With Pope St. Julius the Papacy finds at its doorstep the vexing problem of
the Eastern Arians. It is true that the Council of Nicaea had condemned
Arianism, but in spite of that Arians had been growing in strength and had
even gained the ear of Constantine, and what was more crucial, that of his
son Constantius who succeeded him in the East.
The man who was compelled to face the problem was Julius, a Roman who had
been chosen to succeed Mark after an unexplained interval of four months.
He soon received delegates from Alexandria asking him to acknowledge a
certain Pistus as bishop of Alexandria in place of Athanasius, the mighty
fighter for orthodoxy. The delegates tried to prove that Athanasius, who
actually had been the victim of Arian intrigue, had been validly deposed.
Athanasius on his part also sent envoys and later came to Rome in person to
plead his case before the Pope. The Arians asked Julius to hold a synod to
decide the case, but when in 341 Julius actually did convene it, they
refused to attend. The Pope held it without them and over fifty bishops
decreed that Athanasius had been unjustly condemned. Julius informed the
Arians at Alexandria of this decision and let them know that he was
displeased at their uncooperative attitude.
The Emperor Constans, who ruled in the West, was favorable to the orthodox
Christians while his brother Constantius, who ruled the East, was proArian.
At this time both Emperors agreed to hold a big general council to see if
religious unity could be achieved. Pope Julius approved of the plan and
sent legates to Sardica, the modern Sofia, where the council gathered. The
council did not achieve religious unity because the Arians, when they found
themselves outnumbered, walked out. The council once again vindicated
Athanasius and once more repeated the solemn Nicene Creed. It also left an
interesting set of regulations on the manner in which appeals to the pope
should be made.
In spite of the repeated vindications of Athanasius, that good man was
unable to return to his see. Emperor Constans supported the Arian George
until the usurper died. Then and only then was the long-suffering
Athanasius allowed to go home. Pope Julius, delighted, wrote a letter to
the people of Alexandria, congratulating them on the return of their true
At Rome the number of Christians continued to grow during the pontificate
of Julius. He built two new basilicas and three cemetery churches. The stay
of St. Athanasius at Rome helped to popularize Egyptian monasticism and
gave an impetus to religious life there.
Pope St. Julius died April 12, 352. He was buried in the Cemetery of
Calepodius. His feast is kept on April 12.
Excerpted from "Popes
Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.