Felix I, Pope, St.

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Pontificate: Jan. 5, 269 to Dec. 30, 274. The Liber pontificalis states that Felix was a Roman, son of Constantius, but this report is unreliable, as is the assertion that he instituted the celebration of Mass over the sepulchers and memorials of martyrs. This custom had been observed before Felix's time, and he continued the practice.

Early in Felix's reign a letter addressed to his predecessor, Pope dionysius, arrived in Rome from the synod of Antioch, which had deposed Bishop paul of samosata for his heretical teachings on the Trinity. Felix probably sent a reply to this report. There is an important sidelight to this event. In 272 Paul appealed his case to the emperor Valerian (270275) who referred the matter to the bishops in Italy, and particularly Rome. Apparently the matter did not reach Italy, but the emperor's attitude suggests that he was familiar with the Italian churches and was not hostile to them, although he later turned against the Christians. Scholars agree that the epistolary treatise on Christ addressed to Maximus of Alexandria and cited by St. cyril of alexandria (Apol. 6), the Council of ephesus (431), and St. vincent of lÉrins (Commonit. 2.30) is not Felix's letter, but a forgery perpetrated by the followers of apollinaris of laodicea.

The fourth-century Roman calendar of feasts maintained that Felix was buried in the bishops crypt in the catacomb of St. Callixtus. The Liber pontificalis erroneously calls him a martyr and claims that he was buried on the Via Aurelia, confusing him with a Roman martyr of the same name.

Feast: May 30.

Bibliography: eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 7.30, 32. e. caspar, Geschichte de Papsttums von den Aufängen bis zur Höhe der Weltherrschaft (Tübingen 193033) 1:43, 84, 468. j. quasten, Patrology (Westminster, Md. 1950) 2:242. e. ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (New York 1997) 1:426. j. n. d. kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986) 23. g. schwaiger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 3d. ed. (Freiburg 1995).

[e. g. weltin]