Lanternarius Press

POPE FELIX IV, DEFENDER OF GRACE (526-530)

Felix is actually only the third pope of that name, the one known as Felix II being an antipope. A native of Samnium, which is approximqately where the Province of Benevenuto is today in southern Italy, all we know of Felix's early life is that his father's name was Castorius. He may have been the Deacon Felix, whom Pope Hormisdas sent to Constantinople in 519 to try to negotiate the schism.

Pope John I was cast into prison in Ravenna on returning from Constantinople in 526. Fear of the Ostrogoth king, Theodoric, who had John's life in his hands, lead to the papal voters hesitating on how to proceed. Theodoric favored Felix, now a cardinal, and pushed very hard to get him elected. Felix was consecrated July, 12, 526. He chose to use the favors of the king to increase benefits to the Church.

Theodoric died a month later, leaving his daughter, Amalasuntha, as regent for her son, Athalaric, a minor. Amalasuntha was favorably disposed towards the Christians and a period of cooling off followed with an end to the persecution her father had attempted. Realizing that the end of an era had arrived, some of the clergy filed a complaint on the reduction of privileges by civil power. It so happened that the civil govenment was making judgements on complaints of clergy. Ancient tradition called for complaints to be referred to the pope. Cassiodorus, minister to Amalasuntha, and a monk, confirmed that a cleric must be turned over to a priest or an ecclesiastical court established by the pope. Failure to do so would lead to a fine of ten pounds of gold. This set a precedent for hundreds of years.

To show her appreciation to the Christians, Amalasuntha donated two ancient temples to the Church. By combining the two and some other buildings, Felix built the Church of St. Cosmos and Damien, dedicated to two brothers who were from the Eastern Church. thus he showed solidarity with his eastern brothers.

In southern France at the time, there was a continuing argument on grace and free will. The semi-Pelegians believed that the beginning of faith was dependent on the will of a man; and the progression of faith is God's work. The Catholic Church has believed that the beginning of faith is free will, yet the initiative comes from God, but requiring collaboration on the part of man. Thus, since the initial grace comes from God to start, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification. This argument was a force of some concern in France. St. Cesarius of Arles requested help from Pope Felix in presenting a united view. Felix sent essays to churches in southern France, supporting St. Augustine's explanation of grace. In July 529, the essays were presented as canons at the Synod of Orange. Thus came to an end the argument about grace.

During his last sickness, Felix was fearful that the papacy would, once again, be empty due to civil authorities. He gathered many clerics into his room and announced that he wanted Boniface as his successor, recording it carefully. After his death, the voters turned away from his request and nominated Dioscorus. The Senate also reacted by forbidding the discussion or nomination of a pope's successor during his lifetime.

During his four year reign, Felix ordained 55 priests and consecrated 3 bishops. It looked like he packed the Church with those who supported his views.

Felix died September 9, 530. He was buried in the old St. Peter's Basilica.

Quoted by Pope St. Felix: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8).

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