Popes in a Year
#18 - Pope St. Pontian
Pope from 230-235 A.D.
Died: 235 or 236 A.D.
How do we know he was pope?
(“Book of Popes”) lists Pope St. Pontian as the immediate successor of Urban I. Church historian Eusebius, writing around 325 AD, confirms the same and lists him as the 17th successor of St. Peter.
Give me the scoop on Pontian.
Pontian was a Roman by birth, and his father’s name was Calpurnius (according to the
). The majority of his time as pope was easy-breezy, but that changed in 235. The new emperor, Maximinus Thrax, who apparently didn’t like legitimate OR illegitimate popes, exiled both Pontian and Hippolytus (the antipope) into slavery on the island of Sardinia. Pontian realized he wouldn’t make it off the island in this lifetime, so he resigned his office on September 28, 235 and died soon thereafter.
What was he known for?
St. Pontian is best known for making the most of a, shall we say, less-than-ideal situation. Pontian's greatest act was helping to convert Hippolytus and bring him back into communion with the universal Church, ending an 18-year schism. The two men presumably had a lot of time to chat while exiled, so the conversation must inevitably have come around to the unfortunate separation. After their reconciliation, both men died in Sardinia. Their remains were eventually returned to Rome, and together they're honored as saints.
Pope St. Pontian was the first pope to resign his office instead of vacating it with his death, making him the first of 11 popes to freely abdicate the Chair of Peter in the nearly 2,000-year history of the Church.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In 232, the Roman and Persian armies clashed after Persia invaded Mesopotamia. The Romans ultimately withdrew, but the two armies ended up signing a truce after suffering heavy losses in both camps.
Coming tomorrow....Pope St. Anterus
- John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
- Pope St. Pontian -
- Pope Pontian -
- Sts. Pontian & Hippolytus -
- 230s -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Wednesday, January 25 at 2:00AM