July 2007 - Volume 11, Issue 12

The Eleventh Pope

Saint Anicetus

Photo of a painting of Saint AnicetusPope Saint Anicetus (155-166) - Pope Anicetus was a Syrian from Emesa. Beside his interesting decree forbidding clerics to sport long hair (Gnostics may have had long hair), his reign was highlighted by the controversy over the date of Easter.

In Asia Minor, the popular practice of celebrating Easter was to mark it on the fourteenth day of the month of Nissan - regardless of which day of the week - in the Jewish calendar. Saint Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and disciple of Saint John he Evangelist, came to Rome to discuss the matter of the date of Easter with Pope Anicetus. Considered a Quartdeciman (from the Latin for fourteen), Polycarp was hoping to convince Anicetus to establish the fourteenth of Nissan to be the day for celebrating Easter throughout the Church. The Roman Church had no special feast day set aside for Easter. Every Sunday was regarded as Easter. Anicetus denied the request of Polycarp.

In 325 at the Council of Nicea, it was decided that Easter was to be celebrated on the Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox. Many Eastern Churches celebrate Easter on a different Sunday because they follow the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar.

Pope Anicetus condemned the heresy of Montanism. Some of Montanisms believes: Montanist prophets fulfilled the words of the apostles, emphasis on ecstatic prophesying, no redemption from a fall from grace, and an emphasis on chastity - marriage forbidden. Ironically, their belief that a martyr's death expunged all sin and guaranteed paradise caused many Montanists to live immorally and then throw themselves into the coliseum, declaring that they were Christians and crying out for death. This may provide the grounds for the belief among the pagans that the Christians were deranged.

There is a probability that Pope Anicetus constructed a shrine to Saint Peter on Vatican Hill. It was known to visitors at the turn of the century.

Habemus papam.