St. Anastasius II - Divine Retribution

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Anastasius II is a much-maligned pope. Misunderstood by his contemporaries, he has been abused by medieval historians, and even placed in hell by Dante! Modern historical research, however, has cleared the memory of this pope.

Anastasius II, a Roman, was a man of kindly and peaceable disposition. Distressed at the continued schism of Constantinople, he sent legates to the Emperor and messages of peace to the Patriarch. He did not sacrifice principle. He continued to demand the condemnation of the schismatic, Acacius. But the Romans seem to have misunderstood this, and they began to grumble. Their indignation flamed higher when they learned that Pope Anastasius had received back into communion Archbishop Andrew of Thessalonica, who had been an ardent partisan of the schismatic Acacius. They do not seem to have realized that Archbishop Andrew had repented and had repudiated Acacius and returned to Catholic unity.

The confusion of the Romans was caused perhaps at least partially by the indiscreet remarks of Photinus, Andrew's legate to the Pope. At the same time the pro-Byzantine intrigues of the Senator Festus caused the Romans to be intensely suspicious. All this resulted in a good deal of bitterness on the part of Roman clergy and laity against peace-loving Pope Anastasius.

Anastasius, however, was unable to effect the reunion which he desired and was spared the necessity of pacifying his disturbed Romans by his sudden death in 498.

The Liber Pontificalis remarks that he was cut down by divine intervention; but Duchesne regards this as a manifestation of party feeling rather than the recording of cold history. There is no historical justification at all for the horrible death dreamed up for him by the more imaginative chroniclers of the Middle Ages.

While Pope Anastasius was having his troubles, an event full of future significance took place in Gaul. Clovis, the Frankish king, was baptized by St. Remigius.


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

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