Boniface V was a Neopolitan, the son of John. He was very probably one of
the capable clerical staff of Pope Gregory the Great. His character is
indicated by the fact that he was called "the mildest of men."
Boniface was consecrated pope on December 23, 619. Almost immediately he
faced an embarrassing situation. The Patrician Eleutherius, who had so
vigorously put down all rebels in the time of Pope Deusdedit, now decided
to play the rebel himself. First he took over Ravenna. Then he proclaimed
that he wished to assume the imperial crown in Rome "where the seat of
empire had its permanent place." This was to place Pope Boniface in a
delicate situation. Loyalty to the far-off Emperor Heraclius would forbid
any such coronation. The presence of the armed cohorts of Eleutherius would
be a cogent argument in its favor. But the rebel army spared Pope Boniface
the trouble of making the delicate decision. Before Eleutherius could reach
Rome, his own soldiers slew him and sent his would-be crowned head to
Emperor Heraclius in Constantinople.
The acolytes seem to have been a pushful group in those days, for Boniface
twice had to issue decrees restraining their activity, once to prevent them
from taking part in the distribution or translating of relics, and again
from taking the place of deacons in the ceremony of baptism.
Boniface took a great interest in the infant church in England. He wrote
letters encouraging the missionaries there. He also insisted that Pope
Gregory had established Canterbury as the metropolitan see and forbade
anyone to go against this. Canterbury was under the special guardianship of
Rome. Meanwhile, the missionary Paulinus had been hard at work trying to
convert the great northern kingdom of Northumbria. Pope Boniface came to
his aid by writing letters to the royal family. He also sent gifts--an
embroidered tunic and cloak for King Edwin and a silver mirror and an
inlaid ivory comb for Queen Ethelberga. Doubtless these latter would
console the Christian Kentish lady in her Northumbrian exile.
Pope Boniface's reign saw the rise of great troubles in the East. The
Persians under King Chosroes had fought their way to Jerusalem, and to the
great grief of the Christians, had carried off the true cross. Meanwhile in
622 a camel-driver with dreams, driven out of Mecca, had been forced to fly
to friendly Medina. History was in the making.
Boniface finished the construction of the Cemetery of St. Nocomedes on the
Via Nomentana, but when he died in 625, he was buried like his predecessors
in St. Peter's.
Excerpted from "Popes
Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.