Boniface II, Pope

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Pontificate: Sept. 20 or 22, 530 to Oct. 10, 532; b. Rome, date unknown; d. Rome. Boniface, the first pope of German lineage, was an archdeacon under Pope felix iv, who was determined to avoid contention and schism by designating his successor in the papacy and preferred a cleric who was favorable to the imperial court at Ravenna. Shortly before his death, Felix summoned the Roman clergy and several Roman senators and conferred the pallium of papal sovereignty on Boniface, proclaiming him his successor as pope.

On the death of Felix IV, a large majority of the Roman clergy refused to accept Boniface as bishop and proceeded to elect the deacon Dioscorus of Alexandria. Opposition to Boniface stemmed also from the Romans' fear of Ostrogothic domination. Dioscorus and Boniface were consecrated bishops on the same day (Sept. 22, 530), giving rise to the seventh antipapal schism, which lasted only 22 days since Dioscorus died on Oct. 14, 530. The leaderless Dioscoran faction then reconciled themselves with Boniface II. He convened a Roman synod and forced the submission of his opponents, who had to pledge obedience to him as pope and condemn in writing the memory of Dioscorus (Dec. 27, 530). Having made his point, Boniface wisely avoided avenging himself on his opponents and tried to live in peace with all his clergy.

In 537, Boniface convoked a second synod, at which he proposed a constitution granting the pope the right to appoint his successor. Since the Roman clergy subscribed and pledged their support, Boniface nominated the deacon Vigilius as his successor; and the choice was ratified by the Roman priests and people. In a short time, however, resentment grew; and after an imperial protest against such action, a third synod was convoked in 531. In the presence of the Roman Senate, Boniface rescinded the former arrangement and personally burned the document.

During his pontificate Boniface II confirmed the acts of the Second Council of Orange (529), which under the leadership of caesarius of arles terminated the controversies over semi-pelagianism. He was esteemed by the populace for his charity, particularly during a famine in Rome. In a jurisdictional dispute in Illyria, Boniface intervened, upholding the election of Stephen of Larissa against the jurisdictional encroachment of Epiphanius of Constantinople, who still insisted on his rights in that area. Boniface was buried in St. Peter's, where a fragment of his epitaph is still visible.

Bibliography: a. schwaiger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 2:588. c.j. von hefele, Histoire des conciles d'après les documents originaux (Paris 190738) 2.2:111519, 135865. e. ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (New York 1997) 1:190. h. jedin, History of the Church (New York 1980) 2:626. j. n. d.kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986) 57. j. richards, Popes and Papacy the Early Middle Ages (London 1979) 122125.

[a. h. skeabeck]