Born Benedetto Odescalchi on May 19, 1611 at Como, Italy, he was educated by the Jesuits and apprenticed as a banker in Genoa. His future included becoming the first lawyer to become pope of the Roman Catholic church in Rome.

At both Rome and Naples, he studied law and received his law degree, a doctorate, in 1639.

But he was a priest and theologian at heart and could not get enough of Vatican politics, soon sitting as chair of some powerful committees. He was assigned to  Ancona, Macerata and Picena, all Italian communities.

Odescalchi was elevated to Cardinal in1645 and acted as Bishop at Novara from 1650 to 1656. In 1656, he was pining for a return to Rome and received permission from the Pope to resign his commission at Novara for his brother Giulio, who became bishop of Novara in his stead.

Benedetto Odescalchi then held the prestigious Vatican position of Carmerlengo in 1660.

Innocent XIHe was narrowly defeated in the Papal election of 1670, when the French delegates voted as a group to prevent his ascendancy.

But then, on September 21, 1676, the Italian lawyer became the 240th Pope and took the name of Innocent XI (the 11th).

In office, he moved aggressively against church officers who were living lavishly and brought a church on the brink of bankruptcy back to a balanced budget. During his tenure, the church expanded with, for example, a first Roman Catholic church opening in Thailand.

His legal training helped him assert Papal authority against Louis XIV (14th) of France, the "Sun King", then at the height of his power. Louis XIV was eroding the authority of the Church in France. In 1682, King Louis convened all French clergy and coerced those assembled to issue a document supporting his initiatives, which Innocent XI promptly cancelled.

In 1687, the French ambassador to the Vatican took over Innocent XI's palace at Rome and the Pope retaliated by treating the ambassador as if he had been excommunicated. Further events escalated the dispute and Louis XIV threatened to renounce the Roman Catholic Church from the territory of France.

Innocent also administered political and military help to Vienna and Belgrade where the marauding Islam army was defeated between 1683 and 1688. His troops were called the Holy League.

The Secret Archives at the Vatican holds a treasure of documents that itemize not just his achievements, but also his correspondence on the amazing events of his era.

Innocent XI was Pope until his death on August 12, 1689. He is buried in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.

He was eventually beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1956 after three previous attempts by previous popes failed because of French influences.

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