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
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