Pope Saint Leo III
Pope St. Leo III (d. 816 A.D.) was a Roman cardinal who was unanimously elected pope on the same day his predecessor was buried. He lived during a time of tension between the popes and emperors and their respective rights, powers, and responsibilities. Unlike his predecessor, Leo recognized Charlemagne as the protector of the See of Rome, which won him many enemies among the Roman nobility. As a result, Pope St. Leo III was attacked by a mob who cut out his eyes and tongue so that he could no longer serve in his office. He survived the attack, but was imprisoned by his attackers and deposed from his office under false accusations. Leo's eyes and tongue were miraculously restored, and he was able to escape his captivity and flee to Charlemagne for protection. Charlemagne in turn took up the Holy Father's cause, escorted him back to Rome, and put his enemies on trial. A few days later, at the Christmas Mass of 800 A.D., Pope St. Leo III crowned Charlemagne as the Holy Roman Emperor. As the Roman Pontiff, Pope St. Leo III was known for being an effective administrator and for improving the Roman churches. He also paved the way for a more unified Europe, and for greater cooperation across national borders between the Church and the secular European nations to maintain their collective Christian identity. His feast day is June 12.
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