Popes in a Year
#13 - Pope Eleutherius
Pope from 174-189 A.D.
Died: 189 A.D.
How do we know he was pope?
St. Eleutherius was the last of the popes listed in St. Irenaeus’
(Against heresy), since it was he who appointed St. Irenaeus as bishop of Lyon, France.
Give me the scoop on Eleutherius.
Greek by birth, the meaning of his name - “freeman” - suggests he might’ve been a freed slave. Eleutherius served as a deacon in Rome under his two predecessors, St. Anicetus & St. Soter, until being appointed “Pope E." Let’s be honest, even native Greek speakers probably struggled with that name. He was first honored as a saint by the 9th Century hagiographer (aka “saint biography writer”) Ado, and his feast day is celebrated May 26.
What was he known for?
He was known mostly for battling the Montanist heresy and appointing St. Irenaeus to lead the Church in Lyon. Montanism - or “the New Prophecy” - was initially just kind of weird, rather than being outright heretical; Montanist prophets basically declared prophecies and ecstasies loudly, but without really teaching anything against the faith...at first.
As Montanism began to actually teach error, and since the Church was still technically illegal, Eleutherius couldn’t just elbow the Roman sitting next to him and say, “Get a load o’ these guys.” Instead, he had to have a plan to both quiet them down and deal with the problem. Thankfully, Irenaeus volunteered as tribute to send a letter to churches being affected by the burgeoning heresy.
Historian Eusebius records that the Church took a “ prudent and most orthodox” viewpoint (always a good decision). It seems to have worked, too. When was the last time you met a Montanist?
St. Eleutherius’ remains are housed in the Church of Santa Susanna in Rome, and were apparently moved there in 1591 upon request of Camila Peretti, sister of Pope Sixtus V.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius died (180), paving the way for his son, Commodus, to become crowned next. Commodus’ reign (180-192) was distinct in that it was nearly all peaceful and devoid of persecutions for the fledgling Christian religion.
Coming tomorrow....Pope St. Victor I
- John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
- “Pope St. Eleutherius” -
- “Pope Eleutherius” -
- “Montanism” -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Wednesday, January 18 at 2:00AM