from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pope Leo XIII (1878)
Signature Leo XIII..PNG

Pope Leo XIII. ( Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci ; born March 2, 1810 in Carpineto Romano ; † July 20, 1903 in Rome ) was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1878 to 1903 .

Pope Leo XIII. went down in history as a political Pope. The accumulation of dogmas feared by many after the declaration of infallibility from 1870 under Pope Pius IX. failed to materialize. One can, however, take Leo XIII. name the first encyclical pope; he wrote 86 of these papal circulars (the first of which goes back to Benedict XIV. ), including seven on the veneration of Mary . His goal was to extricate the Church from its self-imposed isolation from the modern social and political developments, however, he was of the need for "temporal power" ( Papal States convinced the Pope). On the one hand, he orientated himself on theHigh medieval order of church and state, on the other hand he wrote the first social encyclical of the Roman Catholic Church and thus upgraded the Catholic social doctrine . Because of his concern for social issues, he was known as the “worker pope” and nicknamed “the social”.

Leo XIII. died at the age of 93, no Pope has grown older in office. Benedict XVI only grew older as Pope emeritus.


Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci came from the lower land nobility, representatives of the family were already in church service under Popes Benedict XIV to Pius VII . His father Ludovico Pecci was a war commissioner and colonel.


Even as a boy he was considered gifted and developed a preference for Latin . From 1818 to 1824 he went to school at the Jesuit College in Viterbo , and from 1824 to 1832 he studied theology at the Collegium Romanum . The training for the papal administrative and diplomatic service at the Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici in Rome lasted from 1832 to 1837. Pecci received his doctorate in 1835 as a doctor of both rights (Dr. iur. Utr.).

On December 31, 1837, the church lawyer and theologian received by Cardinal Vicar Carlo Odescalchi the priesthood . From 1838 to 1841 he was papal envoy in Benevento , then in Perugia with the same rank .


In 1843 Pope Gregory XVI appointed him . the Titular Archbishop of Damiata and sent him as nuncio to Belgium , from where he was, however, dismissed again at the request of the King. From 1846 to 1878 he was Bishop of Perugia , where he had the cathedral redesigned in neo-Gothic style. On December 19, 1853 he was elevated to cardinal with the titular church of San Crisogono . There he initially represented a strictly conservative and anti-science line. His reform of theology studies was intended to strengthen traditions.

In the upheaval phase of Umbria's separation from the papal state (1860), Pecci was the leader of the bishops against the Italian state church. During this time, Cardinal Pecci had to answer in court in 1862 "for inciting contempt for the existing state order" (warning of three priests). However, he did not obey the summons, but wrote a memorandum in which he set out his rights and duties as a cardinal. The lawsuit was then dismissed and subsequently had no effect on his further career.

In the mid-1870s, it gradually opened up to modern culture and technology. After the death of the previous Camerlengo Filippo de Angelis , he was appointed as his successor in 1877. In this capacity Cardinal Pecci led the official business during the Sedis vacancy in 1878. He became, contrary to the previous custom, as candidate of the moderate on February 20 after a two-day conclave , the first in the Sistine Chapel , to succeed Pius IX. elected.


Pope Leo XIII after his coronation
Caricature by Wilhelm Scholz on the end of the Kulturkampf . Pope and Chancellor ask each other to kiss their feet . Caption: “Pontiff: 'Well please, don't be embarrassed!' Chancellor Bismarck: 'Please also!' ”In the background, Ludwig Windthorst observes what is happening.
Leo XIII. (German-language death picture)

The coronation of Leo XIII. took place on March 3, 1878 in the Sistine Chapel. His poor health suggested a rather short transitional pontificate.

His choice of the Pope's name Leo was a sign of veneration for Leo XII. and his personal virtues, but also a signal for the change he strives for in the position of the papacy.

Restorative program

Without severely breaking with the politics of his predecessors, he sought, in response to the needs of his time, to restore the high medieval order of church and state, which he regarded as exemplary . The reform of theology studies with its orientation towards Thomas Aquinas was the top priority. His personal role model was Innocent III. (1198-1216). In 1891 he had his body transferred to Rome and buried in San Giovanni in Laterano .

The turn to the Middle Ages found its symbolic expression in the church of that time; mainly neo-Gothic houses of worship were built. This rather backward-looking program of Leo XIII. was doomed to failure insofar as he ignored the irrevocable consequences of social change in the 19th century. If the European revolutions of 1848/49 were negated , their consequences could not be eliminated. Post-revolutionary Europe also condemned his conception of a universal papacy with a claim to spiritual leadership.

Strengthening the Catholic social teaching

The famous encyclical Rerum Novarum (German: spirit of innovation ) in 1891 established the reputation of Leo XIII. as a "worker pope". He denounced the exploitation of the workers and pointed to their impoverishment as a result of industrialization . He also described their negative effects on the economy and the state and showed a way to improve conditions. At the same time he turned against socialism as a way out of the misery and advocated private property. With this encyclical the Pope developed a doctrine of the human person and their rights, of the order of the economy, of the freedom of association of workers and the social obligation of the state. Occupational safety is a state responsibility, as is the legal framework for workers' rights. Since then, one can speak of a church social doctrine that is well-founded by teachers . This encyclical is considered to be the "mother of all social encyclics "; the subsequent popes referred to it with "further development cycles". According to André Habisch , professor of economic and social ethics at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt , the encyclical has shaped the German economic system to the present day.

Relationship to other states

In the dispute with the Italian state, the Pope forbade Catholics to participate in parliament. By making concessions to Bismarck (against the will of the Center Party ), Leo XIII ended. the Kulturkampf . He called on the French Catholics to make peace with the republic, because he wanted to concentrate his forces on the conflict with Italy , which ultimately failed.

He was more successful in settling disputes with Switzerland and the Latin American states. He established closer contacts with Russia and the United States, and relations with England and Spain improved. The mediation in the conflict over the Carolines (1885), a clever tactical move by Bismarck, also enhanced the international position of the papacy. However, he was unable to achieve the level of political participation and influence he wanted. Participation in the Hague Peace Conference of 1899 also failed.

In the encyclical Au milieu des sollicitudes published on February 16, 1892, Leo XIII recognized. the Third French Republic and gave French Catholics a choice of which form of government to support. He justified this, among other things, with the fact that for him, regardless of political systems, religion alone could create social bonds, which was enough to maintain the peace of a nation.

Relationship to other churches (ecumenism)

His commitment to ending the schisms against the Orthodox Churches and the Anglicans was unsuccessful, as he required them to recognize his primacy and the Anglicans to invalidate their ordination rites.

Leo XIII. With the Apostolic Letter Orientalium dignitas (1894) demanded from the other churches that they should submit to the Pope on the question of primacy.

The apostolic bull Apostolicae curae invalidates the ordination of deacons, bishops and priests in the Anglican churches (including the Church of England ). At the same time he recognized the ordinations of the Orthodox and Oriental churches. He also condemned Freemasonry in the same bull.

Relationship with the local churches and with world mission

In the awareness of the universal position of the papacy, Leo XIII strengthened. Roman centralism. The bishops were often given precise instructions, and papal interventions in each country became more frequent. In addition, the position of the nuncios vis-à-vis the bishops was strengthened. The increasing pilgrimages to Rome and reforms in the organizational structure of the orders (e.g. among the Benedictines and Franciscans) served to strengthen the ties of clergy and lay people to the Holy See .

Under Leo XIII. the world mission was placed on a new organizational basis and expanded. There was, as it were, a surge in globalization in the ecclesiastical structures: 48 Apostolic Vicariates and 248 new dioceses were established.

Relationship to theology and science

The Pope supported historical research and in 1881 opened the Vatican Archives to scholars of all denominations. In 1891 he founded the Vatican observatory Specola Vaticana in the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo , the only scientific research facility in the Vatican. In the encyclical Providentissimus Deus (1893), Leo encouraged Bible study while warning against rationalistic interpretations that denied the inspiration of the Scriptures.

1897 approved Leo XIII. in addition, the establishment of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC In the apostolic letter Testem Benevolentiae (1899) he condemned the heresy of Americanism , a theological reform movement in the United States of America, since it allowed Catholics in the United States to adapt to the civil religion of the Wanted to convey American culture. From the papal point of view, this reform movement was too liberal because it neglected the importance of beliefs in favor of practical behavior.

Leo's tomb in San Giovanni in Laterano

Relationship to Freemasonry

On April 20, 1884, Pope Leo XIII published the encyclical Humanum genus , according to which humanity is made up of two opposing groups; one fights for truth and virtue , the other for lies and vice. One corresponds to the kingdom of God on earth, the Church of Jesus Christ , the other to the kingdom of Satan , which is governed or promoted by Freemasonry . In 1885 he was the victim of the taxil fraud in this context . Later writings against Freemasonry that he wrote were Dall'alto dell'Apostolico Seggio , Custodi di quella fede and Inimica vis .

Franciscan Third Order

In 1872 Leo XIII. Tertiary in the Franciscan Third Order . He promoted this community and in 1883 approved its new statutes through the apostolic constitution Misericors Dei Filius , because he saw the Third Order as a means of re- Christianizing people and solving the social question.

Sacred Heart Adoration

Leo XIII. promoted the veneration of the Heart of Jesus , to whom he consecrated all of humanity on June 11, 1899. He explained this consecration in his encyclical Annum sacrum (German: Holy year , based on the then imminent year 1900).

Marian piety

Leo XIII. emphasized the mediator function of Mary and particularly promoted the Rosary , to which he dedicated seven encyclicals. “Grace and truth (would come) through Jesus Christ” ( Jn 1.17  EU ) Only through Mary would “the graces from this treasure” be bestowed upon us. No one could “come to Heavenly Father but through the Son”. He went on: “Nobody can come to Christ in such a way as through his mother.” The main motive of Marian piety is that believers turn to Mary because they fear “God's righteousness” because Mary is “the mother of Almighty God” “ very kind, indulgent and compassionate ”. Every believer should "make the veneration of Mary his dearest and most dear affair".

With the devotion to Mary of Leo XIII. Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer dealt and expressed concerns about the image of God: "Here God is portrayed as strict, but fortunately easily influenced by Mary standing by his side." In addition, Mary appears "as the real mediator between God and man" . The impression arises that we "should turn to Mary, who forwards our concerns to God."

Death, organ removal and grave

Leo XIII. After his death, as the last Pope to date, all organs were removed. His successor, Pius X. (1903–1914), expressly did not want this. Since then, this practice is no longer common. However, the discussion flared up again in 2005 when Poland coveted the heart of the late Pope John Paul II . The College of Cardinals stuck to the decision made by Pius X and declined such requests. The removal of organs is therefore only possible after a canonization . These are then venerated as relics .

Leo XIII. was first buried in St. Peter's Basilica . His present tomb is in the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano .

Encyclicals and Apostolic Circulars

The 86 Leonine encyclicals and other apostolic letters in a chronological overview:

Philip Alexius de László : Portrait of Pope Leo XIII, 1900

Canonizations and beatifications, Doctors of the Church

Photograph of Pope Leo XIII, taken in 1903


Pope Leo XIII. has beatified the following people :


He canonized the following people :

Appointments as Doctor of the Church

Cyril of Alexandria was born in 1882 by Pope Leo XIII. Appointed Doctor of the Church , followed in 1890 by John of Damascus , whom he also proclaimed patron of theology students in the East. And in 1893 he also made Cyril of Jerusalem a Doctor of the Church.

Bonaventure was founded by Pope Leo XIII. referred to as the "prince of all mystics".

around 1898

Aftermath of Leo XIII.

The pontificate of this Pope is judged controversially both by contemporaries and by posterity. This applies above all to the sometimes quite contradicting attitude towards the phenomena of modernity .

Judging by his own claim, Leo XIII achieved. its goals only to a limited extent. The Catholic Church emerged from his pontificate with a new orientation.

Leo XIII. helped the church to regain self-confidence at the turn of the 20th century. It was thanks to him that the Church became a relevant force in modern society in traditionally Catholic countries except France, but also in Germany.

Coat of arms of Leo XIII.

coat of arms

The coat of arms of the Pope is the ancestral coat of arms of the Pecci family: In blue a slim green cypress, above a silver crossbar; the cypress under the bar is accompanied by two silver lilies, above the bar on the right (= optically left) a golden star with a tail. In contemporary heraldic drawings, the tree usually grows from a green or earth-colored shield base. Some representations of the coat of arms are accompanied by a tape with the motto "Lumen de coelo" (light from heaven). Earlier depictions of the family coat of arms show the crossbar not placed over the entire shield, but behind the tree.

The Pope is the successor of the Apostle Peter and Bishop of Rome . Here is Leo XIII. at the helm of God's Church. After a painting by the painter Friedrich Stummel in the pilgrimage church of Kevelaer .


Pope Leo XIII. for Mariani wine

Pope Leo XIII. awarded the Vin Mariani ( Mariani wine ) a gold medal and was featured on an advertising image for the drink. At that time it was not known that the drink contains the ethyl ester of benzoylecgonine, which is structurally very similar to the methyl ester of benzoylecgonine ( cocaine ).

The Pope never made a secret of his passion for snuff .

He was the first Pope whose voice was recorded. Giovanni Bettini made the 45-second recording on February 5, 1903 - five months before his death - with a phonograph on a wax roll while the 93-year-old Pope was praying the Ave Maria . You can still hear them today on a CD with chants by the castrato Alessandro Moreschi . (Alessandro Moreschi. The Last Castrato. Complete Vatican Recordings. OPAL CD 9823, 1984; 1987)

He was also the first Pope to be filmed with a camera by William Kennedy Laurie Dickson . Dickson had invented the camera himself, which was blessed by the Pope after it was shot. The recording is still available and has been inserted into a more recent film.

With his tenure of more than 25 years, Leo XIII belongs. to the longest reigning popes. His immediate predecessor, Pius IX. , was in office for longer than 31 years. Later, John Paul II served a term of more than 26 years.

In 1883, on his decree, the Vatican Secret Archives were made publicly accessible. Only a few were previously able to use the archival sources available there.

Leo XIII. From 1887 had the Cappella Pecci in the church Santissime Stimmate di San Francesco redesigned as a burial place for family members of the Pecci family. His mother and brother, as well as members of the family who died later, are buried there.

Stefan George wrote a poem on Leo XIII. After Wolfgang Frommel , this is the only significant German poem on a Pope.


  • Jörg Ernesti : Leo XIII. - Pope and statesman. Herder, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 2019, ISBN 978-3-451-38460-8 .
  • Francesco Malgeri:  Leone XIII. In: Massimo Bray (ed.): Enciclopedia dei Papi. Volume 3:  Innocenzo VIII, Giovanni Paolo II. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 2000 ( treccani.it ).
  • Georg Schwaiger : Papacy and Popes in the 20th Century. From Leo XIII. on Johannes Paul II. CH Beck, Munich 1999, ISBN 978-340-644892-8 . Here: between adaptation and resistance. Leo XIII. (1878-1903). P. 45 ff. ( Limited preview in Google Book search).
  • Rene Fülöp-Miller: Leo XIII. and our time. Power of the Church - powers of the world. Rascher, Zurich / Leipzig 1935.
  • Iosif R. Grigulevic: The Popes of the XX. Century. From Leo XIII. to John Paul II Urania, Leipzig 1984.
  • Rudolf Lill : The turning point in the Kulturkampf. Leo XIII, Bismarck and the Center Party; 1878-1880. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1973, ISBN 3-484-80068-2 .
  • Bruno Moser (ed.): The papacy. Epochs and shapes. Südwest, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-517-00809-5 .
  • Ronald J. Ross: The Failure of Bismarck's Kulturkampf: Catholicism and State Power in Imperial Germany, 1871–1887. Catholic University of America, Washington (DC) 1997, ISBN 0-8132-0894-7 .
  • Ekkart SauserLeo XIII, Pope. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 4, Bautz, Herzberg 1992, ISBN 3-88309-038-7 , Sp. 1451-1463.
  • Christoph Weber : Sources and studies on the Curia and Vatican politics under Leo XIII. Taking into account the relations of the Holy See to the Triple Alliance until 1893. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1973, ISBN 3-484-80065-8 .
  • Anton de Waal: Our holy father Pope Leo XIII. Life. Russell's, Münster 1881 (Online: ULB Münster )

Web links

Commons : Leo XIII  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Leo XIII.  - Sources and full texts
Wikisource: Leo XIII  - Sources and full texts (Latin)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ferdinando Procaccini di Montescaglioso: La Pontificia Accademia dei nobili ecclesiastici. Memoria storica . Befani, Rome 1889, p. 50.
  2. ^ Pope Leo in court , in: Berliner Tageblatt , November 7, 1902.
  3. from: Kladderadatsch , No. 14/15, March 18, 1878.
  4. Gerda Frey, Anja Zwittlinger-Fritz: Money and Religion. The worker pope Leo XIII. Focus online and print, September 16, 2012.
  5. Text of the encyclical Au milieu des sollicitudes on the Vatican website (French)
  6. Evidence for this under Taxil swindle (individual evidence) .
  7. ^ Gisela Fleckenstein: The Franciscans in the Rhineland 1875-1918 (= Franciscan Research, Issue 38). Dietrich-Coelde-Verlag, Werl 1992, p. 184.
  8. Leo XIII. in the circular Octobri mense (1891); German by Rudolf Graber (Ed.): The Marian world circulars of the Popes in the last hundred years. Würzburg, 2nd edition 1954, p. 48; the other quotations on p. 49f.
  9. Leo XIII. in the circular Augustissimae Virginis Mariae (1897); quoted from Graber: Die Marianischen Welttrundschreiben , 1954, p. 112.
  10. ^ Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer: Praying to saints? Adoration of saints according to the Bible, by church fathers as well as in today's church practice and teaching . Follow Verlag, Langerwehe 2014 (e-book; 1st printed edition Asslar 1988), chap. To pray to mary?
  11. Leo XIII. On: vaticanhistory.de ( Memento from December 23, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  12. ^ The Catholic Missions, October 1903
  13. see Weinand: Leo XIII, his time, his pontificate, and his successes . 1886, p. 210 ( digitized in the Google book search).
  14. The Catholic Missions. Freiburg im Breisgau, September 1903.
  15. Film about the Treasures of the Vatican . ( Memento of the original from September 3, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Phoenix, February 15, 2008. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.phoenix.de
  16. The term of office of Simon Petrus cannot be measured historically with certainty.
  17. Stefan George: Leo XIII. In: Der Siebente Ring , Berlin 1907, full text on Wikisource
  18. Wolfgang Frommel: Templar and Rosenkreuz. 1943.
predecessor Office successor
Pius IX C oa Leone XIII.svg Pope
Pius X.