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St. George

Lecture for ChD 605 Church Development Part V

Lecture for ChD 605 Church Development Part V

Topic: The Patristic Period and Popes
by Brother Macfonse Osmond, OSM

St. Maximus the Confessor (580-662 AD)

Maximus the Confessor (also known as Maximus the Theologian and Maximus of Constantinople) was an Orthodox Christian monk, theologian, scholar and ascetical writer famous especially for his audacious fight against the heresy of Monothelitism. He was a civil servant, and an aide to the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, but he later left politics to monastery.

At Carthage, he studied several Neo-Platonist writers and became a prominent author. When one of his friends began espousing the Christological position known as Monothelitism, Maximus was drawn into the controversy, in which he supported the Chalcedonian position that Jesus had both a human and a divine will. Maximus is venerated in both Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity. His positions eventually resulted in exile, soon after which he died. However, his theology was vindicated by the Third Council of Constantinople and he was venerated as a saint soon after his death. His feast day is 13 August (or 21 January).

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Popes St Gregory and his Dialogues (circa 580 AD)

He is known in the East as Gregory the Dialogist for his four-volume Dialogues, in which he wrote of the lives and miracles of the saints of Italy and of the after-life. It is the primary source of the life of St. Benedict of Nursia. His other writings include the Moralia on Job, a commentary on the Book of Job; his Homilies on Ezekiel; the Pastoral Rule, which served as the prime manual for priests in the West for many years; and a great number of other sermons. He is also known in the East as a tireless worker for communication and understanding between East and West.
The four books of Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great were written in 593, three years after his elevation to the papacy, at the request of certain monks of his household.

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Pope Pelagius I (556-61)

Reigned from 556 to 561. Born in Rome; died there. A deacon, he was dispatched as nuncio to Constantinople, 536, where he procured the condemnation of Origen, 543. In the Three Chapters controversy, by supporting the Emperor Justinian and the Fifth General Council, he was unable to avert the schism which broke out in Northern Italy. He did, however, avert the schism in Gaul. He organized ecclesiastical tribunals, suppressed abuses among the clergy, and reorganized the patrimony of Saint Peter.

Pelagius died on the 4th of March 561, and was succeeded by Pope John III.

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Pope John III (561-74)

John Catelinus, a Roman, was born of a distinguished family and became Pope John III on July 17, 561. Pope John III was particularly concerned for the people's welfare.

Although John reigned nearly thirteen years very little is known of his pontificate. It fell during the stormy times of the Lombard invasion. This era marks a true transition period from ancient to early medieval times. Pope John III is noted for his care of the monuments of Christian antiquity and sanctioned the completion of the Church of Saints Philip and James, a Byzantine structure radiant with mosaics.

During his papacy, Bishop Salonius of Embrun and Bishop Sagittarius of Gap were two bishops who had been condemned in a synod at Lyons in 567. They convinced King Guntram of Burgundy that they had been unjustly condemned, and the king appealed to Pope John III. Considerate of the king's letters of endorsement, Pope John III restored Bishop Salonius and Bishop Sagittarius to their Sees; however, their later deeds caused them to be deposed again at the synod of Chalons in 579.

Also sigificant was Pope John III’s relationship with General Narses. General Narses had safeguarded Italy from the Goths and continued to protect the country during the pontificate of Pope John III. General Narses destroyed several armies of barbarians on behalf of threatened Italians.

Pope John III took leave for many months in the Church of Saints Tiburtius and Valerian in the Catacomb of Praetextatus along The Appian Way. Upon the death of General Narses in 572, Pope John III returned from the catacombs to the Lateran Palace. Because of his interval in the catacombs, Pope John III was influential in the conservation of the catacombs.

Pope John III died July 13, 574, and was buried in Saint Peter's Basilica.

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Benedict I (575-79)

Pope Benedict I was pope from June 2, 575 to July 30, 579. Benedict was the son of a man named Bonifacius, and was called Bonosus by the Greeks. The ravages of the Lombards rendered it very difficult to correspond with the Byzantine emperor at Constantinople, who claimed the privilege of confirming the election of the popes. Hence there was a vacancy of nearly eleven months between the death of Pope John III and the arrival of the imperial confirmation of Benedict's election on June 2, 575. He reigned four years, one month, and twenty-eight days.

Benedict granted an estate, the Massa Veneris, in the territory of Minturnae, to Abbot Stephen of St. Mark's "near the walls of Spoleto". Famine followed the devastating Lombards, and from the few words the Liber Pontificalis has about Benedict, we gather that he died in the midst of his efforts to cope with these difficulties. He was buried in the vestibule of the sacristy of the old basilica of St. Peter. In a ceremony held in December, he ordained fifteen priests and three deacons and consecrated twenty-one bishops.

Few of the records of transactions outside Rome that could help us understand the history of this Papacy survive from Benedict's reign; and because of the disruption caused by the Lombards in Italy, perhaps few ever existed.

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Pelagius II (579-90)

Pope Pelagius II was pope from 579 to 590. He was a native of Rome, but probably of Ostrogothic descent, as his father's name was Winigild.

Pelagius appealed for help from Emperor Maurice against the Lombards, but the Byzantines were of little help, forcing Pelagius to "buy" a truce and turn to the Franks, who invaded Italy, but left after being bribed by the Lombards.

Pelagius labored to promote the celibacy of the clergy, and he issued such stringent regulations on this matter that his successor Pope Gregory I thought them too strict, and modified them to some extent.

During his pontificate, the bishop of Milan, who had broken communion with Rome since the Three-Chapter Controversy, returned to full communion around 581, while other bishops in Northern Italy remained in schism.

Pelagius ordered the construction of the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, a church shrine over the place where Saint Lawrence was martyred. During his reign, the Visigoths of Spain converted, but he also faced conflict with the See of Constantinople over the adoption of the title of "Ecumenical Patriarch," which Pelagius believed to undermine the authority of the papacy.

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St. Gregory I (the Great) (590-604)

Pope St. Gregory I (Gregorius I in Latin) is known in English as Gregory the Great, he was pope from 3 September 590 until his death in 604. Gregory is well-known for his writings, which were more prolific than those of any of his predecessors as pope.

After his consecration as Bishop of Rome on September 3, 590, he negotiated a peace with the Lombards, who besieged Rome, and he dispatched St. Augustine of Canterbury to evangelize Britain.

In line with his predecessors such as Dionysius, Damasus, and St. Leo the Great, St. Gregory asserted the primacy of the office of the Bishop of Rome. Although he did not employ the term "Pope", he summed up the responsibilities of the papacy in his official appellation, as "servant of the servants of God". Gregory expressed the hieratic principle that he was responsible directly to God for his ministry.

St. Gregory's pontificate saw the development of the notion of private penance as parallel to the institution of public penance. He explicitly taught a doctrine of Purgatory

He added the commemoration of the Apostle Andrew to the embolism on the Lord's Prayer in the ancient Roman Mass; as a result, the Roman Mass is often called the Mass of St Gregory, especially among a number of Orthodox. He was a patron of ancient Western chant, often called "Gregorian chant" for his patronage. In the East, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts celebrated during Lent commemorates St Gregory as its author, although it is unclear what role he played in its development.

He was the first of the popes to come from a monastic background. Gregory is a Doctor of the Church and one of the six Latin Fathers. He is considered a saint in the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Immediately after his death, Gregory was canonized by popular acclaim.

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Sabinian (604-606)

Son of Bonus. Sent by Pope Saint Gregory I as papal nuncio to Constantinople in 593, and returned to Rome in 597. The pontificate of Sabinanus was disturbed by a threatened invasion of the Lombards, and by a famine; he sold Vatican's stores of grain instead of giving it away, which led to some angry writings about him by contemporaries. Some sources say he started the tradition of ringing bells at the canonical hours, and during the celebration of the Eucharist.

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Boniface III (607)

As a deacon, Boniface had impressed Pope Gregory I, (also known as Gregory the Great), who described him as a man "of tried faith and character" and, in 603, selected him to be apocrisiarius (legate, essentially the papal nuncio) to the court of Constantinople. This was to be a significant time in his life and helped to shape his short but eventful papacy.

As apocrisarius he had the ear of Emperor Phocas and was held in esteem by him. This was to prove important when he was instructed by Gregory the Great to intercede with Emperor Phocas on behalf of Bishop Alcison of Cassiope on the island of Corcyra. Alcison found his position as bishop being usurped by Bishop John of Euria in Epirus, who had fled his home along with his clergy to escape from attacks by the Slavs and Avars. John, having found himself safe on Corcyra, wasn't content to serve under Bishop Alcison; instead he set about trying to usurp his episcopal authority. Normally this behaviour would not have been tolerated, but Emperor Phocas was sympathetic to Bishop John and so was not inclined to interfere. Alcison appealed to Gregory the Great, who left the problem to Boniface to resolve. In a stroke of diplomatic genius Boniface managed to reconcile all the parties while still retaining the confidence of the emperor.

On the death of Pope Sabinian in February 606, Boniface was elected his successor although his return from Constantinople to Rome was delayed by almost a year. There is much debate over why there was such a long interregnum. Some authorities believe that it was to allow Boniface to complete his work in Constantinople but the more widely held belief is that there were problems with the election. Boniface himself is thought to have insisted on the elections being free and fair and may have refused to take up the papacy until convinced that they had been. This view is given credence by his actions on being consecrated to the office of Pope.

He made two significant changes to papal selections; the first was the enacting of a decree forbidding anyone during the lifetime of a pope to discuss the appointment of his successor. This was under pain of excommunication. The second change established that no steps could to be taken to provide for a papal successor until three days after a pope's burial. This suggests that he was serious in his desire to keep papal elections free.

His other notable act resulted from his close relationship with Emperor Phocas. He sought and obtained a decree from Phocas which restated that "the See of Blessed Peter the Apostle should be the head of all the Churches". This ensured that the title of "Universal Bishop" belonged exclusively to the Bishop of Rome, and effectively ended the attempt by Patriarch Cyriacus of Constantinople, to establish himself as "Universal Bishop". Although some authorities cite this as evidence that Boniface founded the Catholic Church, this decree simply restated the much earlier view held by Justinian I who had given legal recognition to the primacy of the Roman pontiff.

Boniface III was buried in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, on November 12, 607.

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St. Boniface IV (608-15)

Pope Saint Boniface IV (c. 550 - May 25, 615) was pope from 608 to his death. Son of Johannes, a physician, a Marsian from the province and town of Valeria; he succeeded Boniface III after a vacancy of over nine months. He was consecrated in 608 and died in May, 615.

In the time of Pope Gregory I, he was a deacon of the Roman Church and held the position of dispensator, that is, the first official in connection with the administration of the patrimonies.

Boniface obtained leave from the Emperor Phocas to convert the Pantheon, Rome into a Christian church, and on May 13, 609 the temple erected by Agrippa to Jupiter the Avenger, to Venus, and to Mars was consecrated by the pope to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs. It was the first instance at Rome of the transformation of a pagan temple into a place of Christian worship. Twenty-eight cartloads of sacred bones were said to have been removed from the Catacombs and placed in a porphyry basin beneath the high altar.

During the pontificate of Boniface, Mellitus, the first Bishop of London, went to Rome to consult the pope on important matters relative to the newly established English Church. Between 612 and 615, the Irish missionary Saint Columban, then living at Bobbio in Italy, was persuaded by Agilulf, King of the Lombards, to address a letter on the condemnation of the "Three Chapters" to Boniface IV, which is remarkable at once for its expressions of exaggerated deference and its tone of excessive sharpness.
"You have already erred, O Rome! — fatally, foully erred. No longer do you shine as a star in the apostolic firmament," Columban wrote.

In it he tells the pope that he is charged with heresy for accepting the Fifth Ecumenical Council (the Second Council of Constantinople in 553), and exhorts him to summon a council and prove his orthodoxy. Despite Columban's letter, it seems not to have disturbed in the least his relation with the Holy See, and it would be wrong to suppose that Columban regarded himself as independent of the pope's authority.

During the pontificate of Boniface there was much distress in Rome owing to famine, pestilence, and inundations, and the pope, since he was considered to be the closest link between God and man, was often blamed by proxy for these misfortunes. It was during Boniface's reign, that Muhammad began to preach in Mecca, forming the basis of Islam.

The pontiff died in monastic retirement (he had converted his own house into a monastery) and was buried in the portico of St. Peter's Basilica. His remains were three times removed and finally moved to the new St. Peter's on 21 October 1603.

Boniface IV is commemorated as a saint in the Roman Martyrology on his feast day, 25 May.

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St. Deusdedit (Adeodatus I) (615-18)

Pope Saint Adeodatus I or Deodatus I as variants of the same name died November 8, 618) AD was pope from 615 to 618. He was born in Rome, the son of a subdeacon. According to tradition, he was the first pope to use lead seals on papal documents, which in time came to be called "papal bulls".

He is the first priest to be elected pope since John II in 533. He was a priest for 40 years prior and represents the second wave of anti-Gregorian challenge to the papacy, the first being that of Sabinian. He reversed the practice of his predecessor, Boniface IV, of filling the papal adminstative ranks with monks by recalling the clergy to such positions and by ordaining some 14 priests (the first ordinations in Rome since Pope Saint Gregory).

He was appointed Pope 13 November, 615, and was distinguished for his charity and zeal. He encouraged and supported the clergy, who were impoverished in consequence of the political troubles of the time; and when his diocese was visited by a violent earthquake and leprosy he set an heroic example by his efforts to relieve the suffering. His feast occurs 8 November.

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Boniface V (619-25)

Boniface V was pope from 619 to 625. He was consecrated as pope on December 23, 619. He did much for the Christianising of England and enacted the decree by which churches became places of refuge for criminals.

Boniface V was a Neapolitan who succeeded Pope Adeodatus I after a vacancy of more than a year. Before his consecration, Italy was disturbed by the rebellion of the eunuch Eleutherius, Exarch of Ravenna. The patrician pretender advanced towards Rome, but before he could reach the city, he was slain by his own troops.

The Liber Pontificalis records that Boniface made certain enactments relative to the rights of sanctuary, and that he ordered the ecclesiastical notaries to obey the laws of the empire on the subject of wills. He also prescribed that acolytes should not presume to translate the relics of martyrs and that, in the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, they should not take the place of deacons in administering baptism. Boniface completed and consecrated the cemetery of Saint Nicomedes on the Via Nomentana. In the Liber Pontificalis, Boniface is described as "the mildest of men", whose chief distinction was his great love for the clergy.

He died and was buried in St. Peter's on 25 October 625.

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References:

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