POISSY, pwā´´sî´, RELIGIOUS CONFERENCE OF:
A conference held in Sept., 1561, between Protestants and Roman Catholics at Poissy (10 m. n.w. of Paris).
The wide diffusion of Protestantism in France led the queen regent, Catherine de Medici, to seek to establish some peaceable understanding between the two confessions. After the assembly of notables at Fontainebleau in Aug., 1560, and the general assembly of the estates at Orléans (Dec. 13, 1560-Jan. 31, 1561), the nobility and the third estate gathered at Pontoise, h while the court and the clergy met at the abbey of Poissy. The assembly, which was partly to prepare for the expected reopening of the Council of Trent, partly as a sort of national council to promote the reformation of the French Church, and partly to diminish the debt of the State out of the treasury of the Church, was convened July 28, 1651. The assurance, in the king's name, of the Chancellor Michel de L'Hôpital (q.v.) to the bishops and archbishops that there was to be a reformation not only of abuses but also of doctrine, received a very limited approval, and still more so that the Reformed also were to be heard. A review of the preliminaries is necessary properly to understand the call of colloquy. Theodore Beza (q.v.) and colleagues came to Worms in 1557 in behalf of the Evangelicals imprisoned by Henry II. at Paris, and when the Germans requested a confession of faith, the French returned a statement of entire agreement with the Augsburg Confession with the exception of the article on the Eucharist, holding out the prospect, however, of future agreement. The result was that Elector Otto Heinrich interceded with the French king. Meanwhile relations became more strained: Frederick went over to Calvinism, and strict Lutheranism was emphasized in Württemberg. When King Antoine of Navarre, for the
After preliminary addresses by the king and chancellor, Beza delivered a long address in which he sought to demonstrate the patriotism and peacefulness of his party and gave a brief summary of the Reformed doctrines to show that they differed in very essential points from tenets previously held, and that they did not reject each and every fundamental principle of Christianity so as to be on a plane of those of Jews and Mohammedans. This presentation contained many citations for authority from the Fathers. When, however, Beza spoke of the Eucharist, and declared that the body of Christ was as far from the bread as the highest heaven is from the earth, he was interrupted with vehement disapproval. He was followed by Cardinal Tournon, who expressed his entire disapproval of Beza's attitude and concluded the session by demanding a written copy of the Reformed leader's address, which was apparently altered by Beza before it was printed. For the second session the prelates entrusted the cardinal of Lorraine with the refutation of Beza. The Roman Catholic reply was to comprise the following four doctrines: the Church and her authority; the powers of councils to represent the entire Church, which includes not only the elect, but also the non-elect; the authority of the Scriptures; and the real and substantial presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. This was to be followed by the presentation of a creed controverting the Reformed confession and by pronouncing condemnation on the preachers if they should refuse to accept it, after which the conference was to be closed. The Protestants, learning of this, protested to the king, who obliged the prelates to defer their proposed condemnation and adjournment. The second session took place on Sept. 16, and was opened by the cardinal of Lorraine. Expressing the pleasure of the prelates to learn that the Reformed were in harmony with the Apostles' Creed, he yet called attention to other points in which they deviated from Roman Catholic teaching. In his discussion of the Eucharist, the cardinal carefully avoided all offensive phraseology, and even avoided references to transubstantiation and the mass, speaking of the real presence in a quasi-Lutheran sense. Discussion and a copy of the address were denied, to Beza's disappointment. On the following evening Catherine summoned Beza and Peter Martyr, the latter of whom expressed his hope of reaching an understanding if the Eucharistic problem were omitted from discussion and each one were permitted to believe and preach according as he was convinced by the word of God. The queen expressed her intention of doing all in her power to bring about such an understanding. [It is a significant fact that at the conference while the Roman Catholic prelates were seated, the Protestants were required to remain standing.]
The further course of events was determined by the intervention of the papal legate, the cardinal of Ferrara, uncle of the duchess of Guise. He advised the queen to restrain the king, the cardinal of Tournon, and the majority of the prelates, from attending further conferences, pleading that an agreement might the more easily be reached if the irreconcilable spirits were absent. On Sept. 24, therefore, a conference was summoned with twelve representatives of each party; and the debate, which was without result, concluded with the question of the cardinal of Lorraine whether the Reformed were ready to subscribe to the Augsburg Confession. On the following day Montluc, bishop of Valence, and
BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. M. Baird, Hist. of the Rise of the Huguenots, i. 505-546, London, 1880; Theodore Beza, Hist. ecclésiastique des églises réformées . . . de France, Geneva, 1580, new ed., ed. P. Vesson, 2 vols., Toulouse, 1882-83, and, in 3 vols., ed. J. W. Daum and A. E. Cunitz, Paris, 1883-.88; J. W. Baum, Theodor Beza, vol. ii, Berlin, 1852; G. de Félice, Hist. des Protestants de France, pp. 131 sqq., Toulouse, 1850, new ed., 1861, Eng. transl., 2 vols.; London, 1853; G. von Polenz, Geschichte des franzosischen Calviniamus ii. 47 sqq., Gotha, 1859; N. A. F. Puaux Hist. de la réformation francaise, ii. 101 sqq., Paris, 1860; H. Klipffel, La Colloque de Poissy. Paris, 1868; A. de Ruble, Le Journal de Claude d'Espence, in Mémoiires de la société d'histoire de Paris, xvi., 1889; H. Amphoux, Michel de l'Hôpital, pp. 185 sqq., Paris, 1900.
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