Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fearless Pope during the Black Plague

Today is the 667th anniversary of the publication of Pope Clement VI's papal bull Unigenitus. In it, he explains indulgences and justifies their use. As I was reading Clement's biography, some things stood out as exemplary. He was the pope during the black plague in Europe, which killed between 1/3 and 2/3 of the population of Europe. The pope consulted with many people, including astronomers and doctors to see if they could find a cure. Many people blamed the Jews for the outbreak, and it was a very popular public opinion, but Clement condemned this belief and said those who blamed the Jews were being influenced by Satan.

Clement also tended to those with the illness, without fear that he would contract it himself. This is similar to the early Christians. In early times, some plagues swept through the Roman Empire. Pagan Romans tried to save their own lives and did not provide much care to family and friends. The Christians however, not fearing death, risked their lives to help their brethren. Ironically this helped the Christians live. The reason is that these diseases were not necessarily deadly if proper care was given. However, left alone a person had a much greater chance of dying. So, the Christians, by helping each other, survived. Also, the caretakers would develop an immunity to the diseases. After this had occurred several times, the proportion of Christians in the Roman Empire increased substantially.

Back to Clement. He also did not get the disease, even though he cared for those who were ill. There are many good things about Clement's life which are worth emulating.

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