Fabian, Pope, St.

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Pontificate: 236 to Jan. 20, 250. The Liber pontificalis describes Fabian as a Roman and credits him with dividing the city into seven ecclesiastical districts with seven deacons and seven subdeacons. The latter were associated with seven notaries to compile the acts of the martyrs. The liberian catalogue noted his building activities in the Roman cemeteries: multas fabricas per cimiteria fieri iussit. These fabricas must have included the completion of the bishops' grotto in the cemetery of Calixtus. cyprian of carthage describes Fabian as honorable, and praises the integrity of his administration. Fabian approved the condemnation of the African Bishop Privatus of Lambaesis, and apparently did not respond to Origen's letters seeking some measure of reconciliation after his earlier condemnation by Bishop Pontianus.

Getting permission to transfer the bodies of the martyrs pontianus and hippolytus from Sardinia and to bury them with honors in Rome, implies that the Roman church had friends in authority, not surprising during the reign of the pro-Christian emperor Philip the Arab (244249). Ironically, it was Fabian who ordained the future schismatic novatian. The church historian Eusebius records that when the community sought a successor to anterus, a dove settled on Fabian's head, which the community took to be a sign from God. He died during the persecution of decius, was buried in the cemetery of Callistus, and later translated to the Basilica of St. Sebastian.

Feast: Jan. 20.

Bibliography: eusebius, Ecclesiastical History. 6:29, 34, 36,39. cyprian, Correspondance, ed. and tr. l. bayard, (Paris 1925) 1:9, 30. p. godet, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., (Paris 190350) 5:205051. e. ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (New York 1997), 1.415. j. n. d. kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986), 1617. g. schwaiger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 3d. ed. 3 (Freiburg 1995), s.v. "Fabianus, heilig, Papst."

[e. g. weltin]