After the death of a Pope

There are people who have a fondness for judgments, for the films and trial series, for the trial books, for the television programs that, in some way, emulate and recall the dialectic of hearings before a court. Whether it is Jesus in front of the Sanhedrin, Pilate, or Adolf Eichmann in front of the court of Israel, what surely interests us most is the palpitation of the heartbreaking controversiesthe meaningful papers they were able to write, respectively, Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The Karamazov brothers or Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in Jerusalem. Through a trial it is easier for us to think about ourselves and, above all, about the accounts we have pending. The living tension of the confrontation between opposites tenses the overflowing rhythm of The merchant of Venice from shakespearefrom twelve merciless men of Sidney Lumet, of the heroism of the pucelleof Joan of Arc in front of her executioners, when she was burned at the stake in Rouen at the age of only eighteen.

There is only one trial that seems to me even more formidable and scandalous and it is the one painted in 1870 by the daring Jean-Paul Laurens on canvas Pope Formosus and Stephen VI, the stark cadaveric trial to which Pope Stephen subjected the remains of his predecessor, Pope Formosus. Esteban VI, actually, had succeeded the controversial Bonifacio VI. Before being chosen by the Holy Spirit, Boniface had been excommunicated twice for immorality and died of gout with only two weeks into his pontificate, in the year 896. So, in reality, Stephen VI with whom he had outstanding accounts was Formoso, unique of that name and for having had more prominence dead than alive. Eight months after passing away, his corpse was exhumed respectfully by order of the new pope. He was richly dressed in pontifical robes and his mummy seated on the throne of Saint Peter, but only to be showered with accusations and insults. To judge him, a council which ended up being reduced to a simple synod of Italian bishops. It should be said that the sad corpse had the assistance of a hard-working deacon who served as his lawyer and who gave him his voice to respond as if he were the deceased.


Pope Formosus was accused of perjury. /Wikimedia

They accused formoso of perjury and of having wished for the Papacy, against what the legislation prohibited then and which today is already legal to wish. And naturally, after all that exaggeration of sensationalism and truculence, Formoso was found guilty because the trial had been fair and the dead man had been able to defend himself. Behold the plenary power that reveals a empty formalism. They annulled all decisions of his pontificate, including ordinations. At that point the ceremony continued but in reverse of how it had started. They publicly degraded his defenseless body, stripped him of the papal vestments where decaying flesh had sometimes gotten caught. Especially in the fabric of the cilicium with which he had been buried as a sample of a supposed asceticism. In the end they proceeded to reduce it. They cut off all three of his fingers. dextra or right hand, the three fingers with which Pope Formosus had drawn in the air all the blessings of his four years of reign. In this way they ensured that if in the final judgment Almighty God forgave him he would no longer be able to use, for all eternity, unworthy fingers. He couldn’t touch any paradise harp.

In our days there are no longer hermits like this one who appear in such a timely and restorative manner

The body was finally thrown into the tiber, where in Rome the pending accounts are usually settled. Miraculously, a hermit is said to have recovered it and returned it to his grave after rebuilding his hand. In our days there are no longer hermits like this one who appear in such a timely and repairing manner. At the same time, a very specific earthquake destroyed a large part of the Lateran Archbasilica to warn the Romans of bad government. However, that supernatural stage effect was unnecessary. Everyone knew that Esteban VI had lost his hand. He was shot down just six months later and strangled in prison by anonymous hands and no digital amputations. The amputation of the body or of the word, of human expression, always accompanies tyrannies.

After the death of a Pope