Monday, October 28, 2013

Catholic Popes: Pope Zephrynus (Our 15th Pope)

By M. J. Joachim

Commonly referred to as “the principal defender of Christ’s divinity,” by heretics, Pope Zephrynus (also spelled Zephyrinus) served the papacy for approximately 17 years (199 – 217). Shortly after he began his pontificate, “Severus raised the fifth most bloody persecution of the Church.” (EWTN) Prior to this, times remained relatively peaceful for a number of years, despite numerous heresies and false doctrines declaring opposition to the Church and her teachings. 

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.

Thank you for visiting Being Catholic. I do hope you’ll come back and visit again soon.

M. J. 

Resources: Lives of the Popes, The History of the Church, EWTN, Pope Zephrynus – Princeton University, Bartleby

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Photo credit: Artaud de Montor, The Lives & Times of the Popes, PD-US

Friday, October 25, 2013

Catholic Popes: Pope Victor I (Our 14th Pope)

By M. J. Joachim

Christianity continued to thrive and promulgate under the reign of Pope Victor I. Son of Felix, Victor was the first African pope, heading the Church from approximately 186 – 199. (Dates are varied in resources. I took the earliest and latest dates found in my research.)

While the Church was growing externally, internal conflicts were causing more than a few problems. Pope Victor I declared that the Universal Church should celebrate Easter on the same day as the Roman Christians, thereby creating conflict for Eastern Christian churches.

In Victor’s zeal to impose celebrating Easter on the Sunday after Passover, he excommunicated several bishops who refused to comply, thereby causing great turmoil within the churches that celebrated Easter on the 14th day of Nisan. (See previous post on Pope Anicetus for more information.)

Numerous letters were exchanged; countless meetings were held from churches throughout the land to discuss the matter. Pope Victor I was adamant, and when bishops from Asia did not comply with his decree, he excommunicated them. Needless to say, countless bishops on both sides of the argument were up in arms, vehemently opposing Victor I for making such a harsh and drastic mandate.

Along with excommunicating scores of bishops for not complying with his Easter proclamation, Pope Victor I also excommunicated those who practiced heresies of the time. He condemned heretics and excluded those who practiced and preached such things from communion with the Church.

Most notably, Pope Victor I is acknowledged for releasing captured Christians from prison and labor camps. Having befriended the emperor’s mistress, herself a Christian, he was able to supply her with names of Christian prisoners. She in turn, used her influence with the emperor, to have numerous Christian prisoners released.

A few sources credit Victor I as being responsible for establishing Latin as the official language of the Church. Other sources, however, dispute this information.

Thank you for visiting Being Catholic. It’s always a pleasure to see you here.

M. J. 

Resources: Lives of the Popes, Absolute Monarchs, The History of the Church, Catholic Online, Catholic News Agency, The Original Catholic Encyclopedia

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Photo credit: Artaud de Montor, The Lives & Times of the Popes, PD-US

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Catholic Popes: Pope Eleutherius (Our 13th Pope)

By M. J. Joachim

Pope Eleutherius [or Eleutherus], was deacon to Pope Anicetus and Pope Soter, whereupon he succeeded Pope Soter upon his death. He reigned for approximately 15 years between 174 – 189. He was born in Greece and is credited for stating that Christians were allowed to eat all foods. During his time in the papacy, persecution of Catholics appeared to be less intense than in previous years, though heresies undermined and fervently attacked the Church and her followers consistently. 

Montanism, a heresy putting more faith in prophecy than in Christ) began vehemently challenging Christian Catholic beliefs during the reign of Pope Eleutherius. Violence in Lyons (around 177) prompted local confessors to write to Pope Eleutherius regarding the importance of prophecy.

The Montanist movement made a power play, “They called themselves the ‘New Prophecy’ and claimed that God spoke to his Church through ecstatic prophets and (prophetesses), whose authority was to be heeded rather than that of the bishops. (Eusebius, The History of the Church) Pope Eleutherius advocated patience in such matters, in an effort to preserve unity (among bishops) in the Church.

After much effort to maintain peace, however, Pope Eleutherius, “after a conscientious and thorough study of the situation,” (Original Catholic Encyclopedia), denounced Montanism as a heresy against the Church. 

His decree that all food was good and could be eaten by the faithful and members of the Church, also made a clear statement opposing false teachings and movements against the Church, many of which forbade certain foods in their sects.

Meanwhile, the Church continued to expand under Pope Eleutherius, reaching and securely rooting itself as far away as Britain. It seems, though it is difficult to confirm, that some royal family members and monarchs may have been converted under the leadership of Pope Eleutherius. 

It is necessary to point out that many scholars have vastly different views about this, and the topic of British royalty being converted during this time in history remains strongly debated.

It is notable, however, that much of Europe, along with numerous members of royalty from various countries, was converted to Catholicism during the papacy of Eleutherius, who is also considered a saint in the Church. Pope Eleutherius died while in office and is buried at the Vatican. 

Thank you for visiting Being Catholic,

M. J. 

Resources: Old Catholic Encyclopedia, History of Popes, Defending the Faith, The History of the Church, Absolute Monarchs, Lives of the Popes

Photo credit: PD – US
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 21, 2013

Catholic Popes: Pope Soter (Our 12th Pope)

By M. J. Joachim

Following in the footsteps of Pope Anicetus, Pope Soter formalized the celebration of Easter in the Roman Catholic Church to take place on the Sunday following Jewish Passover; he also decreed it to be an annual celebration in the Church. 

Several references indicate Pope Soter decreed marriage as a sacrament, though not all records confirm this, and information pertaining to this information seems limited at best. 

It should also be noted that Pope Soter appeared to be well known for his charity and acts of giving alms. It is indicated that he increased charitable works as a whole under his papacy, one of the many things encouraging his sainthood in the Church. Along with fighting the heresies of his time, Pope Soter worked tirelessly to build up the Church where it was naturally expanding and the faithful were growing in number. One of the ways he did so was to offer alms to their poor – case in point, the Church at Corinth. 

Dates of Pope Soter’s papacy range from 166 – 177, give or take. Along with St. Paul, he had a strong influence on the church in Corinth, to whom he wrote letters disapproving of some of their lenient and immoral behaviors. It also appears he may have separated the non-ordained monks from those who were ordained, thus preventing the non-ordained from touching alter cloths and burning holy incense. Again, information on this is limited and difficult to confirm, due to the period in history. 

Thank you for visiting Being Catholic. I look forward to seeing you again soon. 

M. J. 

Resources: Pope Soter – Princeton University, Lives of the Popes, Catholic Online, Bartleby Lives of the Saints, Saints -, The Original Catholic Encyclopedia

Photo Credit: Public Domain - US

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Catholic Popes: Pope Anicetus (Our 11th Pope)

By M. J. Joachim

Reigning from approximately 155 – 166 as successor to Pope Pius I, Pope Anicetus lived an exemplary and learned life. It seems fitting that his name means unconquered, for one of his most impressive tasks as Pope was to defend the Church against heresy, namely that of Montanism, a belief that prophecy was to be given more credence than faith in Christ and the Church. Pope Anicetus also took a firm stand against Gnosticism and Marcionism.

St. Polycarp, a direct disciple of St. John the Evangelist, had serious concerns about when to celebrate Easter. He was very old, one of the last living disciples of St. John, and firmly believed in keeping with tradition. According to Lives of the Popes, “It is important to note that, until this time, Rome itself observed no special feast of Easter.” Sunday was considered a holy day to celebrate the Resurrection, but Easter had yet to be deemed a separate holiday. Thus, an ongoing discussion between the two men continued until Anicetus and Polycarp concelebrated Eucharist together, parting in peace and continuing to celebrate Easter in their respective ways and times. 

Since the Council of Nicaea, Rome has celebrated Easter on the Sunday after Jewish Passover, while the Eastern & Orthodox rites celebrate on the 14th day of Nisan (the actual day of Jewish Passover).

Numerous references indicate Pope Anicetus was persecuted and died a martyr unwilling to deny the faith. These reports readily admit the difficulty in confirming this through documentation, due to the specific period in history. 

Thank you for visiting Being Catholic.

M. J. 

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Resources: The Original Catholic Encyclopedia, Lives of the Popes, Catholic Harbor of Faith & Morals, Defender of the Faith, Popes of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Anicetus – Princeton University

Photo Credit: Papa_Aniceto, Torvindus, Wikimedia, Creative Commons Attribution