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Pope Saint Leo IX

Led a synod to work for reform of the clergy


His life

+ Bruno was born in the Alsace region of France and was a member of the imperial family. As a young man he became a canon of the cathedral of Toul and, surprisingly, later led a group of soldiers during a military campaign led by his relative, Emperor Conrad II.

+ Named bishop of Toul in 1026, he served the diocese for 20 years and was an energetic reformer, leading to a renewal of the clergy and monasteries in his diocese.

+ When Pope Damasus II died in 1048, Bruno was chosen to succeed him and he was crowned pope in 1049. He entered the  city of Rome dressed as a pilgrim and took the name Leo IX and that same year he led a synod to work for the renewal of the Roman clergy.

+ As pope, he removed many priests, abbots, bishops, and cardinals who had been appointed to their positions through simony (buying church offices) or through nepotism. He also worked to limit the power of nobles over the appointments of Church leaders. His advisors included Hildebrand (who later became Pope Celestine V and who is honored as a saint) and Saint Peter Damian.

+ Despite his success as a reformer, Leo IX was also a controversial figure and was sometimes criticized for his involvement in secular politics, which some historians claim helped bring about the Great Schism—the division of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

+ In 1053, he led a small army from the Papal States against Norman invaders. He was captured and was imprisoned for nine months. He was returned to Rome shortly before his death.

+ Leo IX died on April 19, 1054, and was honored as a saint immediately after his death. Many miracles were attributed to him and devotion to him was officially approved in 1087.

Worth knowing

Saint Leo IX has been praised as the “Pilgrim Pope” because of his frequent travels to promote the reform of the Church during his years as Pope.


“It should be clear that we are Christ’s servants, stewards of the mysteries of God; the great quality of a steward is to be faithful to his duty.”—Acts 20:28


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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