Popes in a Year
#75 - Pope St. Eugene I
Pope from August 10, 654 - June 2, 657 A.D.
Died: June 2, 657 A.D.
aka Eugenius I
Give me the scoop on Eugene I.
Eugene was a Roman, whose father’s name was Rufianus. He served as a priest for most of his adult life, and was known for being a gentle, holy, and charitable man. The circumstances around his election were, shall we say, irregular. Eugene definitely was elected during his predecessor’s lifetime, as it appears the emperor tried to force a papal election after Pope St. Martin I’s arrest and exile in 653. Saying, “be careful what you wish for,” the clergy in Rome answered the emperor by electing an equally holy and orthodox pope to replace Martin I on August 10, 654.
It’s said that even Martin I recognized Eugene as pope. However, though Martin never formally resigned and canonically there can only ever be one legit pope at a time, the exact details are lost to history. St. Eugene died in Rome after a short reign on June 2, 657.
What was he known for?
Since Monothelitism was still a thing, St. Eugene had the same work cut out for him as St. Martin did. Immediately after becoming pope, Eugene sent an envoy to Constantinople, both to notify the emperor of his election and to continue lobbying for an orthodox profession of faith from him. The emperor, having different plans, tricked Eugene’s representatives and sent back to the pope a revision of his own. St. Maximus the Confessor, while still imprisoned by the emperor, thought the revision was utter nonsense, and made his feelings known to the pope. Eugene smoothed things over as best he could, aiming for unity over polemics at every turn. Odds are good that Eugene would have met the same fate as St. Martin, had the Muslim army not overtaken Emperor Constans II at the Battle of Phoenix in 655.
Pope St. Eugene I was likely the pope who welcomed the English king St. Wilfrid on his first visit to Rome around the year 654. The 20-year-old king was warmly welcomed by the pope, who, the Venerable Bede recounts, “placed his blessed hand on the head of the youthful servant of God, prayed for him, and blessed him.”
What else was going on in the world at the time?
The year 656 brought the first Islamic Civil War, when an armed revolt erupted in Egypt. The subsequent infighting brought the expanse of Muslim rule to an abrupt stop.
Coming Monday....Pope St. Vitalian
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope St. Eugene I -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Friday, April 14 at 2:00AM