Zephyrinus, Pope, St.
ZEPHYRINUS, POPE, ST.
Pontificate: 198 to 217. Eusebius records that Zephyrinus became pope c. 200 and reigned for 18 or 19 years. The Annuario Pontificio of 2000 begins his pontificate in 198. The Liber pontificalis, which gives several untrustworthy reports about him, states that he was a Roman, the son of Habundius, although his name is Greek. The persecution of the Christians under Septimius Severus during his pontificate was worse in the provinces than in Rome. He appointed callistus i curator of the cemetery in Rome. The learned and caustic hippolytus, who became an antipope, depicts Zephyrinus as a dull, unlearned man, the puppet of his ambitious rival, Callistus. This is an overstatement, but Zephyrinus was a weak man who depended heavily upon Callistus. Zephyrinus would not condemn monarchianism and patripassianism as Hippolytus desired. According to harnack, the statements Hippolytus attributes to him form the oldest recorded, dogmatic definition of a Roman bishop.
During his pontificate, the adoptionist followers (see adoptionism) of Theodotus of Byzantium continued in Rome with a salaried bishop, Natalius, but they eventually returned to the Church. Tertullian accused Zephyrinus of having accepted Montanism initially, but then of having abandoned it. The learned Roman Gaius refuted the montanism of Proclus, while the visit of the renowned origen, a correspondent of Hippolytus, "to see the most ancient church of Rome" indicates the importance of the see at this time. The martyrology of st. jerome gives Zephyrinus's feast as December 20. His place of burial in the cemetery of Callistus is uncertain.
Feast: Aug. 26.
Bibliography: eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 2:25; 5:28; 6:14, 20. É. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., (Paris 1903–50) 15.2:3690–91. a. mercati and a. pelzer, Dizionario ecclesiastico (Turin 1954–58) 3:1400. e. ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (New York 1997) 2.1187–88. j. n. d. kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986) 12–13.
[e. g. weltin]