Spirituality for Today – February 2010 – Volume 14, Issue 7

The 42nd Pope

St. Boniface I

A photo of a sculpture of Christ and a lamb

Pope Saint Boniface I (418-422) – For the fifth time in the history of the young Church, the papal election experienced schism in the selection of two rival popes. In a scenario too bizarre to grasp today, a group of deacons and some others seized the Lateran basilica and elected as pope the Archdeacon Eulalius. When other bishops and priests tried to enter the basilica to engage their rightful role in selecting the new pope, they were violently driven out. The next day these gathered at the Church of Theodora and elected the highly regarded priest Boniface. The stage was set for fifteen months of turmoil. The Prefect, a pagan, favored Eulalius and convinced the emperor to exile Boniface from Rome. Powerful supporters of Boniface (including the sister of the emperor) convinced the emperor to restore Boniface. A council was held at Revenna, but no decision was reached. The emperor told both of the rivals to leave Rome until a decision could be made. Against the emperor's orders, Eulalius returned to claim his allegedly rightful position as pope. This action caused great unrest in the city. Maddened, the emperor deposed him forcefully and recognized Boniface as the true successor of Peter.

Pope Boniface spent much of his papacy engaged in the struggle against Pelagianism which taught that salvation is attained through human effort alone - no grace is needed. The pope strongly defended the primacy of Rome. His was the famous axiom, "Roma locuta est; causa finita est." Rome has spoken; the case is finished.

Boniface is interred in the chapel in the cemetery of Saint Felicity in the Via Salaria.

Habemus papam