Spirituality for Today – April 2009 – Volume 13, Issue 9

The 32nd Pope

Saint Melchiades

A photo of a statue Saint MelchiadesSaint Melchiades

Pope Saint Melchiades (Miltiades), (312-314) – It is beyond question that good fortune was visited upon the first years of the pontificate of Pope Melchiades. In 313, the Edict of Milan, declared by the new emperor Constantine, raised the Church from the shadows of persecution into the bright sunlight of freedom. Inspired by his vision of a cross bearing the words In hoc signo vinces, the victory of Constantine over his brother-in-law Maxentius at the battle at the Milvian Bridge merited the Church abundant prestige and the return of confiscated land and possessions. The pope was presented with the palace of the empress Fausta located on Monte Celio which became, and still remains, the papal residence – the Lateran.

An all too familiar controversy marked the reign of Pope Melchiades, the readmission of the lapsi (those who compromised their beliefs during the time of persecution) to full communion with the Church. The newly consecrated bishop of Carthage, Caecilian ran afoul of the faction opposing his consecration, accusing the new bishop of turning over sacred books to Roman officials during the persecution. This group consecrated a rival to Caecilian named Majorinus. Shortly thereafter, Majorinus was succeeded by Donatus who required the rebaptism of the lapsed as well as the re-ordination of lapsed clergy. After mediating the case at a synod at the Lateran, Pope Melchiades ruled in favor of Caecilian and excommunicated Donatus.

Pope Melchiades was buried in the cemetery of Callistus.

Habemus papam!