He was born at Venice in 1418, and was a nephew of Pope Eugenius IV.
His adoption of the spiritual career was prompted by his uncle's election as pope. His promotion was rapid; he became a cardinal in 1440,and was unanimously elected pope on August 30, 1464, to succeed Pope Pius II.
His oath on taking office obligated him to abolish the prevalent nepotism in the Curia, to improve the morals there, to prosecute the war on the Turks, and to convene an ecumenical council within three years. But these terms of subscription were modified by Paul at his own discretion, and this action lost him the confidence of the sacred college.
Consequently, when in 1466, designing to eliminate redundant offices, Paul proceeded to annul the college of abbreviators, whose function it was to formulate papal documents, a storm of indignation arose, inasmuch as rhetoricians and poets had long been accustomed to buy in the reversion of such positions. Platina, who was one of these, wrote a threatening letter to the pope, and was imprisoned but discharged; in 1467 he was again imprisoned on the charge of having participated in a conspiracy against the pope, and was subjected to torture, being accused, along with other abbreviators, of pagan views. In retaliation, Platina, in his Vitae pontificum, set forth an unfavorable delineation of the character of Paul II.
It is certain that Paul was an opposer of the humanists, was second to none in making provision for popular amusements, and displayed an extravagant love of splendor. But justice requires notice of his strict sense of equity, his reforms in the municipal administration, and his fight against official bribery and traffic in posts of dignity.
In statecraft, Paul lacked eminence and achieved nothing of consequence for Italy. In his own domain, however, he terminated, in 1465, the predatory regime of the counts of Anguillara.
In the matter of war on the Turks, the one sovereign who might have taken the lead, King George of Podebrady of Bohemia, was rejected by the pope, and prosecuted as heretic because he sustained the conventions of Basel (see Jan Hus) in favor of the Utraquists. In August, 1465, he summoned Podiebrad before his Roman tribunal, and, when the king failed to come, leagued himself with the insurgents in Bohemia, and released the king's subjects from the oath of allegiance. In December, 1466, he pronounced the ban of excommunication and sentence of deposition against Podiebrad.
When ultimately the king's good success was disposing the pope in favor of reconciliation, Paul II died, on March 22, 1471.
Pope Pius II
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Pope Sixtus IV