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Pope Gelasius I

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Pope Gelasius I

Pope Saint
Gelasius I
Papacy began 1 March 492
Papacy ended 19 November 496
Predecessor Felix III
Successor Anastasius II
Personal details
Birth name Gelasius
Born Unknown date
Roman Africa or Rome[1]
Died 19 November 496(496-11-19)
Rome, Ostrogothic Kingdom
Sainthood
Feast day 21 November[2]
Other popes named Gelasius
Papal styles of
Pope Gelasius I
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style Saint

Pope Gelasius I (died 19 November 496) was Pope from 1 March 492 to his death in 496.[2] He was probably the third and last Bishop of Rome of North African origin in the Catholic Church. Gelasius was a prolific writer whose style placed him on the cusp between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.[3] Gelasius had been closely employed by his predecessor Felix III, especially in drafting papal documents. His ministry was characterized by a call for strict orthodoxy, a more assertive push for papal authority, and increasing tension between the churches in the West and the East.

Place of birth

There is some dispute regarding where Gelasius was born: according to the Liber Pontificalis he was born in Africa (natione Afer), while in a letter addressed to the Roman Emperor Anastasius he called himself "born a Roman" (Romanus natus).[4] That said, the latter assertion probably just means that he was born in Roman Africa before it was overrun by the Vandals.[5]

Acacian schism

Gelasius' election on 1 March 492 was a gesture for continuity: Gelasius inherited Felix's struggles with Eastern Roman Emperor Anastasius and the patriarch of Constantinople and exacerbated them by insisting on the removal of the name of the late Acacius, patriarch of Constantinople, from the diptychs, in spite of every ecumenical gesture by the current, otherwise quite orthodox patriarch Euphemius (q.v. for details of the Acacian schism).

The split with the emperor and the patriarch of Constantinople was inevitable, from the western point of view, because they had embraced a view of a single, Divine ("Monophysite") nature of Christ, which was a Christian heresy according to the Church of Rome. Gelasius' book De duabus in Christo naturis ("On the dual nature of Christ") delineated the Western view. Thus Gelasius, for all the conservative Latinity of his writing style, stood on the cusp of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.[3]

During the Acacian schism, Gelasius affirmed the primacy of Rome over the entire Church, East and West, and he presented this doctrine in terms that set the model for subsequent popes asserting the claims of papal supremacy, due to the succession of the Roman Popes from the Apostle Peter.

In 494, Gelasius wrote a very influential letter, known as Duo sunt, to Anastasius on the topic of Church-State relations, whose political impact was felt for almost a millennium.[6]

Suppression of pagan rites and heretics

Closer to home, Gelasius finally suppressed the ancient Roman festival of the Lupercalia after a long contest. Gelasius' letter to Andromachus, the senator, covers the main lines of the controversy and incidentally offers some details of this festival combining fertility and purification that might have been lost otherwise. Significantly, this festival of purification, which had given its name— dies februatus, from februare, "to purify"— to the month of February, was replaced with a Christian festival celebrating the purification of the Virgin Mary instead: Candlemas, observed forty days after Christmas, on 2 February.

After a brief but dynamic ministry, he died on 19 November 496. His feast day is kept on 21 November, the anniversary of his interment, not his death.[2]

Writings

Gelasius was the most prolific writer of the early Roman bishops. A great mass of correspondence of Gelasius has survived: forty-two letters according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, thirty-seven according to Father Bagan[7] and fragments of forty-nine others, carefully archived in the Vatican, expounding to Eastern bishops the primacy of the see of Rome. There are extant besides six treatises that carry the name of Gelasius. According to Cassiodorus, the reputation of Gelasius attracted to his name other works not by him.

Decretum Gelasianum

The most famous of pseudo-Gelasian works is the list de libris recipiendis et non recipiendis ("books to be received and not to be received"), the so-called Decretum Gelasianum, which is believed to be connected to the pressures for orthodoxy during his pontificate and intended to be read as a decretal by Gelasius on the canonical and apocryphal books, which internal evidence reveals to be of later date. Thus the fixing of the canon of scripture has traditionally been attributed to Gelasius.[8]

Gelasian Sacramentary

In the Catholic tradition, the so-called Gelasian Sacramentary, actually the Liber sacramentorum Romanae ecclesiae ("Book of Sacraments of the Church of Rome") is a book of liturgy that was actually composed in Merovingian times. An old tradition linked the book to Pope Gelasius, apparently based on Walafrid Strabo's ascription to him of what is evidently this book. Most of its liturgy reflects the mix of Roman and Gallican practice inherited from the Merovingian church.

Notes

  1. ^ Browne, M. (1998). "The Three African Popes.". The Western Journal of Black Studies 22 (1): 57–58. Retrieved 2008-04-10. 
  2. ^ a b c  
  3. ^ a b The title of his biography by Walter Ullmann expresses this:Gelasius I. (492–496): Das Papsttum an der Wende der Spätantike zum Mittelalter (Stuttgart) 1981.
  4. ^ J. Chapin, "Gelasius I, Pope, St.", pp. 121-123, in New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd edition, vol. 6, Gale, 2002.
  5. ^ J.Conant, Staying Roman: Conquest and Identity in Africa and the Mediterranean, 439–700, CUP, 2012, p. 83.
  6. ^ Medieval Sourcebook: Gelasius I on Spiritual and Temporal Power
  7. ^ Rev. Philip V. Bagan, The Syntax of the Letters of Pope Gelasius I (Catholic University Press) 1945.
  8. ^ Journal of Theological StudiesF.C.Burkitt, Review of The decretum Gelasianum", , 14 (1913) pp. 469–471 (Online copy at Tertullian.com)

References

The main source for the life of Gelasius, aside from Liber Pontificalis, is a vita written by Cassiodorus' pupil Dionysius Exiguus.

  • Norman F. Cantor, Civilization of the Middle Ages.
  • Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908.

External links

  • Duo sunt: introduction and text in English
  • Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia latina with analytical indexes
  • Fontes Latinae de papis usque ad annum 530 (Papa Felix IV)
  • Liber pontificalis
  • Decretum Gelasianum: De Libris Recipiendis et Non Recipiendis
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Felix III
Pope
1 March 492 – 19 November 496
Succeeded by
Anastasius II
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