Pope Paul III: The Sixteenth Century Miracle

Born into an Italian family, Alessandro Farnese soon to be known as Pope Paul III was a very remarkable man. Coming into the world in 1468, Alessandro received a very good education during his youth. He studied in Rome under Pomponius Laetus, and also in the gardens of Lorenzo de’ Medici at Florence. He had a love for art and elegant literature which was proper for his period. At first, Alessandro wanted a diplomatic career, but with his mothers urging he looked for one in the church instead. In the church his rise was rapid. And in 1534, Alessandro Farnese became Pope Paul III. Pope Paul III was the leader of the Catholic Reform which established him as a notable pope during the sixteenth century.
Before becoming pope he held several bishoprics. Under Clement VII he enjoyed great authority. He kept a splendid court and was also a keen churchman. He succeeded Clement VII on October 13,1534 as Pope Paul III. Paul III is often called the last Renaissance pope due to his nepotism, his own broad and worldly culture, and for his interest in the arts and letters. One of the most beautiful Renaissance buildings in Rome is the Farnese Palace where he lived like a renaissance prince.
Paul III also claimed another name; the first reform pope. By the time he was elected pope his reputation as a bishop and as an administrator raised great hopes for his future decisions of the church. There were many problems that faced him during his reign. These problems were political as well as spiritual. The first goal Paul III set forth for himself was securing peace between the rival political powers; the king of France and the emperor. He adopted a policy of neutrality in hopes of mediating the problem between
them. He also sent many missions to each of them to discuss peace, and in 1538 his goal was partially achieved. A ten-year truce at Nice was negotiated, which he hoped would transform into a permanent peace.
Paul did not merely talk reform, he reformed. There was a huge desire for spiritual cardinals to replace the worldly Renaissance princes in the last generation. To alleviate this desire Paul filled the sacred college with hardworking reformers, men like Gian Pietro Caraffa and Reginald Pole. He was also faced with;
A crying need for reform of the clergy and the religious orders. Paul gave
strong support to new orders and reforms to the old orders. He backed
up reforming bishops who put their dioceses in order. (Bayer 440)

On September 27,1540 Paul III approved the Society of Jesus. This was a group lead by Ignatius of Loyola and included six of his fellow students. The Society of Jesus was dedicated to spreading the Christian faith by teaching and preaching. Before Paul’s reign was over Ignatius and his followers were spreading the Christian teachings throughout Europe. Paul III accomplished many other things also. He forbade the
enslavement of the Indians, he rebuked Francis I for his harsh cruelty towards Protestants, and he also established the Index of Forbidden Books to check heretical tendencies.
In November of 1534 Paul had appointed commissions to investigate conditions in the church and suggest reforms. The reports of these commissions made up an agenda for a future council. Paul attempted to call a council several times but each time it failed due to refusal by the German and Spanish. They would not meet in an Italian city. Finally on December 13, 1545 a council was held in the city of Trent, in the southern Alps. It was known as the Council of Trent. The council had three main purposes; "The reconciliation
of the Protestants, reforms of abuses, and preparation for a crusade against the Turks" (Brusher 728). The Council of Trent reaffirmed many of the Christian teachings. Teachings such as: the church has the final word on interpretation of the Bible, and all seven sacraments are valid. Other matters such as the role of the Scriptures, and the doctrine of original sin were considered, and decisions were taken, but on the crucial question of Protestantism little was accomplished. While the council was well under way political events interrupted its great work. Nevertheless the council continued