Pope Gregory VIII
(Alberto di Morra); b. about the beginning of the twelfth century, d. 1187
Gregory VIII, Pope (Alberto DI Morra); b. about the beginning of the twelfth century, at Bene vento; elected at Ferrara, October 21, 1187; d. at Pisa, December 17, 1187, after a pontificate of one month and twenty-seven days. The year 1187 witnessed the almost complete obliteration of Christianity in Palestine. On July 4, Saladin won the decisive victory of Hittin, near Lake Tiberias; on October 3, the terrible sultan was master of Jerusalem. The news of the fall of the Holy City struck Europe like a thunderbolt. Urban III is said to have died of a broken heart (October 20). The following day the cardinals elected the chancellor, Cardinal Alberto. He was a Beneventan of noble family; had received a good education; at an early age became a monk, some say a Cistercian, some a Benedictine of Monte Cassino. He was created cardinal-deacon in 1155, by Adrian IV, and in 1158 cardinal-priest with the title of San Lorenzo in Lucina. Alexander III, in 1172, made him his chancellor. It is interesting to notice that he was the last cardinal who used that title until it was revived in our own day by Pius X, succeeding chancellors of the Holy See, for some reason not satisfactorily explained, calling themselves vice-chancellors. Cardinal Alberto was one of the two legates despatched to England by Alexander III to investigate the murder of St. Thomas a Becket. He also, in the pope’s name, placed the royal crown on Alfonso II of Portugal. He was universally beloved for the mildness and gentleness of his disposition; and was no sooner seated on the pontifical throne than he confirmed the popular estimate of his character by making overtures to Barbarossa for a reconciliation with the Church. Since the dominant policy of his pontificate must be a crusade for the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre, he issued circular letters to all the faithful, enjoining prayers and fasts; and as peace between the rival seaports of Pisa and Genoa was an essential condition to the transportation of troops and supplies, he repaired to the former city, where he was overtaken by death. He was buried in the cathedral of Pisa with all possible honors, and was succeeded by Clement III.
JAMES F. LOUGHLIN