Saint of the Day – 19 December – Blessed Pope Urban V (1310-1370) Priest, Monk, Abbot, Bishop, Canon lawyer, brilliant scholar, teacher – born Guillaume de Grimoard in 1310 Grizac Castle, Languedoc, France , Bl Urban was Pope from 28 September 1362 to his death in 1370 and was also a member of the Order of Saint Benedict. Patronages: Architects,Teachers,Benedictines, Missionaries. He was the sixth Avignon Pope and the only Avignon pope to be beatified. Even after his election as pontiff, he continued to follow the Benedictine Rule, living simply and modestly. His habits did not always gain him supporters who were used to lives of affluence.
Urban V pressed for reform throughout his pontificate and also oversaw the restoration and construction of churches and monasteries. One of the goals he made upon his election to the Papacy was the reunion of the Eastern and Western Churches. He came as close as some of his predecessors and successors but did not succeed.
Blessed Urban V was born to the nobility, one of four children of Guillaume de Grimoard, Lord of Bellegarde and of Amphélise de Montferrand; his brother later became a cardinal and papal legate. Guillaume became a Benedictine monk at the priory of Chirac, France in 1327. He was ordained a Priest at the Chirac monastery in 1334. He studied literature and law in Montpellier, France and then law at the University of Toulouse, France. He received a doctorate in Canon Law on 31 October 1342 and was known as one of the most learned men of his day.
He was appointed prior of Nôtre-Dame du Pré in the diocese of Auxerre, France by Pope Clement VI and then the Abbot of Saint-Germain en Auxerre monastery on 13 February 1352. He became the Benedictine Procurator-General at the Papal court. Bl Urban taught canon law in Montpellier, in Paris and in Avignon, France and was appointed Vicar-general of the diocese of Clermont, France c 1350 and then of the diocese of Uzès, France in 1357.
He served as papal legate in Italy several times and became an advisor to Pope Innocent VI and the Apostolic Nuncio in Italy.
In September 1362, then, Bl Urban was Apostolic Nuncio in Italy when Pope Innocent VI died. The Conclave to elect his successor opened on 22 September. On 28 September, they elected him as the new Pope. He was not initially informed of the result, instead he was requested to return immediately to Avignon to “consult” with the Conclave. The cardinals feared the reaction of the Romans to the election of another French pope and so kept the results of the election secret until Urban’s arrival a month later, at the end of October. Upon his arrival, Urban accepted his election and took the pontifical name of Urban V. When asked the reason for the selection of his new name, he was said: “All the popes who have borne this name were saints”.
Urban was not even a bishop at the time of his election and had to be consecrated before he could be crowned. This was done on 6 November by Cardinal Andouin Aubert, the Bishop of Ostia. At the conclusion of the consecration Mass, Urban V was crowned. Urban V was the sixth pope in the Avignon Papacy.
As pope he eschewed the pomp of the throne and continued to live by the Benedictine Rule, which led to opposition from courtiers who preferred a more regal life in court. He cut tithes in half, supported students, clerical training, seminaries and colleges, worked to re-unite Latin and Greek Christians, fought the heresies of the day, built churches and monasteries, restored many that had fallen on hard times or fallen away from discipline. He fought absentee bishops, bishops of multiple dioceses and simony, founded a university in Hungary, restored the medical school in Montpellier and approved the establishment of the University of Krakow.
He preached crusade against the Viscontis in Italy, accusing them of theft of Church property. He also promoted a crusade against the Turks in 1363 but little came of it as many of the leaders died of natural causes before troops could be put into the field.
Urged by Saint Bridget of Sweden and by Saint Catherine of Siena to return the papacy to Rome, he moved his court back to Rome, entering the city on 16 October 1367, the first pope to do so in 60 years. He was met by jubilant Romans and clergy. He re-discovered relics of Saint Peter and Saint Paul the Apostle in the papal chapel of the Lateran basilica when he prepared to say Mass there on 1 March 1368; they were later placed and new reliquaries and enshrined. However, outbreaks of plague and violence in the city led him to return to France, arriving there on 24 September 1370. He fell ill soon after and his remaining weeks were ones of physical decline.
His body was interrred in the chapel of John XXII in the cathedral of Sante Marie de Domps in Avignon and his relics were moved to the abbey church of Saint-Victor in Marseille, France on 31 May 1371 where they were interred in a tomb Urban built for himself. His Beatification Cause was opened by Pope Gregory XI and many miracles were documented through Urban’s intervention but the process ground to a halt when the papacy returned to Rome and the Cause of an Avignon Pope was a low priority
Finally on 10 March 1870 he was Beatified by Pope Pius IX (cultus confirmation).