Popes in a Year
#70 - Pope Honorius I
Pope from October 27, 625 - October 12, 638 A.D.
Died: October 12, 638 A.D.
Give me the scoop on Honorius I.
Breaking the trend of popes taking foreeeever to take office, Honorius I was elected just two days after the death of Boniface V. In his almost 13 years as pope, Honorius was plenty busy. Dwindling Byzantine power in the West meant that the pope had to take charge of upholding the civil infrastructure aside from his religious duties. As a result, Honorius begun managing the Roman aqueducts and the city’s water supply, in addition to already overseeing the food supply.
On the Church front, Honorius helped mend a schism between the Roman Church and the diocese in Aquileia, a region in the northeast corner of Italy. He also wrote to Spain’s bishops to stir up their zeal for the faith, contributed much to the continued evangelization of Britain, and helped the Irish Church choose to adopt the Roman celebration of Easter. The delegation from the Emerald Isle told the pope that they came to Rome “as children to their mother.” Honorius I died on October 12, 638.
What was he known for?
Well...Honorius I is perhaps best known for having been condemned as a heretic by an ecumenical council of the Church, and is yet another pope used as an argument against papal infallibility. There’s more to the story (as always), and thankfully Honorius wasn’t actually a heretic.
A new heresy, called Monothelitism, had bubbled up into the highest levels of the Church, teaching that Christ only had one will -- a combination of the Divine and human. Honorius received a letter from the Monothelite patriarch of Constantinople, Sergius, asking him whether Christ had one “operation” or two. Given the ambiguous language, Honorius decided to condemn both versions of Sergius' phrasing. The problem, however, is that saying Christ had two “operations” could technically be viewed as orthodox, so some saw Honorius’ condemnation of it as heretical.
In reality, Honorius was simply being negligent by not being more specific in his response, thereby allowing the heresy an unfortunate foothold to grow. Furthermore, the condemnation of Honorius as a heretic at the Third Council of Constantinople of 680 wasn’t ever endorsed by Leo II (pope at the time) but instead was revised and reissued by him. The revision still condemned Honorius, but did so only for negligence in not preventing the heresy from spreading.
for a more lengthy explanation.
Despite all the Monothelite hullabaloo, Honorius still died with a sterling reputation and high esteem among those who knew him. The
acclaims him, saying that “few popes did more for the restoration and beautifying of churches of Rome” than Honorius. He rebuilt and fixed up St. Peter’s Basilica, giving it an ornate entryway and a new roof, as well as restoring the Churches of St. Agnes and St. Pancratius.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
On June 8, 632, a few months shy of Honorius I’s 7th anniversary as pope, the Muslim prophet Muhammad died at Medina at the age of 63.
Coming Monday....Pope Severinus
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope Honorius I -
Pope Honorius I -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Friday, April 7, 2017 at 2:00AM