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Pope Boniface IV, Admirer of Discipline

Boniface was born around 550 AD. He was the son of a man named Johannes, a physician, from the area of Maria and town of Valeria. It is assumed that he was a student of Pope Gregory I. Around 591, Boniface was ordained a Cardinal-deacon. Under that office, he served Gregory as treasurer or dispenator. In other words, he was the first official in connection with the administration of patrimonies.

Pope Boniface III died in November, 607. But, due to the need to get permission from the Byzantine emperor, it was August or September of the next year before Boniface could be legally consecrated. This was the first time a pope had the same name as his immediate predecessor.

Unfortunately, this pope had many of the same problems as previous popes. Famine, plague and other natural disasters constantly attacked the Italian peninsula. On top of that, the Lombards in northern Italy were still a danger to the south. Many of the Lombards were also associated with the Monophysites. Those of this belief not only saw Christ having one nature, rather than two like the orthodox Christians, but saw themselves as a separate political force. The bishops who followed this teaching cooperated not only with Lombards but with the Persians who wished to invade the Byzantium Empire.

In 608, the usurper Emperor Phocus, who was already at war with the Persians, was faced with the rebellion of the ex-arch of Africa, Heraclius.

Soon after his consecration, Boniface received a gift from Emperor Phocas: permission to convert the Roman Pantheon to a Christian church. This was the first pagan temple in Rome to be transformed. On May 13, 609, the Pantheon was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin and all the Christian martyrs. Boniface ordered 28 cartloads of bones from the catacombs to be reburied under the high altar of the new church.

In 610, Boniface hosted a council in Rome on the restoration of monastic discipline. This was dear to the heart of Boniface who had followed his mentor, Pope Gregory, in his love of the monastic life. The first Bishop of London, Mellitus, came to Rome to consult with the pope and attend the council as representative of the new Church of England. This gave Boniface the ability to send communications to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to King Athelbert.

In the same year, Within two years, the son of Heraclius, also named Heraclius, overtook Constantinople and executed Phocas. The unstable Byzantine Empire, which controlled the Church to some degree, changed again.

Between 612 and 615, the Irish missionary, St Columban, lived in Bobbio, Italy. The king of the Lombards, Agluit, persuaded the saint that Boniface was inciting schism in northern Italy by supporting the second council of Constantinople. Agluit wanted Columban to write a letter convincing Boniface to condemn the Three Chapters, which was a series of essays supporting orthodoxy. Columban exhorted the pope to summon a council and prove his orthodoxy, but he died, a few months after Boniface, in 615, with no further action.

Boniface looked to monastic life as a discipline which helped him. He converted his home into a monastery and divided his time between the monk’s life and the papal life until he died. He was buried at his monastery and reburied several times, the last one at the new St. Peter’s Basilica in the early 1600s.


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