Saint of the Day – 12 August – Blessed Pope Innocent XI (1611-1689) Bishop of Rome, Lawyer, Apostle of Charity, Reformer, Administrator – born Benedetto Odescalchi on 19 May 1611 at Como, Italy and died on 12 August 1689 at Rome, Italy of natural causes. Patronage – Diocese of Novara, Diocese of Como. He is known in Budapest as the “Saviour of Hungary” and “Father of the Poor” Papal Ascension – he was elected unanimously on 21 September 1676 and installed on 4 October 1676 and reigned until his death.
Blessed Innocent was born to a noble family and educated by the Jesuits at Como and studied jurisprudence at Rome and Naples.
Pope Urban VIII appointed him successively prothonotary, president of the Apostolic Camera, commissary at Ancona, administrator of Macerata and Governor of Picena. Innocent X then made him Cardinal-Deacon of Santi Cosma e Damiano on 6 March 1645 and, somewhat later, Cardinal-Priest of Sant’ Onofrio.
As cardinal he was beloved by all on account of his deep piety, charity and unselfish devotion to his duties. When he was sent as legate to Ferrara in order to assist the people stricken with a severe famine, the pope introduced him to the people of Ferrara as the “father of the poor”, “Mittimus patrem pauperum”. In 1650 he became Bishop of Novara, a capacity in which he spent all the revenues of his see in order to relieve the poor and sick of his diocese. With the permission of the pope, he resigned as Bishop of Novara in favour of his brother, Giulio, in 1656 and went to Rome, where he took a prominent part in the consultations of the various congregations in which he was a member.
Benedetto was unanimously elected pope on 21 September 1676 and he took the name of Innocent XI. Immediately upon his accession he turned all his efforts towards reducing the expenses of the Curia. He passed strict ordinances against nepotism among the cardinals and he himself lived very parsimoniously and exhorted the cardinals to do the same.
His pontificate was marked by the prolonged struggle with Louis XIV of France on the subject of the so-called “Gallican Liberties” and also about certain immunities claimed by ambassadors to the papal court. Innocent died on 12 August of 1689 after a long illness. He was seventy-eight years of age. His body lies with those of St Pius X (1903 – 1914), Blessed John XXIII (1958 – 1963) and, eventually, with St John Paul II (1978 – 2005) in the Basilica of St Peter’s in Rome.
The cause for his Canonisation was first introduced in 1714 but the influence of France forced it to be suspended in 1744. In the 20th century it was reintroduced and Pope Pius XII Beatified him on 7 October 1956. Below is the Monument to Blessed Pope Innocent XI at St Peter’s Basilica.