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Pope Gelasius I

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Template:Reqimage Gelasius I was Pope (492 - 496). He is known as the third African pope in catholic history. Gelasius had been closely employed by his predecessor Felix, especially in drafting papal documents, and his election, March 1, 492, was a gesture for continuity: Gelasius inherited Felix's struggles with Eastern Roman Emperor Anastasius I and the patriarch of Constantinople and exacerbated them by insisting on the removal of the name of the late Acacius, patriarch of Constantinople, from the diptychs, in spite of every ecumenical gesture by the current, otherwise quite orthodox patriarch Euphemius (q.v. for details of the Acacian schism).

The split with the emperor and the patriarch of Constantinople was inevitable, from the western point of view, because they had embraced a view of a single, Divine ('Monophysite') nature of Christ, which the papal party viewed as heresy. Gelasius' book De duabus in Christo naturis ('On the dual nature of Christ') delineated the western view.

Suppression of pagan rites and heretics

Closer to home, Gelasius finally suppressed the ancient Roman festival of the Lupercalia, after a long contest. Gelasius' letter to Andromachus, the senator, covers the main lines of the controversy and incidentally offers some details of this festival combining fertility and purification that might have been lost otherwise. Significantly, the February Lupercalia was replaced with a festival celebrating the purification and fertility of the Virgin Mary instead.

Gelasius smoked out the closeted Manichaeans, the heretical dualists who considered themselves Christians and certainly passed for such and were present in Rome in large numbers, it was suspected. Gelasius decreed that the Eucharist had to be received "under both kinds", with wine as well as bread. As the Manichaeans held wine to be impure and essentially sinful, they would refuse the chalice and thus be recognized. Later, with the Manichaeans suppressed, the old normal method of receiving communion under the form of bread alone returned into vogue.

Connected with these pressures for orthodoxy was the definition of what books were to be considered canonical. The fixing of the canon of scripture has traditionally been attributed to Gelasius, who published in a Roman synod (494) his celebrated catalogue of the authentic writings of the Fathers, together with a list of apocryphal and interpolated works, as well as the proscribed books of the heretics (Epistle xlii).

After a brief but dynamic reign, his death occurred on November 19, 496; (his interment occurred on November 21). Gelasius was the most prolific writer of the early popes. A great mass of correspondence of Gelasius has survived, forty-two letters and fragments of forty-nine others, carefully archived in the Vatican, ceaselessly expounding to Eastern bishops the primacy of the see of Rome. There are extant besides six treatises and the decretal on the canonical and apocryphal books.

Some have asserted that Gelasius was a black African by descent, because the Liber Pontificalis plainly states that he was natione Afer ('African by birthright'). Gelasius' own statement in a letter that he is Romanus natus (Roman-born) is certainly not inconsistent. [1] (http://www.usafricaonline.com/arinzechido.html) However, his being of African heritage does not prove that he was a black African, as at the time most natives of that continent's Mediterranean shores were not black. No visual representation of Gelasius, or description of his skin color, survives to settle the issue.


Preceded by:
Saint Felix III
Pope
492–496
Succeeded by:
Anastasius II

Template:End box

References

  • Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908.
  • Norman F. Cantor, Civilization of the Middle Ages.
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