The Good Borgia Pope

Yup, there was one. Pope Callixtus III, aka Alfons de Borja. He was a nobleman who became a law professor and a clergyman, and then was asked to tutor King Alfonso V of Aragon’s illegitimate son, Ferrante. The king was so impressed that he had Fr. de Borja appointed bishop of Valencia; and then as a diplomat for Aragon, he impressed Pope Eugenius IV enough to be named a cardinal and asked to serve in Rome. He managed to reconcile his king and his pope, and participated in two papal conclaves, being elected the second time he did so.

He lived an austere and prayerful life, and was much concerned with defending Europe against the Turks, while also promoting spiritual life and the saints. He granted and ran Joan of Arc’s posthumous retrial and acquittal, canonized St. Vincent Ferrer, and called for churches to ring their bells at noon so that people would remember to pray for the crusaders defending Belgrade. After victory over the Turkish siege was achieved on August 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration, Pope Callixtus III declared that it was to be celebrated universally in the West, instead of just here and there in places.

He was a good pope. His worst mistake was naming his nephew a cardinal. It was Rodrigo de Borgia who would become the shady Pope Alexander VI, and whose kindred would make a great deal of trouble in Italy.

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