Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The 12 Greek Popes

In the entire history of the Papacy and the See of Rome there have been 265 Pontiffs. Looking at the Church History we can identify that the descendants of Peter were not only Italian but also French, Spanish, Syrian, African, Dalmatian and Greek. The official records of the Vatican show that 12 of them were Greek. This brings them in fourth place behind the Romans (114), Italians (94) and French (14).

The Greek Popes lived before the Great Schism (1054). They were:
1. Saint Evarestos from Jerusalem, 97-105
2. Saint Telesforos from Taranto, 125-136
3. Saint Iginos from Athens, 136-140
4. St. Eleftherios from Nikopolis (Iperos), 175-189
5. St. Anteros from Greece, 235-236
6. St. Sixtos II from Athens, 257-258
7. St. Eusebios from Greece, 309
8. St. Zosimos from Cappadocia, 417-418
9. Theodoros I from Jerusalem, 642-649
10. Ioannis VI from Ephesus, 701-705
11. Ioannis VII from Southern Italy
12. Saint Zacharias from Southern Italy, 741-752
The work of the Pontiff has always been a difficult one, especially for those who lived during the first millennium, where persecution, heresy and violence were part of daily life. Great was the contribution by the 12 Greek Popes, some of whom were martyrs. 
Evarestos became Pope in 97 AD, 30 years after St. Peter's death. In a period where Christians were persecuted he was able to organise his flock into parishes. He was the one who first recommended the priestly offices, which later formed the body of the cardinals.
Telesforos was a hermit, that is why he is still venerated by the monks of Karmilou. Iginos was the first to state that the churches should be dedicated to saints and that they had to receive their names. Eleftherios was Pope during a period when Christianity was vastly spread within the Byzantine Empire. However Eleftherios had to face Montano's heresy which stated that the Church should abolish the bishops and return to the Apostolic practice and era. However he was beaten by the Pope and was eventually exiled.  
Anteros was Pope only for 43 days because he was assassinated by the prefect Maximus. He was the first Greek Pontiff to be buried in the Crypt of the Popes. Sixtos II was martyred when pagans forced him to sacrifice to the Pagan Gods; after his refusal they beheaded him.  
Eusebios was only head of the Roman Church for four months due to the fact that Emperor Maxentios sent him in exile to Sicily. During his reign there was a great issue with many Christians who renounced their faith due to the persecutions. Hiraklios was a fair believer of returning them back to Christianity without any formality. Pope Eusebios was against this view. This argument was magnified within the Empire and was only dissolved when both Eusebios and Hiraklios were exiled. 
Zosimos was a monk from Cappadocia, Asia Minor. He had to come against the heresy of Pelagianismos, he went against slavery and made it possible for priests and believers to come in contact and refer to the Roman See. 
Theodoros I became Pope at a hard time in the relations between Rome and Constantinople. Theodoros went against the Emperors Constantine X and Consta II and deposed Patriarch Pyrros for his monothelitic beliefs. 
During Ionanni's VI Papacy Rome was becoming more and more independent from the Byzantine Empire, taking its own decisions on many matters, even going against external threat on its own, without the help from the Byzantine army. Ioanni's VII reign was also a period where relations between the two cities, Rome and Constantinople, were not the best. The Emperor, Justinian II asked the Pope to examine the canons from the Quinisext Council and to reject anything he did not agree with, however he refused.
In the course of his Zacharia's Papacy an independence of Rome was in discussion, which would not be under the Byzantine lord of Italy. He became Bishop of Rome without asking for approval from Byzantium. This was due to the fact that Emperor during that period was Leon III, an iconoclast and then Constantine V, again an iconoclast. In 751 the Pope was the one who decided and crowned the King of the Franks. With this initiative Pope Zacharia inaugurated the right to crown and depose the secular rulers, hence after this action the Roman Church emancipated from the influence of Byzantium.

1 comment:

  1. That's a very interesting post from a Church History point of view.