Lanternarius Press

POPE BONIFACE II, THE FIRST GERMANIC POPE

Pope St. Boniface II ruled just about two years, much of it trying to prove that he was the valid pope. Boniface was born probably near Rome, but of Germanic parentage, his father being Sigisbald.

This was not unusual since many Ostrogoths had moved there after taking over the throne of Italy. Boniface, himself, was probably born an Ostrogoth, following the Arian religion but early in his life he came to the Catholic Faith. During the papacy of Felix IV, Bonaface was the archdeacon and was very influential with both Church and governmental authorities.

Pope Felix had been assisted to the chair of Peter, it was said, by King Theodoric, the Ostrogothic king of Italy. When Theodoric died, in 526, the king's small grandson, Athalaric became king, with Theodoric's daughter as regent. Although Amatasuntha, the regent, was kind and giving to the Church, she was an Arian, and not trusted. Felix, although pope, was seen as being supported by the Arians. Thus, there was much suspicion when, on his deathbed, Felix ordered priests from Rome to watch him nominate 40 year old Boniface, an Ostrogoth by birth, as his successor. Felix granted Boniface the pallium. Then he threatened the others with excommunication if they would not recognize Boniface as the next pope. After Felix's death, 60 of 70 Roman priests refused to accept Boniface as automatic pope. They nominated Dioscorus, from Alexandria, instead. Both men were consecrated pope on the same day, September 22, 530. Thus began the seventh antipapal schism!

Luckily, or unluckily, Dioscorus died 22 days later. Boniface needed to hold on to his tenuous title. He convened a synod and presented a decree to the attendees anathametizing Dioscorus. He secured the signatures of all who had supported Dioscorus. And each apologized for their participation in what he saw as an irregular election. He got pledges of future obedience from all. But no consequent election occured to formalize his position. Boniface, being of a mild and conciliatory nature, did not push the issue.

The next year, Boniface called another synod. At this one he presented a constitution giving himself the power to nominate or appoint the next pope. He then nominated Vigillius, a deacon, and the constitution was ratified. There was much resentment on the part of the clergy and the emperor, who asked for a change.

So, a third synod was called. The constitution was rescinded and Boniface personally burned the document.

Boniface took some positive steps in his two years on the throne. The year before his accession to the throne, the Second Council of Orange was held. It argued whether an act of faith was total free will or if it began with the grace of God. St. Augustine of Hippo claimed that grace was preeminent. Believing the opposite was the semi-Pelagian controversy. Caesarius, archbishop of Arles, wrote to the new pope asking for confirmation of the decisions. Boniface replied, condemning certain semi-Pelagian doctrines, thus upholding the Council. Thus, the doctrine that grace is always necessary for salvation was stated and has remained.

Following the Vandal destruction of north Africa, and subsequent rebuilding, an appeal from the African bishops came to the pope. They asked him to confirm primatial rights for the archbishop of Carthage. Boniface did so.

Since Rome was now the accepted capital of Christianity, Boniface boldly chose to change the nomenclature of the years. Years had always been numbered AUD, meaning years after the founding of Rome. Boniface began the use of AD (Anno Domini), in the year of the Lord.

Despite all arguments, Boniface was noted for his charity to the poor, especially during a famine year.

The pope died October 17, 532 at the age of 42. He was buried in St. Peter's.

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