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.
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Resources: Lives of the Popes, Absolute Monarchs, The History of the Church, Catholic Online, Catholic News Agency, The Original Catholic Encyclopedia
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Photo credit: Artaud de Montor, The Lives & Times of the Popes, PD-US