Blessed Pope Urban V: Humble Peacemaker
A native of France, Pope Urban V was born Guillaume de Grimoard at Grisac in Languedoc in 1310. Born of a knightly family, he was educated at Montpellier and Toulouse. He studied canon law and theology and became a Benedictine monk. He was one of the greatest canonists of his day; was professor of canon law at Montpellier, and also taught at Toulouse, Paris, and Avignon.
He was named abbot of his monastery in 1352, served as a papal diplomat, and was sent as an ambassador to various locations. He also served as a bishop.
He was elected pope in 1362 while on diplomatic business, even though he was not a cardinal. Guillaume de Grimoard was chosen for his virtue and learning, and for his skill in practical affairs of government and diplomacy. In spite of his great intellect, he was a humble man who lived simply and modestly in contrast to other clergymen of that time who preferred comfort and luxury. He was a great lover of peace and his papacy was blessed by his peacekeeping activity between the French and Italian kings. He also the established many universities,expressed great zeal for the Crusades and decided to return the papacy to Rome and end the Avignon exile of the popes.
However, the breakout of war between England and France, forced him to return to Avignon on a peacekeeping mission. On his return to Avignon he died, and his body, which had been buried at Avignon was then transferred to Marseille according to his own wishes, and his tomb became the site of many miracles. He died on December 19, 1370.
He always had a Benedictine spirit and even wore his monk’s habit as pope. His virtue and honesty were noted, especially in a Europe plagued by scandal and corruption.
It is said that as he lay dying he called the people to surround his deathbed saying “the people must see how popes die.”