Denver, Colo., Jul 10, 2011 / 06:04 am America/Denver (CNA).
On July 13, the Catholic Church will celebrate the memory of St. Henry II, a German king who led and defended Europe's Holy Roman Empire at the beginning of the first millennium.
St. Henry was born in 972 to Duke Henry of Bavaria and Princess Gisela of Burgundy. During his youth, Henry received both an education and spiritual guidance from a bishop who was himself canonized, St. Wolfgang of Regensberg. Henry was an intelligent and devout student, and for a period of time he was considered for the priesthood.
St. Wolfgang's lessons in piety and charity left a lasting mark on Henry's soul. But it was ultimately in the political realm, not the Church, that he would seek to exercise these virtues. He took on his father's position as Duke of Bavaria in 995, one year after St. Wolfgang's death. The Church supported his accession to the throne as King of Germany in 1002.
As king, Henry encouraged the German bishops to reform the practices of the Church in accordance with canon law. During the same period he is said to have brought a peaceful end to a revolt in his territory, which ended with the king mercifully pardoning the rebels. Henry also acted decisively, but not harshly, against an Italian nobleman who set himself up as a rival king.
In 1014, the German king journeyed to Rome where Pope Benedict VIII formally crowned him as head of the Holy Roman Empire. The emperor demonstrated his loyalty to the Pope by confirming Benedict VIII's authority over the city of Rome. Henry made his journey from Rome back to Germany into a pilgrimage of sorts, stopping at various monasteries along the way.