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Pope Saint Leo IX

As pope he led the papal armies into battle.


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The “Pilgrim Pope” who worked to reform the Church(1002-1054)

His life

+ The man who would become Pope Leo IX was born in Egisheim, France, and received the name Bruno at his baptism.

+ A canon of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Toul, France, he also served as a soldier in the imperial army. In 1021, while still a soldier, he was named bishop of Toul, serving in that post for more than 20 years. A man of discipline, he worked to reform the diocesan clergy and the monasteries in his diocese. He also served as a mediator between France and the Holy Roman Emperor.

+ Elected pope in 1049, Leo IX proved to be a reformer, trying to stop the abuses that were ravaging the Church of his day, especially the sin of simony (buying and selling church offices). He asked the hermit Hildebrand, who would later serve as Pope Gregory VII (also a saint), to come to Rome to serve as his advisor.

+ Leo tried to prevent the split between the Eastern and Western Churches, but the actions and attitudes of his personal representative ultimately led to the mutual excommunications that resulted in the Great Schism.

+ Called the “Pilgrim Pope” because of his travels throughout Europe and his sweeping reforms, he also authorized the consecration of the first bishop of Iceland, worked for peace in Hungary, and held synods in Italy, France, and Germany.

+ Leo IX is also controversial figure, however, in large part because he continued to serve as a soldier, even leading the papal armies against the Normans and battling to add new regions to the Papal States. Captured in a battle against the Normans, he was held captive until he recognized the Normans as conquerors of Calabria and Apulia. He did not survive long after his release.

+ Very much a product of his time, but celebrated for his reforming spirit, Pope Saint Leo IX died on April 19, 1054, and was canonized in 1082 by Pope Saint Gregory VII.

Spiritual bonus

On this day the Church also honors Blessed Ramon Llach-Candell, a priest in the Congregation of the Sons of the Holy Family. A teacher, writer, and poet, he served as director of several centers run by his religious community before being martyred on April 19, 1937, as part of the religious persecution of the Spanish Civil War. He was beatified with other martyrs in 2013.

For reflection

No one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely Jesus Christ.”—1 Corinthians 3:11


O God, who made blessed Leo IX the Vicar of Peter and committed to him the care of the universal Church, by his intercession keep your beloved flock ever safe, so that with integrity of faith and perfect charity your Church may journey to her heavenly homeland. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The Roman Missal: Common of Pastors—For a Pope)

Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

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