Spirituality for Today – February 2008 – Volume 12, Issue 7

The Eighteenth Pope

Saint Pontian

A painting of Saint PontianPope St. Pontian (230-235) - The first years of the reign of Pope Pontian [ Pontianus] was under the favorable and peaceful rule of the Emperor Severus. In 235 a new Emperor, Maximus Thrax, came to power. The Emperor Maximus was decidedly anti-Christian and launched a persecution directed primarily at the leadership of the Church. Pope Pontian was deported to the island of Sardinia. Hippolytus, still in schism, was also deported to the prision colony on Sardinia where he and Pope Pontian reportedly reconciled their differences. The schism resulted from disagreements Hippolytus had with two of the predecessors of Pope Pontian over what he (Hippolytus) saw as softness on heretical views of the time and laxity regarding Church discipline, Hippolytus presided over his own congregation in Rome. In effect, Hippolytus became the first anti-pope. The reconciliation with the Church was complete and Hippolytus instructed his followers to return to the Catholic Church. Both Pontian and Hippolytus would die in exile on Sardinia and both of them are numbered among the saints of the Church.

As is so often the case with the popes of the earliest centuries of the Church, little is known of the administrative and ministerial work of Pope Pontian. One noteworthy occurrence during the reign of Pope Pontian is recorded. A Synod was called by the pope that formally approved the condemnation of the teacher and theologian Origen.

Later, Pope Fabian would bring the bodies of Pope Pontian and Hippolytus back to Rome and had them interred in the catacombs of Callistus located on the Appian Way.

Habemus papam