To replace a man like Leo was not easy, but the next pope was a man after
Leo's heart, the archdeacon Hilary. Hilary was a Sardinian who had joined
the Roman clergy and had been sent by St. Leo as one of the papal legates
to the council at Ephesus in 449. This council, intended to settle the
Monophysite affair, got out of hand. Packed with Monophysites and presided
over by Dioscorus, the patriarch of Alexandria, the assembly refused to
listen to the protests of the papal legates. Dioscorus steam-rollered
through the council a condemnation of the orthodox and saintly Flavian,
patriarch of Constantinople, and an approval of the Monophysite leader
Eutyches. In vain Hilary protested. He had to fly in fear for his life and
hide in a chapel of St. John the Evangelist. It was only with difficulty
that he got back to Rome. No wonder St. Leo called this Ephesus council a
gathering of robbers!
As pope, Hilary worked hard to foster order in the Gallic hierarchy. When a
certain Hermes illegally made himself archbishop of Narbonne, two Gallic
delegates came to Rome to appeal to Pope Hilary. He held a council at Rome
in 462 to settle the matter. He also upheld the rights of the see of Arles
to be the primatial see of Gaul. From Spain also came appeals of a similar
nature. To settle these Hilary held a council at Rome in 465. This is the
first Council at Rome whose acts have come down to us. According to the
Liber Pontificalis he sent a letter to the East confirming the ecumenical
councils of Nicaea, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, and the famous dogmatic letter
of his predecessor St. Leo to Flavian. He also publicly in St. Peter's
rebuked the shadow-emperor Anthemius for allowing a favorite of his to
foster heresy in Rome.
St. Hilary deserves great credit for his work in building and decorating
churches in Rome. Of especial interest is the oratory he built near the
Lateran, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. The Pope attributed his
escape from the wild Monophysites at Ephesus to the intercession of the
Beloved Disciple, and to show his gratitude he built this beautiful
oratory. Over its doors may still be seen the inscription, "To his
deliverer, Blessed John the Evangelist, Bishop Hilary, the Servant of
Christ." Hilary built two more churches and spent freely in decorating
still others. The gold and silver and marble used so lavishly by this Pope
in adorning the Roman churches indicate that the wealthy families of Rome
must have saved something from the grasping hands of Goths and Vandals.
St. Hilary died on February 29. His feast is kept on February 28.
Excerpted from "Popes
Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.