Spirituality for Today – October 2009 – Volume 14, Issue 3

The 38th Pope

Saint Siricius

An illustration of Pope SiriciusPope St. Siricius I

Pope St. Siricius (384-399) – Given the turmoil and controversy surrounding his predecessor, the wide approval accompanying the election of Sericius as pope pleased everyone, especially emperor Valentinian II who did not hesitate in officially confirming his election (an act that stilled any left-over unrest).

Pope Siricius was firm, although pastoral, in his instructions regarding the treatment of repentant heretics. In 386, the heretic Priscillian was executed and has the dubious distinction of being the first of such individuals to suffer death for reasons of doctrinal error. Pope Siricius condemned the act. He did, however, excommunicate a monk named Jovian who held views contrary to Church teaching. A schism broke out in Antioch regarding the legitimacy of two opposing bishops. With the urging of Saint Ambrose, Pope Siricius resolved the issue in approving the choice of one of the bishops. The candidate was affirmed in a regional council.

Pope Siricius initiated a "first" among the popes. He used the format of an imperial edict in issuing his directives - an instrument known as a decretal. This document was legally binding and usually provided instructions regarding Church practice and discipline. One such decretal required that no bishop may be consecrated without papal knowledge - the primacy of the "Apostolic See" - and no bishop is to be consecrated by only one consecrator.

Pope Siricius is interred in the basilica of San Silvestro.

Habemus papam