Pope Innocent XI
(Benedetto Odescalchi), pope
from 1676 to 1689, was born at Como in 1611, studied law at Rome and Naples, held successively the ofices of protonotary, president of the apostolic chamber, commissary of the Marco di Roma, and governor of Macarata; in 1647 Innocent X
made him cardinal, and he afterwards successively became legate to Ferrara and bishop of Novara. In all these capacities, the simplicity and purity of character which he displayed had combined with his unselfish and openhanded benevolence to secure for him a high place in the popular affection and esteem; and two months after the death of Clement X
he was, on September 21 1676, in spite of French opposition, chosen his successor. He lost no time in declaring and practically manifesting his zeal as a reformer of manners and a corrector of administrative abuses. He sought to abolish sinecures and to put the papal finances otherwise on a sound footing; beginning with the clergy, he sought to raise the laity also to a higher moral standard of living. In 1679 he publicly condemned sixty-five propositions, taken chiefly from the writings of Escobar, Suarez, and the like, as "propositiones laxorum moralistarum" and forbade anyone to teach them under penalty of excommunicaton.
Personally not unfriendly to Molinos, he nevertheless so far yielded to the enormous pressure brought to bear upon him as to confirm in 1687 the judgement of the inquisitors by which sixty-eight Molinist propositions were condemned as blasphemous and heretical.
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. He died after a long period of feeble health on August 12, 1689.
The cause for his canonization was introduced in 1714 but the influence of France forced it to be suspended in 1744. In the 20th century it was reintroduced, and Pius XII announced his beatification on October 7, 1956 - his feast day is August 12.
Robert Browning based his work The Ring and the Book on the life of Innocent.
Original text from the 9th edition (1880) of an unnamed encyclopedia