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.
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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