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Pope Leo XIII

Pope Leo XIII Supreme Pontiff (1878-1903)
Pope Leo XIII
Supreme Pontiff (1878-1903)
Leo XIII, né Gioacchino Pecci (March 2, 1810 - July 20, 1903) was Pope from 1878 to 1903.

Born March 2, 1810 in Carpineto , Italy, Pecci first achieved note as the popular and successful Archbishop of Perugia, which led to his appointment as a Cardinal in 1853. On February 20 1878, he was elected to succeed Pope Pius IX.

Leo worked to encourage understanding between the Church and the modern world, damaged by Pius IX's uncompromising Syllabus of Errors issued in 1864 that condemned as heresy 80 propositions, many on political topics, at the foundation of scientific, rational secular society. He firmly re-asserted the Scholastic doctrine that science and religion co-exist, and required the study of Thomas Aquinas. [1] Though he stated "It is quite unlawful to demand, defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, or speech, of writing or worship, as if these were so many rights given by nature to man, " he did open some the Vatican archives to screened historians. Leo created a number of seminaries . Leo was also the first Pope to come out strongly in favour of the French Republic, upsetting many French monarchists, but he was by no means in favor of democracy: "People differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition. Such inequality is far from being disadvantageous either to individuals or to the community," his wisdom proving that the Church was not entirely reactionary. His relations with the Italian state were less progressive. Leo continued the Papacy's self-imposed incarceration in the Vatican and continued to insist that Italian Catholics should not vote in Italian elections or hold elected office.

As a defender of the truth of Scripture to its minutest detail, Leo was categorical:

"For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost: and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true." The Catholic Encyclopedia, though published under his successor, accurately reflects the public position of the Church in his pontificate.

He is most famous for his economic teachings, in which he argued the flaws of capitalism and communism. His Encyclical Rerum Novarum of 1891, on the rights and duties of capital and labor, introduced the idea of subsidiarity into Catholic social thought. In 1896 he wrote a famous bull saying that the ordinations of deacons, priests, and bishops in Anglican churches, including the Church of England, are not valid. The Catholic church recognizes the validity of ordinations in the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. Leo also condemned Freemasonry.

Leo awarded a gold medal [2]to a fashionable nineteenth century cocaine-based drink called Vin Mariani, which was also praised and used by among others Queen Victoria and Leo's successor as pope, St. Pius X.

Leo was the first Pope of whom a sound recording was made. The recording could be found on a CD of Alessandro Moreschi's singing.

Under Leo XIII religious orders grew in number and membership, and many new apostolic sees were created. After his death on July 20, 1903, Leo was succeeded by Pope Pius X.

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Preceded by
Pius IX
Succeeded by
Saint Pius X

Last updated: 11-10-2004 19:57:00