St. Pontian - Abdication and Controversy

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St. Pontian was a Roman, the son of Calpurnius. He had to face a flare-up of persecution. Alexander Severus was assassinated in 235. His successor, Maximinus, an ex-wrestler, had no great preoccupation with matters of religion, but he hated Alexander Severus, and since Alexander had favored the Christians, Maximinus hastened to persecute them. He ordered that the leaders of the Church should alone be struck. And so St. Pontian found himself hustled off to the mines of Sardinia.

In the mines he had as companion none other than the antipope Hippolytus. This priest, it may be remembered, had been so disgusted with Pope Calixtus and his edict of mercy that he had revolted and set himself up as antipope. Now in the mines of Sardinia he came to a better frame of mind. Not only did he become reconciled with St. Pontian, but he ordered all his followers to return to the Church. He made a good end, dying a confessor of Christ, and it is touching that down to this day, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Pontian, the Pope, and St. Hippolytus, once antipope, on the same day, November 19.

St. Pontian seems to have abdicated when sent to the mines and to have been succeeded at Rome by Anterus. At any rate, in November 235 he was brutally beaten to death, a martyr for Christ. Pope Fabian brought his body back to Rome and buried him in the Cemetery of Calixtus. 

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

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