By M. J. Joachim
Though Zephrynus reigned a long time, much of his work consisted in supporting his bishops throughout the world, comforting and consoling them as necessary. Many heresies plagued the Church during Pope Zephrynus’s papacy, one of which severely challenged Christ’s divinity. Pope Zephrynus would have none of it, proving to be a most severe judge of those who denied Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, true God and true man.
Politics were true to form, as Pope Zephrynus and other world leaders made their positions known. “Hippolytus depicted the pope as a simple man without education and the puppet of his powerful deacon Callistus (who eventually succeeded Zephrynus as pope).” (Live of the Popes) Other sources indicate he was passive and ineffective, causing the first schism in the Christian Church.
Some Church bishops and followers believed it necessary to defend Church law, brutally if necessary. Zephrynus did so, but not always to the satisfaction of those with their own ideas about how to implement it, and how to punish those who opposed them. Consequently, Hippolytus blamed Pope Zephrynus, leaving the Church with several of his followers for approximately ten years.
It is said that Pope Zephrynus died a couple years after his papacy ended, and is buried in his own cemetery. Though it is debatable that he died a martyrs death, some resources conclude that his martyrdom was attained during his pontificate, because he suffered so much from the contempt of all those who opposed him and the Church under his reign.
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Resources: Lives of the Popes, The History of the Church, EWTN, Pope Zephrynus – Princeton University, Bartleby
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Photo credit: Artaud de Montor, The Lives & Times of the Popes, PD-US