Spirituality for Today – August 2010 – Volume 15, Issue 1

The 48th Pope
Saint Felix III

An image of Saint Felix IIISaint Felix III, the 48th Pope

Pope St. Felix III (483-492)
This pope's notoriety surrounded a document known as the Henoticon. The work was the initiative of the emperor Zeno and the patriarch of Constantinople, Acacius as an attempt to resolve the contention between orthodoxy and the heresy of Monophysitism which taught that Jesus Christ did not have both a divine nature and a human nature, but only a divine nature. The Henoticon was cleverly constructed to try to placate all the parties involved with the intent of offending no one. It affirmed Catholic orthodoxy and yet avoided the particular catchwords and phrases surrounding the Monophysite heresy. Pope Felix was outraged over the replacement of the orthodox bishop of Alexandria with a Monophysite bishop and the support given to this heretical bishop by Acacius. The pope summoned Acacius to Rome to acquit himself before the pope regarding this matter. In an example of the adage: "If you want something done right, do it yourself," the representatives of the pope botched their mission so badly that Acacius and many in Constantinople actually thought that the Pope was in favor of the patriarch's viewpoint. The pope responded by excommunicating his legates and Acacius himself. With the fall of the Western empire, Constantinople as the see of the Eastern Church was "feeling its oats" and the excommunication resulted in a decades long schism between the East and West. With the death of Acacius and the restoration of an orthodox bishop in Alexandria, the termination of the schism was expected. The pope, however, would not entertain any progress toward establishing harmony once again between East and West until the name of the late patriarch was expunged from mention in the liturgy.

This intractable pastoral modus operandi was evident also in his dealings with the priests and laity of North Africa who acquiesced to the act of re-baptism required by the conquering Arian barbarians. Reconciliation was accomplished for some after the performance of rigorous penance and for the priests and deacons who gave in to the pressures of the Arians, reconciliation was possible only at the point of one's death.

Pope Felix was buried within Saint Peter's Basilica.

Habemus papam