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Mennas, Patriarch of Constantinople


Patriarch of Constantinople 536 to 552; b. Alexandria, c. 500; d. Constantinople, August 552. Mennas first came into prominence as a priest and director of the xenodochium, or pilgrim hospice, of St. Samson in Constantinople. On the deposition of anthimus of trebizond, protégé of Theodora, he was selected and personally consecrated patriarch of Constantinople on March 13, 536, by Pope agapetus, present in the Byzantine capital on a political mission.

The pope died there April 22, and on May 2 Mennas held a synod in which, with five Italian bishops present, he excommunicated Anthimus. In collaboration with the Roman deacon pelagius (later pope) he urged justinian i to condemn origenism, and early in 543 the emperor promulgated such an edict, which was signed by all the patriarchs, including the pope. When, by way of reprisal, Bishop theodore ascidas persuaded Justinian to condemn the three chapters, Mennas signed the edict under protest, but encouraged his suffragans to sign. The papal apocrisiarius Stephen broke communion with the patriarch, and Pope vigilius, summoned to Constantinople by the emperor, did likewise on his arrival on Jan. 25,547. Five months later the pope and patriarch were reconciled (June 29, 547) when the pope acceded to the emperor and condemned the Three Chapters. Vigilius later addressed to Mennas a letter to this effect, the Judicatum, of April 11, 548. Upon the violent opposition of the Western bishops to the pope's action, Justinian was persuaded to allow Vigilius to abolish the Judicatum, which was returned to him by Mennas, whose name together with the pope's had been inscribed on the diptychs in January 550.

In the winter of 551, Vigilus escaped from imperial custody and took refuge in the Church of St. Euphemia in Chalcedon, having broken relations with the patriarch and the emperor over renewed agitation concerning the Three Chapters. In June of 552, Mennas and the episcopal entourage were sent by Justinian to make due apology to the pope, who then reentered communion with them on June 26. In August 552 Mennas died.

While he had been a determined opponent of both Nestorianism and monophysitism, his position as patriarch under Justinian's rule had been most difficult, and he had yielded to the concept of caesaropapism in the Synod of 536, having stated: "It is proper that no questions agitated in the Holy Church should be settled without the advice and command" of the emperor.

Feast: Aug. 25, Latin; Aug. 27, Greek

Bibliography: Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum (Berlin 1914) 3:181. o. volk, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 7:267. e. stein, Histoire du Bas-Empire tr. j. r. palanque (Paris 194959) 383385, 637638, 642645. h. g. beck, Kirche und theologische Literatur im byzantinischen Reich (Munich 1959) 54, 63, 104, 379, 408, 430. w. m. sinclair, A Dictionary of Christian Biography, ed. w. smith and h. wace (London 187787) 3:902903. Acta Sanctorum Aug. 5:164171.

[d. mcgarry]

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