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Romanus - Mistaken Identity

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Mosaic of RomanusThe circumstances of this pontiff's election and death are obscure. Indeed probability is the best that can be had except for some routine actions. Romanus was a native of Gallese, which was also the birthplace of Pope Marinus I, the friend of Formosus. His father's name was Constantine. Romanus was cardinal-priest of St. Peter-in-Chains when he was elected pope. He was elected pope in the summer of 897, probably in August.

Since Stephen VII had been overthrown and killed by an uprising, it is probable that Romanus was not one of Stephen's faction. Indeed a fifteenth- century edition of a papal catalogue mentions that Romanus took measures against Stephen. But all that is certain about the pontificate of Romanus is the following administrative facts. He granted the pallium to Vitalis, patriarch of Grado, and gave a privilege to the church of Grado. When the Spanish bishops of Elna and Germa came to Rome to seek papal confirmation of the goods of their dioceses, Romanus granted it. He also coined money. He had time to do little else, for he was dead in November. It is possible, though not highly probable, that Romanus was deposed. One manuscript, and one only, mentions that Romanus was made a monk. To make a pope assume the monastic habit was a way to depose him. But in this case it is more probable that the lonely manuscript confused Romanus with Stephen VII.

At any rate, nothing is known of Romanus' death. 

Excerpted from "Popes Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.

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