Hormisdas, Pope, St.

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Pontificate: July 20, 514 to Aug. 6, 523. Pope Symmachus was succeeded by Hormisdas, archdeacon of the Roman Church, whose name points to a Persian or Eastern origin, possibly on the maternal side. The new pope's father was Justus; Hormisdas's son Silverius later became pope. Under Hormisdas hopes were raised for a settlement of the acacian schism. In a conciliatory gesture, Hormisdas received the remaining followers of Laurentius into communion. After consulting Theodoric, Arian Gothic king of Italy, Hormisdas dispatched an embassy consisting of Bp. ennodius of Pavia and Bp. Fortunatus of Catina to Constantinople with precise instructions on how to act in reply to Emperor anastasius i's request for a council. The schism with the East was ultimately settled, four years later, in almost exact conformity with the terms laid down by Hormisdas in 515, and it was insisted that the council was to clearly recognize chalce don and the Tome of Leo as the standard of orthodoxy; that the emperor's letter requesting the bishops' signatures must state this unequivocally; that the bishops must make a formal profession of orthodoxy in their churches and must condemn the Monophysite leaders by name; that, in the presence of witnesses, they must sign a formula or libellus containing a statement of the true faith drawn up by the papal notaries; and that the cases of exiled bishops must be examined afresh by the apostolic see, while those of bishops who were accused of persecuting the orthodox were to be reserved to the pope.

Hormisdas promised to come to Constantinople if his presence were needed but Emperor Anastasius I had overcome the immediate danger to his throne and began to temporize on the question of holding a council. He tried to stir up the Roman senate against Pope Hormisdas. New legates were sent to Constantinople, but they were dismissed after an attempt had been made to corrupt them. At this juncture, the emperor died and was succeeded by the Chalcedonian Prefect of the Praetorian Guard, a former peasant, justin i.

Aided by his nephew and mentor justinian i, the new emperor at once took steps aimed at restoring Chalcedonian orthodoxy in the empire and invited the pope to send legates to end the schism. Hormisdas complied, designating two bishops, a priest, a deacon, a notary, and the skillful deacon dioscorus (later pope) to represent him. The papal emissaries arrived at Constantinople on March 25, 519; they were greeted outside the city walls by Count Justinian and escorted with great pomp into the presence of the emperor, who received them surrounded by the senate and the four patriarchs of the East.

Since the legates had come only to receive signatures, they refused to enter into discussions. Three days later, Patriarch John II of Constantinople and all the bishops present in the capital, as well as the heads of monasteries, signed the papal statement of faith, and the names of Acacius, zeno, and Anastasius I were stricken from the diptychs. The pope had not requested condemnation of the emperors, but Justin and Justinian decided to demean the reputations of their predecessors to strengthen their own positions. The legates remained in the East for a year and a half, collecting signatures and supervising the restoration of communion. Only in a few instances did they meet with effective resistance from churches that objected to the stringency of the demand regarding the removal of names from the diptychs. Justin and Justinian both appealed to the pope for a more lenient attitude, and Hormisdas agreed to allow the patriarch of Constantinople "to put on our person" and decide each case on its merits, informing the apostolic see of the results. But there were also setbacks. The emperor refused to agree to sending Eastern bishops to Rome for trial; he also denied Hormisdas' wish that Dioscorus be appointed Bishop of Alexandria.

The statement signed by the Eastern bishops is commonly known as the formula of Hormisdas and undoubtedly represents a great triumph for the Roman see, or rather, for the orthodoxy for which it so firmly stood. It is unquestionably the most pro-Roman, propapal statement ever signed by the Byzantine bishops. Some of them, doubtless, signed against their better judgment. The recognition of Roman claims implicit in some of the language, particularly the apparent identification of what is orthodox with what the Roman see has defined, and the equating of communion with that see with the Catholic Church, was probably going further than many would have preferred. However, when viewed in context, it is evident that the pro-Roman phraseology used was compatible with looser Byzantine notions about the hierarchy and the papal primacy, and there is danger in attempting to read too much into it as an acknowledgment of Roman claims. It must also be recognized that this triumph resulted almost completely from the desire of the emperor and his nephew to settle the schism not only because they were Chalcedonians but also because they considered that step to be a prerequisite to their intended extension of Byzantine power into Italy.

The text of the formula is extant in seven ancient versions that differ slightly one from another. The version that Pope Hormisdas sent to the bishops of Spain in 517 is probably the most authentic. The preface that Patriarch John II insisted on appending to the version he signed was designed to safeguard the rights of his see as defined by previous councils. Its acceptance by Rome implied at least tacit recognition of the Council of constantinople i (381) as ecumenical, which Rome had hitherto always refused. It was not the intention of this preface to water down the language of the formula itself.

Before leaving Constantinople the papal legates were approached by the theopaschite monks from Little Scythia, so called because they endeavored to reconcile the Monophysites by winning general acceptance for the formula: "One of the Trinity suffered in the flesh." Undaunted by the refusal of the legates to approve the phrase since it had Monophysite associations, the monks came to Rome and besieged the pope with entreaties until he finally had them expelled from the city. To Emperor Justin, who had meanwhile taken up the phrase in the hopes of being able to reconcile the Severan Monophysites to Chalcedon, the pope wrote that the Council of Chalcedon and the Tome of Pope Leo were sufficient; he would neither approve nor disapprove the new formula, but he warned against its possible misinterpretation.

The death of King Thrasamund (523) brought an end to the persecution of the Church in the Vandal kingdom of North Africa, and the pope re-established contact with the African hierarchy. He also requested Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk resident in Rome, to prepare a Latin translation of the canons of the Eastern churches. Pope Hormisdas was buried in the portico of St. Peter's. Over 100 of his letters are extant; most of them are preserved by the Collectio Avellana (Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 35).

Feast: Aug. 6.

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[j. chapin]