Popes of Rome who are Orthodox Saints

Clicking on the names of the popes below will give you the corresponding article on them from the Catholic Encyclopedia . I have added links to various articles on the web on these popes. (Use your "back button" to return to this page.) Only the Byzantine liturgical celebration for these saintly popes is noted. The Western calendar differs.


The sections in
blue under some of the popes are from the Encyclopedia Brittanica (Micropedia unless otherwise indicated), edition of 1981. This source is sometimes not favorable to the papacy.

The sections in
green are quotes either from the sainted pope or a contemporary.

The sections in
red are from their commemoration in the Byzantine liturgy. (Check back later as I will be adding more of these commemorations at a future time.)


St Peter the Apostle (died 67)--commemorated June 29

Jesus gave to Simon the title of petros ("rock"). "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Though in the past some authorities have considered that the term rock refers to Jesus himself or to Peter's faith, the consensus of the great majority of scholars today is that the most obvious and traditional understanding should be construed, namely, that rock refers to the person of Peter. (Macropedia)

[Andrew] brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said: "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).--John 1:42, New American Standard Bible

And as Jesus came to the country of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples and said, "What do they say about me being the Son of Man?" They said then, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah and others say, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." He said to them, "You, however, who do you say that I am?" Replied Simon the Rock [Aramaic: kepha] and said, "You are the Anointed One, Son of the Living God." Jesus replied and told him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Yoanah, that flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, except my Father in heaven. I am also telling you that you are the Rock [kepha] and on this rock [kepha] I am building my Church, and the doors of Sheol cannot overpower it. To you I give the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven and whatever you undo on earth, shall be undone in heaven." Then he instructed his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Anointed One.--Matthew 16:13-20, Syriac Peshitta (Aramaic)

As a result the sick were carried out into the streets and laid there on bed and stretchers, so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on one or another as he passed by.--Acts 5:15

[The Council in Jerusalem:] The apostles and elders met to look into this matter, and,
after a long debate, Peter rose to address them. `My friends,' he said, `in the early days, as you yourselves know, God made his choice among you: from my lips the Gentiles were to hear and believe the message of the gospel. And God, who can read human hearts, showed his approval by giving the Holy Spirit to them as he did to us. He made no difference between them and us; for he purified their hearts by faith.' Then why do you now try God's patience by laying on the shoulders of these a yoke which neither we nor our forefathers were able to bear? For our belief is that we are saved in the same way as they are: by the grace of the Lord Jesus.' At that the whole company fell silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they described all the signs and portents that God had worked among the Gentiles through them. When they had finished speaking, James summed up: `My friends,' he said, 'listen to me. Simon [Peter] has described how it first happened that God, in his providence, chose from among the Gentiles a people to bear his name...--Acts 15:6-14 (Revised English Bible)

Texts from Vespers and Matins of June 29 & 30 from the Byzantine-Slavonic Menaion (Feasts of the Martyrdom of Sts Peter and Paul and of the Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles):
With what garlands of praise shall we crown Peter and Paul the greatest among the heralds of the Word of God, distinct in their person but one in spirit--the one the chief Ruler of the Apostles, the other who labored more than the rest?...

Peter, foundation of the Apostles, rock of Christ's Church, beginning of Christians, feed the sheep of your fold, guard your lambs from the rapacious wolves and save your flock from ferocious assaults.

You, O Peter, were the first bishop of Rome, you the pride and the glory of the greatest city, you were the confirmation of the Church that the forces of hell cannot overcome, as Christ foretold.

O Peter, rock of foundation....O Peter, first of the glorious apostles and rock of faith....Rejoice, O Peter, apostle and special friend of the Teacher, Christ our God....O my soul, extol Peter the solid rock....

With hymns of praise let us venerate Peter, the rock of faith....

Having put aside fishing in the deep, you received from the Father himself the revelation of the incarnation of the Word. Thus you confidently cried out in faith to your Creator: I know that You are the Son of God, consubstantial with Him. Therefore, you were truly revealed as the rock of faith and a trustee of the keys of grace. Intercede, therefore, O apostle Peter, with Christ our God to grant forgiveness of sins to those who lovingly celebrate your holy memory.

Holy Apostle Peter, pray to God for us!

Three times Christ asked Peter: Do you love me? In this way He reversed the threefold denial of Himself. Henceforth Simon was to lead those who had witnessed God's mysteries. He cried out to the Lord: You know all things. You know that I love You! Feed my sheep, tend my chosen ones, the Savior said. Feed my lambs, whose salvation I bought with my own blood! Blessed apostle, pray that he may grant us great mercy!

Peter, leader of the glorious apostles and rock of the faith!

According to the promise of Christ, you have been a fisher of men. He has made you holy for his Church because from its beginning He placed you at the helm. Jesus, the Giver of Life, has given you the charge to bind and loose. O Peter, entreat Him to look upon me with favor....

[Peter] was nailed to the cross and made his way to heaven, where he received the Keys of the Kingdom from Christ Himself....

You have given two mighty pillars to Your Church, Lord: Peter the rock and Paul the wise.

When the incarnate Savior asked the twelve disciples: Who do people say that I am? Peter the elect of the apostles, having received grace from heaven, proclaimed You clearly, speaking of your Godhead, saying: You are Christ, the Son of the living God. Therefore, it is proper to bless him, for he received the power to bind and loosen sins.

Christ, the Word of God, the revelation of the Father, asked all of you: Who do you say that I am? Peter then answered: You are the Son of the living God for You preached the Word of God to all. He replied: Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah. You received your reward from God because you glorified Him in faith. In return He has called upon you to receive riches. He placed you as the solid rock and foundation of the Church.

Peter, it is right to call you the rock! The Lord established the unshaken faith of the Church on you. He made you the chief shepherd of his reasonable sheep. He has entrusted you with the keys of the heavenly gates. In His goodness, He commanded you to open to all who draw near in faith. Your Master counted you worthy to be crucified. Plead with Him to enlighten and save our souls!

Today Christ the Rock glorifies with supreme honor the Rock of Faith and Leader of the Apostles, Peter, together with Paul and the Twelve, whose memory we celebrate with eagerness of faith, giving glory to the One who gave glory to them.


Texts for January 16th for the Veneration of the holy and precious chains of the holy, glorious Apostle Peter:

Today Peter, the rock of faith, the foundation of the church, appoints his precious chains for the devotion of our souls....Rejoice, joy of the universe, keeper of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, for you give grace to those who honor you with love and venerate your precious chains with longing!

The Father, and not flesh and blood, inspired your theology, O Peter, that Christ is the Son of the living God and Father. And therefore He attested to your blessedness because of this, and He has called you by the name Peter as the unbroken rock and the Church’s foundation.

 

“Do you love me?” the Lord inquired three times of Peter after the divine rising from the dead. Whereupon He appoints him as chief shepherd of His own sheep.

 

When you revealed yourself to Your disciples, O Lord, after Your resurrection, You appointed Simon to pasture Your sheep, as requital for loving You, asking him to take care to shepherd them. And that is why You said: “If you love me, Peter, be a shepherd of my lambs, be a shepherd of my sheep.”

 

O Peter, you are praised by all, since you have access, with your prayers as divine keys, open up the pearly gates for us who glorify you the paramount Apostle, that we may enter heaven readily.


Click here to read: St Peter in the New Testament

Click here to read: St Peter in Scripture
Click here to read: Peter and the Keys
Click here to read: Objections to Peter as "Rock" considered
Click here to read: Petra: Rock or Pebble?
Click here to read: The Rock of the New Testament
Click here to read: Will the Real Rock Please Stand Up!
Click here to read: St Peter the Rock, First Pope of Rome
Click here to read: Peter in Patristic Thought
Click here to read: Peter's Primacy

Click here to read: St John Chrysostom on St Peter
Click here to read: Peter the Rock-- A discussion of the views of the early Fathers

St Clement, Martyr (died 97)--commemorated November 25

...supposed third successor to St Peter. According to the early Christian writer Tertullian, he was consecrated by Peter. Bishop St Irenaeus of Lyon lists him as a contemporary of the Apostles and witness of their preaching....[H]e has been hypothetically identified with the Clement mentioned in Phil. 4:3....The authorship of the _Letter to the Church of Corinth_ (I Clement) has been traditionally ascribed to him. Still extant, it was written to settle a controversy among the Corinthians against their church leaders and reveals that Clement considered himself empowered to intervene (the first such action known) in another community's affairs. His _Letter_ achieved almost canonical status, and was regarded as Scripture by many 3rd and 4th century Christians.

It is because of a series of misfortunes and accidents that suddenly came upon us, beloved, that we have in our view been rather slow in turning our attention to the matters in dispute among you...

Follow our advice and you will not regret it. For as God lives, and the Lord Jesus Christ lives, and the Holy Spirit, the object of faith and hope for the elect, the man who with humility and eager gentleness obeys without regret the righteous commandments of God, this man will be listed and enrolled in the number of those who are saved through Jesus Christ, through whom be glory to God for ever and ever. Amen.

If on the other hand there are some who disobey what is told them by him through us, let them know that they involve themselves in sin and no small peril....

For you will give us joy and gladness if you prove obedient to what we have written through the Holy Spirit and desist from wanton, jealous anger in accordance with the plea for peace and harmony which we have made in this letter.
Letter to the Corinthians 1,58,59,63 in The Apostolic Fathers, edited by Jack N. Sparks.

O Father and Bishop, you were a branch of the living vine. O wise one, through the Spirit you produced beautiful clusters of dogmas. The spirit of the knowledge of God brings salvation. Our hearts rejoice as we venerate you. O God-bearing, all-blessed Clement!

O Father, as a light-giving sun, you glowed from the West, brightly illuminating the earth by the radiance of your dogmas and wounds. You reached the regions of the East, O most blessed one. Your death was like the setting of the sun. You have shone for Christ, O Clement. Now you richly and unceasingly are illumined by the rays of the heavenly kingdom.

Read the entire first letter of St Clement here


St Alexander, Martyr (died 119)--commemorated March 16
St Telesphorus (died 136)--commemorated February 22
St Urban, Martyr (died 230)--commemorated May 25
St Anterus, Martyr (died 236)--commemorated August 5
St Fabian, Martyr (died 250)--commemorated August 5
St Stephen, Martyr (died 257)--commemorated August 2

Stephen I threatened to excommunicate bishops in Africa (including Cyprian) and in Asia Minor unless they discontinued the practice of rebaptizing heretics. Cyprian composed a defensive treatise supported by the Council (256) of Carthage, vehemently attacked Stephen, and dispatched envoys to Rome, threatening a schism between Carthage and Rome. Against Cyprian's argument that a bishop controlled his own see, Stephen staunchly asserted papal supremacy and regarded Cyprian's envoys as heretics. Another African council supported Cyprian, who wrote to Bishop Firmilian of Caesarea. Firmilian denounced Stephen, whose subsequent action is unknown. At that time the Roman emperor Valerian began his persecution of the Christians, during which Stephen died.

We greet your memory today as if it were the sun itself, O holy father, Stephen, and we hail you as the glory of Rome and a pillar of orthodoxy. For nourishing within your priestly heart the mercy of charity, you made the peace of Christ flourish in the church. Beg Christ, our God, to save our souls.

Click here to read: St Cyprian on the Church and the Papacy

St Sixtus, Martyr (died 258)--commemorated August 10
St Gaius, Martyr (died 296)--commemorated August 11
St Marcellinus, Martyr (died 304)--commemorated June 7
St Marcellus, Martyr (died 309)--commemorated June 7


Click here to read the story of St Peter appearing to Pope St Marcellus: From the OCA Saint for the Day

St Sylvester (died 335)--commemorated January 2

The most important event of his reign was the Council (May 325) of Nicaea (the first ecumenical, or general, council of the church), which condemned the Alexandrian Christian priest Arius, founder of Arianism, a heretical doctrine teaching that the Son was neither with God the Father nor eternal. While the Roman emperor Constantine I the Great favoured Christianity and was a major controller of its ecclesiastical affairs, neither he nor his successors gave any official recognition to papal primacy over the church. Thus, it was a rare and significant exception when Sylvester was accorded a pre-eminent role in the Arian crisis. Although invited, he did not attend the Council of Nicaea personally but was represented by two legates, who were treated with great honour and respect yet did not preside at the debates.


Click here to read: Pope Silvester and the Council of Nicaea for another view.

Father Sylvester....thou didst appear as a pillar of fire, snatching the faithful from the Egyptian error [the Arian heresy] and continually leading them with unerring teachings to divine light.

As the divine corphyaeous...thou hast established the most holy dogma, stopping the impious mouths of heretics.

O Sylvester, thou didst scatter the whole body of the enemy warring against the preaching of the apostles.

Tongues that accorded together in error were brought to nought, O Wise One, by the power of the Divine Spirit that wrought in thee and in one doxology to God the choirs of the faithful were united....

Thou hast shown thyself the supreme one of the Sacred Council, O initiator into the sacred mysteries, and hast illustrated the Throne of the Supreme One of the Disciples.


St Liberius (died 366)--commemorated August 27

From the outset, they [the Arians] did not even spare Liberius bishop of Rome, but extended their fury even to that place; they did not respect it because it is an apostolic throne, nor were they cautious because Rome is the metropolis of Romania....For when they saw that he was orthodox and hated the Arian heresy, and that he tried hard to persuade everyone to renounce it and withdraw from it, these profane man reasoned thus: "If we persuade Liberius we shall soon prevail over all"....[Emperor] Constantius plotted against all, and banished Liberius....But Liberius, after he had been exiled for two years, gave way, and from fear of threatened death he subscribed. But this also shows their violence, and the hatred of Liberius against the heresy, and his support of Athanasius, whilst he had a free choice. For what is done under torture against a man's first judgment is not the willing deed of those who fear, but that of the tormentors. ( St Athanasius in Historia Arianorum in Documents Illustrating Papal Authority, edited by E. Giles, pp. 110-111.

Click here to read: The Alleged Fall of Pope Liberius

St Celestine (died 432)--commemorated April 8

His pontificate is noted for its vigorous attack on Nestorianism, the unorthodox teaching of Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, which stressed that Christ's human and divine natures were independent and which denounced the Virgin's title Theotokos (God-bearer). Celestine also refuted the doctrine of Pelagius (fl. 405-418), which minimized the role of divine grace in man's salvation. In 429 Celestine dispatched the French bishops SS. Germanus of Auxerre and Lupus of Troyes to combat Pelagianism in England. After consecrating St Palladius at Rome in 431, Celestine sent him as the first bishop to Ireland. Archbishop St. Cyril of Alexandria was entrusted with Nestorius' recantation at the Council of Ephesus (now Seljuk, Tur.) in 431. Celestine approved the council's decision to anathematize, depose, and banish Nestorius, which caused a schism that remained unresolved for more than a century.

(Letter from St Celestine to St Cyril of Alexandria on how to proceed with Nestorius of Constantinople):
If he, Nestorius, persists, an open sentence must be passed on him...And so, appropriating to yourself the authority of our see, and using our position, you shall with resolute severity carry out this sentence, that either he shall within ten days, counted from the day of your notice, condemn in writing this wicked assertion of his, and shall give assurance that he will hold, concerning the birth of Christ our God, the faith which the Romans, and the church of your holiness, and the universal religion holds; or if he will not do this (your holiness having at once provided for that church) he will know that he is in every way removed from our body. We have written the same to our brothers and fellow bishops John, Rufus, Juvenal, and Flavian, so our judgement about him, or rather the divine sentence of our Christ, may be known. (Ep. 11, found in Documents Illustrating Papal Authority , ed. Giles, pp. 240-241.)

St Celestine's legate, Philip, said this at the Council of Ephesus:
There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who, even to this time and always, lives and judges in his successors. Our holy and most blessed Pope Celestine the bishop is according to our order his successor and holds his place. (Op. cit., p. 252.)

Letter from the Council of Ephesus to St Celestine:
The zeal of your holiness for piety, and your care for the right faith, so grateful and highly pleasing to God the Saviour of us all, are worthy of all admiration. For it is your custom in such great matters to make trial of all things, and the confirmation of the Churches you have made your own care. But since it is right that all things which have taken place should be brought to the knowledge of your holiness, we are writing of necessity [to inform you] that, by the will of Christ the Saviour of us all, and in accordance with the orders of the most pious and Christ-loving Emperors, we assembled together in the Metropolis of the Ephesians from many and far scattered regions, being in all over two hundred bishops....For there were sitting with us the most reverend bishops Arcadius and Projectus, and with them the most holy presbyter Philip, all of whom were sent by your holiness, who gave to us your presence and filled the place of the Apostolic See. Click here to read the entire text of the Council's Letter

The sun itself pales before the brilliance of your works, O holy father, Celestine, and Rome delights today in your blessed memory. In her faith, the church appeals to you, invoking your intercession with the Lord. Preserve her, then, immune and invinicible before every evil, and beg Christ, our God, to save our souls.

St Leo the Great (died 461)--commemorated February 18

...master exponent of papal supremacy...Leo sent Flavian (449) his celebrated Tome, which rejected Eutyches' teaching and presented a precise, systematic doctrine of Christ's Incarnation and of the union of both his natures. The Council (451) of Chalcedon (mod. Kadikoy, Tur.), summoned to condemn Eutychianism, declared that Leo's Tome was the ultimate truth. Furthermore, the council recognized Leo's doctrine as "the voice of Peter." ...Leo's 432 letters and 96 sermons expound his precept of papal primacy in church jurisdiction. He held that papal power was granted by Christ to St Peter alone, and that that power was passed on by Peter to his successors. In one letter, for example, he cautioned the bishop of Thessalonika that although he had been entrusted with office and shared Leo's solicitude, he was "not to possess the plentitude of power."


The dispensation of Truth therefore abides, and the blessed Peter persevering in the strength of the Rock, which he has received, has not abandoned the helm of the Church, which he undertook. For he was ordained before the rest in such a way that from his being called the Rock, from his being pronounced the Foundation, from his being constituted the Doorkeeper of the kingdom of heaven, from his being set as the Umpire to bind and to loose, whose judgments shall retain their validity in heaven, from all these mystical titles we might know the nature of his association with Christ. And still to-day he more fully and effectually performs what is entrusted to him, and carries out every part of his duty and charge in Him and with Him, through Whom he has been glorified. And so if anything is rightly done and rightly decreed by us, if anything is won from the mercy of God by our daily supplications, it is of his work and merits whose power lives and whose authority prevails in his See.
(Leo, Sermon 3) Click here to read the entire text of St Leo's sermon

2...For although the pastors, each one singly, preside over their own flocks with a special care and know that they will have to render an account for the sheep entrusted to them, we have a duty which is shared with all; in fact the function of each one is a part of our work; so that when men resort to see of the blessed apostle Peter from the whole world, and seek from our stewardship that love of the Church entrusted to him by the Lord, the greater our duty to the whole, the heavier we feel the burden to rest on us. 4. There is a further reason for our celebration: not only the apostolic but also the episcopal dignity of the most blessed Peter, who does not cease to preside over his see and obtains an abiding partnership with the eternal Priest. For the stability which the rock himself was given by that Rock, Christ, be conveyed also to his successors, and wheresoever any steadfastness is apparent, there without doubt is to be seen the strength of the shepherd. For if to almost all martyrs everywhere, in recognition of their endurance of the martyrdoms which they underwent, this has been granted in order to make their merits manifest, namely that they are able to bring help to those in danger, to banish diseases, to drive out unclean spirits, and to cure countless bodily weaknesses, who so ignorantly or grudgingly estimates the honour of blessed Peter as not to believe that all parts of the Church are ruled by his care and enriched by his help? There flourishes and survives still in the chief of the apostles that love of God and men which neither the bars of the prison, nor chains, nor the onslaughts of the mob, nor the threats of a king could terrify, and an unconquerable faith, which waged unceasing warfare, and did not wax cold in defeat. (Leo, Sermon 5 in Documents Illustrating Papal Authority, ed. Giles, pp. 281-282.)

Letter from the Council of Chalcedon to Pope St Leo:
You are set as an interpreter to all of the voice of blessed Peter, and to all you impart the blessings of that faith. And so we too, wisely taking you as our guide in all that is good, have shown to the sons of the Church their inheritance of the truth....We were all delighted at the spiritual food which Christ supplied to us through your letter; we revelled in it as at an imperial banquet and we seemed to see the heavenly Bridegroom actually present with us. For if where two or three are gathered together in his name, he has said he is in the midst of them, must he not have been more particularly present with 520 priests...? Of all these you were the chief, as head to members, showing your goodwill in matters of organization....And, like the stranger of wild beasts, he [condemned Patriarch of Alexandria Dioscorus] fell upon the vine which he found in the finest condition, uprooted it, and planted that which had been cast out as unfruitful. He cut off those who acted like true shepherds, and he placed over the flocks those who had shown themselves to be wolves. Besides all this he extended his fury even against him who had been charged with the custody of the vine by the Saviour--we refer to your holiness-- and he intended to excommunicate one who was zealous to unite the body of the Church.... (In Giles, pp. 322-324.)

St Leo's reply to the Bishops confirming their doctrinal decree but rejecting the canon which elevated Constantinople to second rank:
Your Holiness will be able to appreciate the reverence with which the Apostolic See observes the rules of the holy fathers, by reading my writings in which I have rejected the claims of the bishop of Constantinople; and you will understand that I am, with the help of the Lord, the guardian of the Catholic faith and of the decrees of the fathers. (Migne, Leo, 1:1027ff)

O Champion of Orthodoxy, and teacher of holiness,
The enlightenment of the universe and the inspired glory of true believers,
O most wise Father Leo, your teachings are as music of the Holy Spirit for us!
Pray that Christ our God may save our souls!

O glorious Leo, when you rose to the Bishop's throne,
You shut the lions' mouths with the true doctrine of the Holy Trinity:
You enlightened your flock with the true knowledge of God.
Therefore you are glorified, O seer of things divine!

From the Daily Menaion (Slavonic text):

What shall we name you, God-inspired one? Head of the Orthodox Church of Christ? Eye of piety, clearly seeing hearts with spiritual understanding, pouring out the word of life to all the ends of the earth? Divinely inscribed scroll of the true faith?
Pray that our souls may be saved!   What shall we now call you, wondrous one? Preacher of the truth and firm foundation? Senior among the honored council? Excellent rule of teachings, possessing the measure of correction? The one who cut down the division of Nestorius and the confusion of Eutyches with divinely-wrought revelations?   What shall we now call you, marvelous one? Prince and ruler in spiritual splendor, exercising mastery over the passions of the body? Vessel of divine mercy; dwelling of perfect love? Loving pastor, awaiting the repentance of sinners? Pray that our souls may be saved!

Champion of Orthodoxy, teacher of purity and of true worship, the enlightener of the universe and the adornment of the hierarchs: All-wise Father Leo, your teachings have gleamed with light upon all things. Intercede before Christ our God to save our souls! Seated upon the throne of the priesthood, glorious one, you shut the mouths of the spiritual lions. With the divinely inspired teachings of the honored Trinity, you shed the light of the knowledge of God upon your flock! Therefore you are glorified as a divine initiate of the mysteries of the grace of God!...

Thou wast heir to the throne of the preeminent Peter, possessing his character and zeal for the Faith.

Rising as the morning dawn from the West, thou, thrice Blessed, sentest forth thy volume of holy dogmas as rays of light upon the Church.

The Successor of the venerable Peter, enriched with his presidency, and possessing his burning zeal, moved by God puts forth his volume.

Moved by God, thou didst set down the teachings of religion as on tables impressed by God: appearing, like a second Moses to the company of venerable teachers.


Click here to read: St Leo the Great on the Papacy
and Pope St Leo the Great and Papal Supremacy and quotes from St Leo and his contemporaries on this site. For historical background on the theological issues of this era read: Monophysitism and Monophysites and Eutychianism and The Council of Chalcedon and the Papacy

St Agapetus (died 536)--commemorated April 17

At the urging of the Ostrogothic king of Theodahad, he headed an unsuccessful mission to Constantinople to deter the emperor Justinian I from his plans to reconquer Italy. While there he secured the election of, and consecrated, Mennas as successor to the patriarch Anthimus I, whom he deposed for his Monophysite beliefs (that Christ had but one nature). Agapetus' remains were brought back from Constantinople, where he died, and were buried in Rome.

Byzantine Emperor Justinian to St Agapetus describing Rome:
the source of the priesthood...the venerable See of the most high Apostle Peter...No one doubts that the height of the Supreme Pontificate is at Rome. (as cited in The Eastern Churches and the Papacy by S. Herbert Scott, p. 231. Scott also documents that Justinian sent to St Agapetus a profession of faith which began with quoting The Formula of Hormisdas.

Letter of St Agapetus to Peter, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, reproving him for his laxity and for having accepted communion with Anthimus:
We found the see of Constantinople usurped, contrary to all the canons, by Anthimus, Bishop of Trebizond. Our desire was to lead his soul back not only with regard to this point, but, what is more important, regarding the confession of the True Faith; but, attaching himself to the error of Eutyches, he despised the Truth. Wherefore, after having, according to apostolic charity, awaited his repentance of this belief, we decreed that he be deprived of the name of Catholic and of priest, until such time as he fully receive the doctrine of the Fathers who maintain the Faith and discipline of religion. You must reject likewise the others whom the Apostolic See has condemned. (Mansi 8: 922.)

The sentence of a council held at Constantinople in 536 against Anthimus:
...he promised to do whatever the pontiff of the great apostolic see would decide, and wrote to the most holy patriarchs that he would follow the Apostolic See in every respect. But our great God and Savior Jesus Christ did not allow such things to go on; to this royal city Agapetus, the most blessed pope of holy and blessed memory was sent, who... deposed him from a see which did not belong to him... we consider him an altogether useless and rotten member, to be cut off from the body of God’s holy churches... foreign to every sacred dignity and authority, in accordance with the sentence of the most blessed pope himself... (Mansi 8: 963-6, as found in "Keys Over the Christian World"; author Scott Butler). Patriarch Mennas in his own sentence against Anthimus said: Indeed Agapetus of holy memory, pope of Old Rome, giving him time for repentance until he should receive whatever the holy fathers defined, did not allow him to be called either a priest or a Catholic... as Your Love is aware, we follow and obey the apostolic throne; we are in communion with those with whom it is in communion, and we condemn those whom it condemns. (Mansi 8: 968-70, as found in "Keys Over the Christian World"; author Scott Butler). St Mennas is commemorated on August 25.

We know that great deeds are not reserved to youth alone, O holy father and hierarch, for you revealed to us the marvels of grace in the evening of life. As a trumpet of the good news and herald of righteousness, you upheld the orthodox faith and bravely rebuked the imperial daring. O wise and holy Agapetus, beg Christ, our God, to save our souls.

St Gregory the Dialogist (died 604)--commemorated March 12

[Byzantine emperor] Phocas recognized the papal primacy and gave Gregory the impression of subordination. The Roman papacy had always valued such an attitude and in doing so overlooked the character or those with whom it came to terms. Gregory was deceived by Phocas, who conferred on him, rather than on John IV (the Faster), the patriarch of Constantinople, the disputed title of "ecumenical patriarch". The deposed and executed emperor Maurice, a devout humane ruler, had not previously granted the sought after title to the patriarch of Constantinople. The patriarch John, therefore, conferred this title on himself, as had other patriarchs before him, a practice that Pope Pelagius II had previously disputed. Gregory in 595 protested against this designation out of his conviction regarding the primacy of the pope. Instead, Gregory conferred on himself the title "servant of God's servants," a title borrowed from St. Augustine, which in its far too great humility meant, in effect, the opposite.

A reign of anarchy under Phocas spelled the end of the late Roman era. Gregory, with foresight, clearly recognized the approaching importance of the migrating peoples of the West, who were hardly or not at all christianized, and that the future of the church of the West lay with them. The visionary ideals of his conception in practice, however, would be to bring the barbarian powers of the West under the political sovereignty of Byzantium in the sense of a united Christian world under the ecclesiastical authority of Rome.
(From article in Macropedia.)

For as to what they say about the Church of Constantinople, who can doubt that it is subject to the Apostolic See, as both the most pious lord the emperor and our brother the bishop of that city continually acknowledge? Yet, if this or any other Church has anything that is good, I am prepared in what is good to imitate even my inferiors, while prohibiting them from things unlawful. (Letter to John, Bishop of Syracuse, Book IX, Epistle XII, P.L. lxxvii, 957) Click here to read entire text of St Gregory's letter (Scroll down to Epistle XII)

St Gregory writing to Eusebius of Thessalonica, Urbicus of Dyrrachium, Andrew of Nicopolis, John of Corinth, John of Prima Justiniana, John of Crete, John of Larissa and Scodra, and many other bishops about his concern that they might be drawn into a council in Constantinople:
Furthermore, it has come to our knowledge that your Fraternity has been convened to Constantinople. And although our most pious Emperor allows nothing unlawful to be done there, yet, lest perverse men, taking occasion of your assembly, should seek opportunity of cajoling you in favouring this name of superstition, or should think of holding a synod about some other matter, with the view of introducing it therein by cunning contrivances, -though without the authority and consent of the Apostolic See nothing that might be passed would have any force, nevertheless, before Almighty God I conjure and warn you, that the assent of none of you be obtained by any blandishments, any bribes, any threats whatever; but, having regard to the eternal judgment, acquit ye yourselves salubriously and unanimously in opposition to wrongful aims; and, supported by pastoral constancy and apostolical authority, keep out the robber and the wolf that would rush in, and give no way to him that rages for the tearing of the Church asunder; nor allow, through any cajolery, a synod to be held on this subject, which indeed would not be a legitimate one, nor to be called a synod. We also at the same time admonish you, that if haply nothing should be done with mention of this preposterous name, but a synod be by any chance assembled on another matter, ye be in all respects cautious, circumspect, watchful, and careful, lest anything should therein be decreed against any place or person prejudicially, or unlawfully, or in opposition to the canons. But, if any question arises to be treated with advantage, let the question in hand take such a form that it may not upset any ancient ordinances. Wherefore we once more admonish you before God and His Saints, that you observe all these things with the utmost attention, and with the entire bent of your minds. For if any one, as we do not believe will be the case, should disregard in any part this present writing, let him know that he is segregated from the peace of the blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles. (Book IX, Letter LXVIII) Click here to read entire text (scroll down to Letter LXVIII)

Writing about AD 730, Venerable Bede explains how Pope St Gregory is credited with the conversion of England:
In the year of our Lord 605, having ruled the apostolic Roman Church most illustriously for thirteen years, six months, and ten days, the blessed Pope Gregory died and was taken up to his eternal home in heaven. And it is fitting that he should receive special mention in this history, since it was through his zeal that our English nation was brought from the bondage of Satan to the Faith of Christ, and we may rightly term him our own apostle. For during his pontificate, while he exercised supreme authority over all the churches of Christendom that had already long since been converted, he transformed our still idolatrous nation into a church of Christ. A History of the English Church and People, Bede, Book Two, Chapter 1.

From the Menaion:

Thou, most holy Pastor; art the successor to the See and also to the zeal of the coryphaeus, cleansing the people and bringing them to God. Successor to the throne of the Prince of the Choir of the disciples, thou didst fulfil thine office; and from thence, O Gregory, thou dost by thy word as with a torch enlighten the faithful.

The first of Churches, having embraced thee, waters every land that is under the sun with the streams of her most holy teachings. Hail, torch of religion, who dost light up all the world with the rays of thy words! Beacon, calling back to the haven those tossed among the waves of error, and ransoming them from death. Organ acted upon by the breath of the Holy Ghost.

As the godly shepherd of Rome, enlightened with deifying splendor, you taught the faithful the theology of the faith, divinely radiant Gregory: teacher of the church and initiate of the mysteries of the grace of God!

From Christ you received the helm of the church of Rome, Bishop Gregory of great renown. You piloted its ship to the haven of salvation! Through the teaching of your divinely wise words, you saved it from the tempests of the enemy! Since therefore you have boldness before the Lord, earnestly ask of Him peace for the world and salvation for our souls!

You are remarkable among the greatest shepherds of the Lord, holy father, for by teaching your monastic flock the way of Christ, you guided them to the heavenly enclosures. Now that you rejoice with them, you fully enjoy the mansions of heaven. Beg Christ to save our souls.


Click here to read: St Gregory the Great on the Papacy
and Pope St Gregory and the "Universal Bishop" controversy
Pope Gregory the Great and the Universal Papacy

St Martin the Confessor (died 655)--commemorated April 14

Martin's pontificate occurred during an extensive controversy that had strained relations between the Eastern and Western churches--namely Monothelitism, a heresy maintaining that Christ had only one will. To end the controversy, Martin convoked and presided over the Lateran Council of 649 that condemned Monothelitism and the Typos, an order by the Byzantine emperor Constans II Pogonatus that forbade discussion on Christ's wills. Constans, who had not approved Martin's election, ordered the pope's arrest. Martin was taken to Constantinople (Sept 17, 654), publically humiliated, and banished to the Crimea in May 655. He was honoured as a martyr.

[Entry under "Maximus the Confessor, Saint":...Maximus was] the most important Byzantine theologian of the 7th century....Arguing for a dual-will facility in Christ, Maximus was called to Rome, where he supported the condemnation of Monothelitism by a regional church council under Pope Martin I in 649. Maximus and Martin were arrested by the emperor Constans II, and after imprisoment from 653 to 655 Maximus was later tortured and exiled; he died in the wilderness about the Black Sea.

If the Roman See recognizes Pyrrhus to be not only a reprobate but a heretic, it is certainly plain that every one who anathematizes those who have rejected Pyrrhus, anathematizes the See of Rome, that is, he anathematizes the Catholic Church. I need hardly add that he excommunciates himself also, if indeed he is in communion with the Roman See and the Catholic Church of God....For it is not right that one who has already been condemned and cast out by the Apostolic See of Rome for his wrong opinions should be named with any kind of honour, until he be received by her, having returned to her, nay to Our Lord, by a pious confession and orthodox faith....Let him hasten before all things to satisfy the Roman See, for if it is satisfied, all will agree in calling him pious and orthodox. For he only speaks in vain who thinks he ought to persuade or entrap persons like myself, and does not satisfy and implore the blessed Pope of the most holy Church of the Romans, that is, the Apostolic See, which from the incarnate Son of God Himself, and also by all the holy synods, according to the canons and definitions has received universal and supreme dominion, authority and power of binding and loosing over all the holy Churches of God which are in the whole world. (Letter to Peter by St Maximus the Confessor in Mansi x, 692.)

The extremities of the earth, and all in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord look directly towards the most holy Roman Church and its confession and faith, as it were to a sun of unfailing light, awaiting from it the bright radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers according to what the six inspired and holy councils have purely and piously decreed, declaring most expressly the symbol of faith. For from the coming down of the incarnate Word amongst us, all the Churches in every part of the world have held that greatest Church alone as their base and foundation, seeing that according to the promise of Christ our Saviour, the gates of hell do never prevail against it, that it has the keys of a right confession and faith in Him, that it opens the true and only religion to such as approach with piety, and shuts up and locks every heretical mouth that speaks injustice against the Most High. (St Maximus, Opuscula theologica et polemica, Migne, Patr. Graec. vol. 90.)

You set out solidly by priestly devotion, and completed your course in martyrdom. You passed into heaven, wise Martin, and received laurels which will never wilt. Now we have come to celebrate your holy memory, crying, as you stand before Christ, remember us, O priest!

You strengthened the Church with true doctrine,
O wise hierarch Martin.
You declared the two natures of Christ,
Putting heresy to shame.
Entreat the Lord to grant us His great mercy.

O High Priest and teacher of the mysteries,
You poured forth streams of doctrine.
You expounded the true doctrine of the two natures and wills of Christ.
Intercede for those who cry: Rejoice, O blessed Father Martin!

Today, the new Rome rejoices with the old, and Tuscany revels in the memory of your great deeds, O holy father, Martin. For you staunchly defended the doctrine of two wills in Christ, and boldly exercised the apostolic power entrusted to you by the Lord. For this, you suffered shamefully at the hands of the powers of this world, and then you received your crown from the Lord himself. Beg Christ, our God, to save our souls.


From the Daily Menaion:

By what name shall I address thee, O Martin! Shall I call thee the glorious leader of the Orthodox Faith for all? Or the sacred chief of divine dogmas speaking nought but truth? Or the most true reprover of error?...In the midst of the Synod thou didst condemn Pyrrhus and Sergius, and those who blasphemed with them....We know that thou wast the foundation of bishops, pillar of the Orthodox Faith, teacher of religion....Thou didst adorn the Divine See of Peter, and since then thou on his divine Rock hast preserved the Church immovable, so now with him [Peter] art thou glorified.

What shall we call you now, Martin? Celebrated instructor in orthodox teachings; sure leader of the choir of priests in the precepts of God, most faithful denouncer of falsehood, most valiant companion of the word, most holy performer of the sacred mysteries, most honored wonder-worker! Pray that our souls may be saved!  

What shall we call you now, Martin? River full of spiritual waters, ever watering souls for spiritual fertility, lamp shining with the light of piety, mountain pouring forth divine joy, revealer of the words of God, denouncer of every heresy! Pray that our souls may be saved!  

What shall we call you now, Martin? All-revered celebrant of the true tabernacle, godly mediator between God and creation, cup pouring forth divine drink, beacon possessing the word of life, proceeding from the west and made manifest in the east! Pray that our souls may be saved!


Click here to read: Monothelitism and Monothelites

St Agatho (died 682)--commemorated February 20

Through legates, he participated in the sixth ecumenical council (680-681), that of Constantinople, which condemned monothelitism (belief that Christ had only one will) and accepted his definition of two wills, not one, in Christ. The will, Agatho said, is a property of the nature of Christ, and because he has two natures, divine and human, he also has two wills; but the human will determines itself ever conformably to the divine and almighty will.

For this is the rule of the true faith, which this spiritual mother of your most tranquil empire, the Apostolic Church of Christ, has both in prosperity and in adversity always held and defended with energy; which, it will be proved, by the grace of Almighty God, has never erred from the path of the apostolic tradition, nor has she been depraved by yielding to heretical innovations, but from the beginning she has received the Christian faith from her founders, the princes of the Apostles of Christ, and remains undefiled unto the end, according to the divine promise of the Lord and Saviour himself, which he uttered in the holy Gospels to the prince of his disciples: saying, "Peter, Peter, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that (thy) faith fail not. And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Let your tranquil Clemency therefore consider, since it is the Lord and Saviour of all, whose faith it is, that promised that Peter's faith should not fail and exhorted him to strengthen his brethren, how it is known to all that the Apostolic pontiffs, the predecessors of my littleness, have always confidently done this very thing: of whom also our littleness, since I have received this ministry by divine designation, wishes to be the follower, although unequal to them and the least of all....

Therefore the Holy Church of God, the mother of your most Christian power, should be delivered and liberated with all your might (through the help of God) from the errors of such teachers, and the evangelical and apostolic uprightness of the orthodox faith, which has been established upon the firm rock of this Church of blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, which by his grace and guardianship remains free from all error, [that faith I say] the whole number of rulers and priests, of the clergy and of the people, unanimously should confess and preach with us as the true declaration of the Apostolic tradition, in order to please God and to save their own souls....

And indeed the apostolic predecessors of my humility admonished, begged, upbraided, besought, reproved, and exercised every kind of exhortation that the recent wound bright receive a remedy, moved thereto not by a mind filled with hatred (God is my witness) nor through the elation of boasting, nor through the opposition of contention, nor through an inane desire to find some fault with their teachings, nor through anything akin to the love of arrogance, but out of zeal for the uprightness of the truth, and for the rule of the confession of the pure Gospel, and for the salvation of souls, and for the stability of the Christian state, and for the safety of those who rule the Roman Empire. Nor did they cease from their admonitions after the long duration of this domesticated error, but always exhorted and bore record, and that with fraternal charity, not through malice or pertinacious hatred (far be it from the Christian heart to rejoice at another's fall, when the Lord of all teaches, "I desire not the death of a sinner, but that he be converted and live;" and who rejoiceth over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety-and-nine just persons: who came down from heaven to earth to deliver the lost sheep, inclining the power of his majesty), but desiring them with outstretched spiritual arms, and exhorting to embrace them returning to the unity of the orthodox faith, and awaiting their conversion to the full rectitude of the orthodox faith: that they might not make themselves aliens froth our communion, that is from the communion of blessed Peter the Apostle, whose ministry, we (though unworthy) exercise, and preach the faith he has handed down, but that they should together with us pray Christ the Lord, the spotless sacrifice, for the stability of your most strong and serene Empire.
Letter of Pope St Agatho to Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV and read at the Third Council of Constantinople (Sixth Ecumenical Council). Click here to read: the entire text of St Agatho's letter.

Click on these links which relate Pope St Agatho's letter to the condemnation of Pope Honorius (reigned 625-638) by the same council: The Case of Pope Honorius and Guilty Only of Failure to Teach and Gallegos/Vega Debate on Honorius.

The Sixth Ecumenical Council wrote to the Emperor:
With us fought the Prince of the apostles for his imitator and successor is our protector, and he has declared unto us in his letter the secret of theology....And the ink shone, and by Agatho Peter spoke. (Mansi, xi, 658.)

The Council wrote to St Agatho:
The greatest diseases require the greatest remedies....and therefore Christ our true God has given us Your Holiness as a wise physician, who firmly repellest the contagious plague of heresy by the antidotes of orthodoxy and bestowest health on the members of the Church. And therefore we willingly leave what should be done to you, as occupying the first See of the Universal Church and standing on the firm Rock of the Faith, having read through the writings of the true confession sent by Your Paternal Holiness to our most religious Emperor; which we recognize as divinely written from the chiefest Head of the apostles, and by which we have put to flight the dangerous opinions of the heresy which lately arose. (Mansi, xi, 683.) Click here to read: the entire text of the Council's letter to St Agatho asking for his confirmation of the decrees of the Council.

From the edict of the Emperor, confirming the decrees of the council:
These are the teachings of the voices of the Gospels and apostles, these are the doctrines of the holy councils and of the elect and Patristic tongues; these have been preserved untainted by Peter the Rock of the Faith, the Head of the apostles. (Mansi, xi, 698.)



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