Boniface I, Pope, St.

views updated


Pontificate: Dec. 28 or 29, 418 to Sept. 4, 422. Boniface was Roman-born, the son of the priest Iocundus, and had been innocent i's legate to Constantinople on several occasions. While Pope zosimus was being buried, the archdeacon Eulalius returned to the Lateran where he was

acclaimed bishop of Rome. The rest of the presbyterium and the people waited till the next day and elected the aged priest Boniface in the basilica of Theodora. The following Sunday (December 29) both candidates were consecrated and installed. Boniface was consecrated at St. Marcellus and installed in St. Peter's, because the Lateran was held by the faction of Eulalius. The pagan prefect of Rome, Symmachus, attempted to settle the quarrel, intervening on behalf of Eulalius, but was overruled by the imperial court where Boniface had powerful support. The question was debated inconclusively by several synods.

Meanwhile, both contenders were ordered to leave Rome pending a final solution, and the bishop of Spoleto was delegated to preside at the Easter celebrations (419). Eulalius attempted to prevent this, caused a riot, and was considered to have forfeited his rights, whereupon the emperor declared Boniface the lawful bishop. When Boniface became ill shortly afterward, he feared a repetition of the schism if he should die and wrote to the Roman Emperor honorius in the name of the clergy requesting assurances that peace would be maintained. The imperial rescript replied that if a double election occurred again, the government would remove both candidates and recognize only an election that was morally unanimous, a strong assertion of imperial rights in papal elections and which the pope did not challenge.

The case of the African priest Apiarius, who had appealed to Pope Zosimus, was considered at a plenary council in Carthage on May 25, 419, attended by Faustinus and another papal legate. It was decided to verify the acts of Nicaea to which Zosimus had appealed by comparing them with copies kept at Constantinople, Antioch, and Alexandria, since the African version did not correspond to the Roman. Meanwhile the African bishops were willing to abide by the decision of the pope; Apiarius was to be released from excommunication and transferred to another diocese if he begged pardon for his misdeeds. In their reply to Boniface the African bishops maintained a moderate and dignified tone, though they expressed their annoyance at the arrogance of Faustinus. Boniface also became involved in a second African dispute when the bishop Antoninus of Fussala appealed to the pope concerning his deposition for theft by an African council that was organized by Augustine of Hippo. To Augustine's outrage, Boniface agreed to hear the appeal and sent a Roman investigative commission to Africa, but when Boniface died shortly thereafter, the papal emissaries deferred to an African council, which repated the condemnation of Antoninus.

In dealing with the Pelagians, Boniface acquiesced to Emperor Honorius, who issued an edict (June 9, 419) requiring all the bishops to sign the Tractoria of Pope Zosimus; Boniface likewise deferred to St. augustine and the African bishops, persuading Augustine to write his Contra duas epistulas Pelagianorum. The controversy was prolonged in Italy, however, by a few bishops led by julian of eclanum, who refused to sign the imperial edict.

Under Boniface the vicariate of Gaul, which Pope Zosimus had conferred on Patroclus of Arles, was not renewed. But when the Byzantine Emperor theodosius ii issued an edict (July 14, 421) ordering the Praetorian prefect for Illyricum not to allow ecclesiastical matters affecting his prefecture to be decided without the knowledge of the bishop of Constantinople "because the latter enjoys the prerogative of Old Rome," Boniface persuaded Honorius to obtain from Theodosius II the revocation of his edict. He wrote to Rufus of Thessalonica as his vicar, and to the other Illyrian and Macedonian bishops insisting that they respect the rules of the vicariate. The law of Theodosius was nevertheless retained in both the Theodosian and Justinian Codes despite papal opposition.

Boniface was buried in a chapel or oratory that he built in the cemetery of St. Felicitas on the Via Salaria, the exact location of his tomb being unknown. The date of his death is correctly noted in the martyrology of st. jerome, but wrongly given as October 25 in the Roman martyrology, which follows the Liber pontificalis.

Feast: Sept. 4.

Bibliography: Clavis Patrum latinorum, ed. e. dekkers (2d. ed. Streenbrugge 1961) 164849 and Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina; ed. a. hamman 1:103234, editions. Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne (Paris 187890) 20:749792. Liber pontificalis, ed. l. duchesne, 1 (Paris 188692) 227229; 3:84. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'éologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. chabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 190753) 13.1:1203. r. u. montini, Le tombe dei Papi (Rome 1957) 98. g. schwaiger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 2:587588. g. bardy, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillat et al. (Paris 1912) 9:895897. j. p. burns, "Augustine's Role in the Imperial Action against Pelagius," Journal of Theological Studies 30: 6783. a. diberardino, Patrology (Westminister, MD 1986) 4:586587. e. ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (New York 1997) 1:190. d.frye, "Bishops as Pawns in Early FifthCentury Gaul," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 42: 349361. h. jedin, History of the Church (New York, 1980) 2:261263. j. n. d. kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986) 4041. j. merdinger, Rome and the African Church (New Haven 1997) 114120, 149153. c. ocker, "Augustine, Imperial Interests, and the Papacy in Late Roman Africa," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 42: 179201. c. pietri, Rome Christiana (Rome 1976), 12541270. o.wermingler, Rome und Pelagius (Stuttgart 1975). p.j. carefotte, "Pope Boniface I, the Pelagian Controversy and the Growth of Papal Authority," Augustiniana 46: 26189.

[j. chapin]