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Pope John XV (Latin: Ioannes XV; born in Rome, died March 996) was Pope from August 985 to his death in 996. He succeeded Boniface VII. He was said to have been Pope after another Pope John who reigned four months after Pope John XIV (983–984) and was named "Papa Ioannes XIV Bis" or "Pope John XIVb". This supposed second John XIV never existed, rather he was confused with a certain cardinal deacon John, son of Robert, who was opposed to Boniface VII and is now excluded from the papal lists.
Early life and elevation to papacy
John XV was the son of Leo, a Roman presbyter. At the time he mounted the papal chair, Crescentius II was Patrician of Rome, significantly hampering the pope's influence, but the presence of the Empress Theophanu, regent for her son, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III in Rome from 989 to 991 restrained Crescentius' ambition.
The Pope's venality and nepotism made him very unpopular with the citizens of Rome, but to his credit, he was a patron and protector of the reforming monks of Cluny.
During this papacy, a serious dispute arose over the deposition in 991 of Arnulf, Archbishop of Reims, by French churchmen, the Pope's interference leading at first to no definite result. This affair is sometimes read as an early groundswell of the conflicts between Popes and the new kings of France that came to a head later in the Investiture Controversy, so it is worth relating in some detail. Hugh Capet, king of France, made Arnulf archbishop of Reims in 988, even though Arnulf was the nephew of the King's bitter rival, Charles of Lorraine. Charles thereupon succeeded in capturing Reims and took the archbishop prisoner. Hugh, however, considered Arnulf a turncoat and demanded his deposition by John XV. The turn of events outran the messages, when Hugh Capet captured both Charles and Archbishop Arnulf and convoked a synod at Reims in June 991, which obediently deposed Arnulf and chose as his successor Abbot Gerbert of Aurillac, afterwards Pope Silvester II.