St. Boniface I - One Of Two

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After the death of Pope Zosimus, the Archdeacon Eulalius at the head of a mob of clerics and laymen seized the Lateran Basilica and prevented the rest of the priests from entering and holding the election of the pope according to custom. They then elected Eulalius himself. Meanwhile the majority of the priests set the election for the next day; and since they could not hold it in the Lateran, they agreed to meet in the Church of Theodora. There they elected an old priest, Boniface.

Boniface, a Roman of high character, was consecrated in the Church of St. Marcellus, while Fulalius was consecrated in the Lateran. The rebels succeeded in getting the traditional consecrator of the pope, the bishop of Ostia, to perform the function.

Rome was in a bad way with two men claiming to be the true pope. Both appealed to Emperor Honorius at Ravenna. Honorius, undecided, held a gathering of Italian bishops to discuss the ticklish situation, but no decision was reached. The Emperor then called for a larger council, to which he invited the bishops of Gaul and Africa. The council decided that neither claimant should celebrate Easter in Rome while the case was being decided. Boniface obeyed, but Eulalius entered the city in Passion Week, refused to obey the prefect's order to get out, and finally with a gang of partisans seized the Lateran. The imperial officials had to use force to get him out.

At last a letter from Honorius announced that the council had decided that Boniface was the legitimate pope and that he should be received as such. On April 10, St. Boniface solemnly entered the city amid the cheers of the populace. Even so, a year later when Boniface became sick, the partisans of Eulalius raised their heads; but they were unable to upset the sick Pope.

Boniface continued the fight against the Pelagian heresy on two fronts. While he asked St. Augustine to write a treatise refuting the heretics, he obtained from Emperor Honorius a decree ordering all bishops to subscribe to the condemnation of Pelagius and Caelestius. He used his influence with Honorius also to preserve his jurisdiction as patriarch over Illyricum. Theodosius II, now Emperor of the East, had detached that area from the Western Patriarchate and placed it under the patriarchal jurisdiction of Constantinople. Honorius succeeded in persuading Theodosius to repeal the decree.

St. Boniface I died September 4, 422. His feast is kept on October 25.

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

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