Spirituality for Today – June 2012 – Volume 16, Issue 11

The 70th Pope
Pope Honorius I

An image of Pope Honorius the First, the 70th PopePope Honorius I, the 70th Pope

Pope Honorius I (625-638) – The pontificate of Pope Honorius is marked by the imprint of his outstanding gifts as an administrator. He managed the papal estates exceedingly well: there were no food or water shortages, troops were paid in a timely manner, and various building projects, including the restoration of Saint Peter's, were funded adequately. Oh! He also was condemned by the Third Council of Constantinople for doctrinal deviation. This black mark in an otherwise successful pontificate begs explanation.

During this time, the Church was combating a heresy known as Monophysitism: Jesus possessed only a divine nature. Sergius I, patriarch of Constantinople, sent a letter to Pope Honorius sharing the thought that referring to Jesus as having two natures but one "operation" was effective in coping with the heresy. In his reply, Pope Honorius (although defending the teachings of the Council of Chalcedon regarding Jesus having both a human and a divine nature) opined that the working of the Word of God in the two natures of Jesus reflected one divine will. The Third Council of Constantinople condemned this position as the heresy of Monothelitism. Thereby, Pope Honorius joined Pope Vigilius, who was excommunicated by a synod held by the bishops of Africa, in being accused of unorthodox views. In the nineteenth century, those who opposed papal infallibility cited these events in discussions at the First Vatican Council. The defense raised the issues that these were not definitive declarations but only errors in terminology.

Pope Honorius, much respected by the people, was buried in the newly renovated Basilica of Saint Peter.

Habemus papam