Felix II, Antipope

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Pontificate: 355 to Nov. 22, 366. When the emperor Constantius II (337361) exiled Pope Liberius (352366) for opposing his Arianizing policies, the archdeacon Felix led the Roman clergy in proclaiming allegiance to their exiled bishop. The emperor pressured the clergy, who eventually gave way and elected Felix to be pope, probably in the imperial palace at Ravenna. The Romans resisted Felix, and during a visit to Rome in 357, Constantius found the people imploring him to reinstate Liberius. The emperor held on for another year but then decided that he could only maintain peace in the city by allowing Liberius to returnbut not as the one pope; only as co-bishop with Felix. The Romans rejected this and drove Felix from the city. He attempted a return, only to be driven away again. He refused to resign and took up residence in the suburbs with a dwindling number of followers. The city prefect made no effort to depose him, preferring instead to keep the two claimants and their followers at a distance so that no trouble would break out. Felix died in 365, a year before Liberius, who avoided trouble by reconciling himself with Felix's clergy, one of whom may have been the future pope Damasus I (366384).

This antipope had a posthumous influence on papal history, however. The Liber pontificalis gives him a favorable entry, and his name is entered in the list of popes, so that the next pope named Felix is styled Felix III or Felix II (III) (483492), and the third of that name is Felix IV or Felix III (IV) (526530). No legitimate pope subsequently took that name, although an antipope of the conciliar period styled himself Felix V (14391449).

Bibliography: h. jedin, ed., History of the Church (New York 1980) 2:249250. j. n. d. kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986) 3132. c. pietri, Roma Christiana (Rome 1976) 237268. g. schwaiger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 3d. ed. (Freiburg 1995).

[j. f. kelly]