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Pope Alexander VIII

Reigned 1689-1691

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Alexander VIII, POPE (PIETRO OTTOBONI), b. at Venice, April, 1610; elected October 5, 1689; d. at Rome, February 1, 1691. He was the son of Marco Ottoboni, chancellor of the Republic of Venice, and a descendant of a noble family of that city. The future pope enjoyed all that wealth and social position could contribute towards a perfect education. His early studies were made with marked brilliancy at the University of Padua (q.v.), where, in 1627, he secured the doctorate in canon and civil law. He went to Rome, during the pontificate of Urban VIII (1623-44), and was made governor of Terni, Rieti, and Spoleto. For fourteen years he served as auditor of the Rota (q.v.). At the request of the Republic this favored son was made Cardinal by Innocent X (February 19, 1652), and was later given the Bishopric of Brescia, in Venetian territory, where he quietly spent the best years of middle life. Clement IX made him Cardinal-Datary. He was already an octogenarian when elected to the papacy, and lived but sixteen months, during which time little of importance was done. Louis XIV of France, whose political situation was now critical, profited by the peaceful dispositions of the new Pope, restored to him Avignon, and renounced the long-abused right of asylum for the French Embassy. (See Pope Alexander VII.) But the king’s conciliatory spirit did not dissuade the resolute Pope from declaring (August 4, 1690) that the Declaration of Gallican Liberties was null and invalid. He assisted his native Venice by generous subsidies in the war against the Turks, and he purchased for the Vatican library the books and manuscripts owned by Queen Christina of Sweden. He condemned the doctrine of a number of variously erroneous propositions, among them (August 24, 1690) the doctrine of “philosophical sin”; cf. Denzinger, “Enchiridion Symb. et Defin.” (9th ed., Freiburg, 1900), 274-278; and Vacant “Dict. de theol. cath.” (Paris, 1903), I, 748-763. Alexander was an upright man, generous, peace-loving, and indulgent. Out of compassion for the poor of well-nigh impoverished Italy, he sought to succour them by reducing the taxes. But this same generous nature led him to bestow on his relations the riches they were eager to accumulate; in their behalf, and to the discredit of his pontificate, he revived sinecure offices which had been suppressed by his predecessor.

J. B. PETERSON


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