If Gregory had been a prince like other princes, even his attitude toward Queen Elizabeth o England might be condoned with a refer- ence to the morals of that time. But he was Pope and therefore summoned above all to break with the curse of the time rather than with the teaching of his Master, who in Gethsemane had bidden Peter put the sword back into its sheath. It is understandable that he should have urged Philip II to invade England; but, in recommending that brutal murder serve as the instrument by which the Church could win against the Queen, he degraded the Papacy with an act of political stupidity.
In northern Europe, the Jesuits acted during this rime as very docile representatives of Papal diplomacy. Gustav Vasa had compelled his people to accept Lutheranism, but one of his sons, John, strove to re- store the rights of the ancient Church. Armed with a commission from Pope Gregory, Antonio Possevin, a widely experienced diplomat, scholar, and master of pedagogy, negotiated at John's Court in Stock- holm. This disciple of Loyola dressed like a nobleman, wore a sword at his side, and carried a halberd under his arm. The King became a Catholic, but his people remained Lutheran. Not long afterward Possevin was in Russia trying to bring about a union with Rome. He failed in this, but none the less brought about an armistice between Ivan the Terrible and Stephen Barthori of Poland, and then induced Polish Catholics and schismatic Christians to join in making common cause against Islam.
The least bellicose achievement of this Pope has done most to im- press his name on the pages of history. This was his reform of the calendar, which the Council of Trent had already discussed. In agree- ment with Christian princes and universities, he decreed (1582) on the basis of preliminary studies carried out by a commission to which a German Jesuit also belonged, that the difference between the civil year and the astronomical year, which was a legacy from the Julian calen- dar, was to be ironed out by denominating the i4th of October the 1 5th, and thereafter skipping three days in 400 years. The Protestant rulers opposed astronomy in the name of hatred of the Papacy. There resulted a confusion in the business of daily life which ended only in an enlightened eighteenth century, which was friendly to reason even when this emanated from a Pope.