St. Eugene I - The One Will Heresy

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Once Martin had been torn away from Rome, the exarch Theodore Calliopas tried to get the Romans to elect another pope. At first they refused, and the Apostolic See was administered by the archpriest, the archdeacon, and the chief notary, as was the custom during a vacancy. What happened next is obscure, but it is known that a Roman named Eugene was consecrated pope on August 10, 654, at a time when St. Martin was still living. Either Eugene was an antipope forced on the reluctant Romans by the Emperor, or he was chosen freely on the presumed consent of St. Martin to keep the Emperor from forcibly planting a docile tool on the throne of St. Peter. Two facts indicate that the latter was the case. First, Eugene was a noble character who refused to yield to imperial pressure. Second, Pope St. Martin seems to have recognized Eugene as legitimate Pope.

Eugene was a Roman from the Aventine, a gentle and holy man who had been a cleric from his youth. He was a man of great charity to the poor. However, like his predecessors, he had to face the troublesome problem of the One Will heresy.

Eugene promptly sent legates to Constantinople to inform Constans of his election. These legates, with more simplicity than shrewdness, received the patriarch of Constantinople into communion with the Holy See in spite of the fact that the patriarch remained ambiguous on the question whether Christ had one will or two wills. Pope Eugene disavowed this action. The legates, he claimed, had authority to deal with the Emperor alone. The legates brought back from Constantinople a synodical letter of the Patriarch which was also obscure. When it was read in the Church of St. Mary Major, the people raised such an uproar that the Pope could not go on with his Mass until he had assured them that the objectionable letter would not be accepted.

To cross the Emperor was dangerous business, and the firmness of St. Eugene might well have been punished as had that of St. Martin. Indeed when the imperial officials were exiling that sturdy defender of the faith, the abbot Maximus, they told him bluntly that when they had a little rest from the Moslems, they would roast him and the present Pope just as they had roasted Pope Martin. But the Moslems did not give them the little rest. Constans had his hands full fighting the men of Islam, who were hammering relentlessly on the empire's bastions.

And so Eugene was able to end his brief pontificate in peace. He died in 657. He is considered a saint and is commemorated in the Roman martyrology on June 2, the day of his burial in St. Peter's.

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

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