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Babylonian Captivity of the Church

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Definition:   The period from 1305-1378 when, as a result of the strong French monarchy, the papacy resided in France. In 1305 there was infighting among powerful Italian families that each wanted their progeny to be elected pope. This dangerous situation led to the papacy relocating to Avignon, where a new pope could be safely elected. During this time of French popes, the papacy became increasingly imperial and corrupt. There were calls for reform – which led to the persecution and murder of the Albigenses of southern France. In Bohemia, the Hussite movement was also brutally suppressed.  In 1378, Pope Gregory XI returned to Rome where he died. This resulted in popes being named in both Avignon and Rome to succeed him. At one point there were three popes that simultaneously ruled (two of which are now deemed to be anti-popes). The term “Babylonian captivity” originally relates to the seventy year period following Israel’s deportation to Babylon in 586 BC.

Discussion:  The papacy claims an unbroken line of succession descending from the original “pope” Peter. This claim is historically inaccurate and utter nonsense. The alleged “chair of Peter” was bought and sold by wealthy and corrupt Italian families who saw the Church as a means to power and riches. The history of the papacy stands in stark contrast to the lifestyle of simplicity, self-sacrifice and loving service that true Christians offer in gratitude to God for salvation. Martin Luther penned a treatise entitled “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church” in which he compared 1000 years of Romanism as a period of “Babylonian captivity” (Rev. 17-18).

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