Felix III (II), Pope, St.

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Pontificate: March 13, 483, to Feb. 25, or March 1,492. Felix, successor to Simplicius and a member of the higher clergy closely allied with the senatorial class, was the son of the titular priest of Fasciola (SS. Nereo e Achilleo). The Praetorian Prefect Basil, acting in the name of King Odoacer, seems to have exerted an influence on his election; and Felix seems to be the first pope who officially announced his election to the emperor (Zeno). Seconded by the archdeacon Gelasius, he adopted a firm stand toward the peril of monophysitism in the East. John Talaia, the orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria who fled when Acacius of Constantinople supported Peter Mongus, informed Felix of events in the East. Felix sent to Constantinople legates who demanded the ouster of the Monophysite patriarch. Acacius was summoned to Rome to explain his behavior, but instead of ceding he seems to have perjured himself, and the impression was given that Rome had approved the henotikon. In a Roman council (July 28, 484) Felix excommunicated and deposed Acacius and suspended the legates. The sentence was published in Constantinople through a daring move on the part of the orthodox Akoimetoi monks, and Acacius ordered the pope's name removed from the diptychs.

The acacian schism, thus inaugurated, lasted for 35 years and was the first serious break between East and West. After the death of Acacius (489) and the accession of the Byzantine Emperor anastasius i (491) efforts were made to resolve the quarrel, but without success. While he did not excommunicate the emperor, who was responsible for imposing the Henotikon, Felix addressed him in a letter that was quite different in tone from the usual court communications and warned him "to learn divine things from those who are in charge of them, and not to desire to teach them." He asserted roundly the superiority of the Church in spiritual matters. This letter was in a sense "the opening gun fired in the long struggle between papacy and empire."

Felix also convoked a Lateran council (March 13,487) that discussed the matter of the reconciliation of laymen, priests, and even bishops who had consented to be rebaptized by the Arians in the face of the fierce persecution of the African church by the vandals. Pope Felix was buried in the basilica of St. Paul, in the family crypt, the exact location of which is unknown.

Feast: March 1.

Bibliography: Patrolgiae cursus completus, series latina, ed. a. hamman 3:719722, letters. a. thiel, ed., Epistolae romanorum pontificum (Braunsberg 1868) 1:222279. Liber pontificalis, ed. l. duchesne (Paris 18861958) 1:252254; 3:87. e. caspar, Geschichte de Papsttums von den Anfängen bis zur Höhe der Weltherrschaft (Tübingen 193033) 2:2244, 749752. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 13.1:1211. e. schwartz, Publizistische Sammlungen zum acacianischen Schisma (1934). o. bertolini, Roma di fronte a Bisanzio e ai Longobardi (Bologna 1941) 3139. t. g. jalland, The Church and the Papacy (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge 1944) 315321. w. ullmann, The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages (2d ed. New York 1962). r. u. montini, Le tombe dei Papi (Rome 1957) 104. g. schwaiger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 3d. ed. (Freiburg 1995).

[j. chapin]