quolibet at Oxford; Pecham became ninth Provincial of England (Parkinson says twelfth), and was called to Rome in 1276 and appointed lector sacri palatii. When Robert Kilwardby resigned the See of Canterbury, Edward I requested Pecham to take up the cause of Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells, and Chancellor of England, but in January, 1279, Pecham himself was elected to that see, and consecrated by Nicholas III. He held a Provincial Council at Reading, July 31, 1279, in which he carried out the pope’s verbal instructions and published fresh enactments against pluralities. In October, 1281, he summoned another Provincial Council to Lambeth, where among other matters his solicitude for the Holy Eucharist is noteworthy. His zeal prompted him to visit every part of his province, uprooting abuses wherever he found them. He compelled the royal chapels which claimed exemption to submit to the visitation. On this occasion he proved that he had inherited the fearless courage of his predecessors, yet retained the royal favor. He intervened with success in behalf of Almeric de Montfort, and had Llewellyn listened to him, he might have averted his own fate and that of his country. His suffragans complained that his zeal had led him beyond the limits of his jurisdiction, and deputed St. Thomas of Hereford to carry their joint appeal to Rome, where apparently it was upheld. At Oxford he renewed the condemnation of certain errors already censured by Robert Kilwardby, many of them containing errors of Averroes, but several of them enunciated by St. Thomas Aquinas, and afterwards commonly accepted in Catholic schools. (“Nineteenth Century and after”, January, 1911, p. 74.) In forming an estimate of his character a complete absence of subserviency and an unswerving adherence to principle come into view, but his frequent exertions in favor of the poor and against anything like oppression must not be overlooked. His humility, sincerity, and constancy in the duties of his office, and strict observance of his rule, won for him the admiration of his contemporaries. As the Apostolic protector of his order he defended it and other Mendicant Orders against their enemies. His remains rest in Canterbury Cathedral, but his heart was buried in the church of the Grey Friars, London. A complete list of his writings is published in “British Society of Franciscan Studies” (vol. II, 1909), his letters (720) are found in Martin‘s “Registrum Epistolarum Fr. Joannis Peckham”. He was an excellent poet, some of his poems being attributed to St. Bonaventure, as was also his “Life of St. Antony of Padua” written as Glasberger states, at the bidding of Jerome of Ascoli, and recently identified by F. Hilary, O.S.F.C., in a manuscript in the Capuchin library at Lucerne.


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