Popes in a Year
#49 - Pope St. Gelasius I
Pope from 492-496 A.D.
Died: 496 A.D.
Give me the scoop on Gelasius I.
Gelasius was the third and final pope to hail from North Africa, though he was, at the same time, a Roman citizen. He was a particularly gifted writer, having been charged with compiling church documents for his predecessor, Felix III, and (once he was pope) was in fact the most prolific of the early popes. Many letters and miscellaneous letter fragments written by Gelasius I still exist and can be found in the Vatican archives.
in a letter to Emperor Anastasius
"There are two powers by which chiefly this world is ruled: the sacred authority of the priesthood and the authority of kings. And of these the authority of the priests is so much the weightier, as they must render before the tribunal of God an account even for the kings of men."
Pope St. Gelasius I
Gelasius was only pope for a short time, having ruled little more than three and a half years at his death on November 19, 496. His feast day is November 21.
What was he known for?
Gelasius had to deal with the Acacian Schism, which still divided the East and West over the correct teaching on the nature of Christ. Presumably fed up with the nonsense, Gelasius didn’t shy away from writing in definite, and sometimes severe, tones in an effort to get his point across. His writings and teachings covered things like the supremacy of the pope over the whole Church, the
heresy, the abolition of a pagan festival called the “Lupercalia,” and (as we read above) the proper understanding of the relation between church and state. On papal supremacy in particular, it’s generally understood that Gelasius’ writings on the primacy of the Chair of Peter were the the Church's strongest arguments in favor of it for many centuries, before or after his reign.
Pope Gelasius I is the man to thank for the veneration of one of the Church’s most storied saints. In 494, Gelasius is said to have canonized St. George, the legendary dragon-slayer, noting that he was one of many saints "whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God."
What else was going on in the world at the time?
Clovis I, the king of the Franks, was baptized at Rheims just a month after the death of Gelasius I, on Christmas Day 496. His choice of Catholicism over Arianism, along with the Frankish kingdom becoming what we now know as France, is the primary reason France is known as “The Eldest Daughter of the Church.”
Coming tomorrow....Pope Anastasius II
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope St. Gelasius I -
Pope Gelasius I -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Thursday, March 9 at 2:00AM