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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Many Roman Catholic popes practiced magic. Author Michael Jordan states that an unbroken line of Popes, from Sylvester II to Gregory VII, were accused of being actively involved with magical practices. This line included Leo IX, Sylvester II, Sylvester III, and Benedict IX. Later, Urban II and Gelasius II could be added to the list.

The popes most connected with Witchcraft were opponents, not practitioners of that religion—most notably popes Gregory the Great (590-604), Gregory IX (1227-1241), and Innocent VIII (1484-1492). When Christianity, the new religion, was trying to establish itself, Pope Gregory I sent a letter to Abbot Mellitus who was about to journey to England. According to Bede (Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation), "When (by God's help) you come to our most reverend brother Bishop Augustine, I want you to tell him. . . I have come to the conclusion that the temples of the idols in England should not on any account be destroyed. Augustine must smash the idols, but the temples themselves should be sprinkled with holy water and altars set up in them. . . . For we ought to take advantage of well-built temples by purifying them and dedicating them." He went on to explain how the Pagans might be coerced into the now-Christian temples, since they were accustomed to worshiping in those places.

Practically every pope during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries issued a Bull against sorcery and witchcraft. Gregory IX, writing to the Archbishop of Sens, said

"Thou shouldst be instant and zealous in this matter of establishing an Inquisition by the appointment of those who seem best fitted for such work, and let thy loins be girded, Brother, to fight boldly the battles of the Lord." Pope Alexander IV launched a Bull against Witchcraft in 1258, following it with another in 1260. The most important, and influential Papal Bull, however, was that of Innocent VIII, in December 1484.

Innocent's Bull was influential, due, in part, to the fact that the newly introduced printing process enabled widespread distribution of the Bull. It was reprinted two years later, in 1486, as a preface to the infamous Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger.

In October of 1999, 1,650 Wiccans, Druids, and other Pagans from around the world signed a letter to Pope John Paul II. The letter requested that Pagan peoples be included in the Vatican's Millenium Apology for the persecutions of the Inquisition, addressed to Muslims, Jews, Christians, and other groups. The letter was drafted by an international committee of Pagans and was available for signing in English, French, Spanish, and Polish. On Sunday, March 12, 2000, Pope John Paul II made a sweeping apology, which he described as "long overdue." He said, "We cannot not recognize the betrayals of the Gospel committed by some of our brothers." Tantamount to a request for divine forgiveness, the apology failed to mention specifics, such as the failure of the Catholic Church to help the Jews during the Second World War. Although the apology mentioned the Inquisition, it did nothing to address those who had been burned at the stake as witches.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
Nay, stay, my Faustus: I know you'd see the Pope, And take some part of holy Peter's feast, The which, in state and high solemnity, This day, is held through Rome and Italy, In honour of the Pope's triumphant victory.
Then in this show let me an actor be, That this proud Pope may Faustus' cunning see.
Pope was born in 1688 (just a hundred years before Byron), the son of a Catholic linen-merchant in London.
Pope accepted this hint as his guiding principle and proceeded to seek correctness by giving still further polish to the pentameter couplet of Dryden.
After my day's work at the case I wore the evening away in my boyish literary attempts, forcing my poor invention in that unnatural kind, and rubbing and polishing at my wretched verses till they did sometimes take on an effect, which, if it was not like Pope's, was like none of mine.
I could not imitate Pope without imitating his methods, and his method was to the last degree intelligent.
'Ah!' said the fisherman, 'my wife wants to be pope.' 'Go home,' said the fish; 'she is pope already.'
John of Gaunt made up his mind to resist this claim, and John Wyclif, who had already begun to preach against the power of the Pope, helped him.
Thus spake Zarathustra, and penetrated with his glances the thoughts and arrear-thoughts of the old pope. At last the latter began:
If he could not have made Pope him whom he wished, at least the one whom he did not wish would not have been elected.
The pope and Caesar Borgia first found the two future cardinals; they were Giovanni Rospigliosi, who held four of the highest dignities of the Holy See, and Caesar Spada, one of the noblest and richest of the Roman nobility; both felt the high honor of such a favor from the pope.
Such was the pope whom the fools had just chosen for themselves.