In The Name of the Rose, what is the debate about that occurs on the Fifth Day?

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In short, the debate that is explored in this book is about poverty and the relation of Jesus to possessions and material wealth. The debate divides the Franciscans, who make poverty part of their very identity, and the Papal envoys, who clearly do not share the same attachment to poverty as their Franciscan brothers do. The importance of this debate is highlighted when Brother Jerome links the belief in Christ's poverty to the very core of what it means to be a Franciscan:

Would his lordship the Cardinal del Poggetto want to consider heretical the belief in Christ's poverty, when this proposition is the basis of the Rule of an order such as the Franciscan, whose sons have gont to every realm to preach and shed their blood, from Morocco to India?

The issue is of course that if the relationship between Jesus and material possessions can be established, this should set a precedent for how the church should have or not have material possessions. As the Papal envoy clearly has conspicuous wealth and the Pope himself was known to be an incredibly rich and powerful man, the debate is about whether the Roman Catholic church is right to hoard material possessions or whether they should seek to court poverty and dispense with riches. The debate therefore seeks to discern how Jesus responded to riches in order to set a precedent.

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The Name of the Rose

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