Our father among saints Gregory III, Pope of Rome (731-741), a Syrian by birth, succeeded Pope Gregory II in March 731. He vigorously opposed the iconoclastic controversy in the
Byzantine Empire. He died on November
28, 741. St. Gregory is remembered by the Church on December
Gregory was acclaimed pope by the crowds at his predecessor's funeral.
He was the last pope to seek the Byzantine exarch's mandate. Gregory immediately appealed to the Byzantine Emperor Leo III to moderate his position on the iconoclastic controversy. When this elicited no response, Gregory called a synod in November 731, denouncing iconoclasm and excommunicating destroyers of icons. When a messenger carrying the decrees reached the emperor, the latter decided to bring the pope under control. This included appropriating papal territories and transferring ecclesiastical jurisdictions to the Patriarch of Constantinople.
Gregory's support of the empire led him to help contribute to the recapture of
after it had fallen to the Lombards in 733.
However, he also sought to fortify Rome and seek
alliance with opponents of the Lombard monarch Liutprand, king of the Lombards, and then from the Franks. He sent embassies to
Charles Martel, who made no response, having his own priorities.
Gregory promoted the Church in northern Europe, such as the missions of Saint Boniface in
Germany and Willibald in . He also
bestowed palliums on
Egbert of York and Tatwine,Archbishop
of Canterbury. He beautified Bohemia
and supported monasticism. Rome
Gregory III of Rome
St Gregory II
|Pope of Rome|
Saint Gregory II. Pope and Confessor. February 13. Rev. Alban Butler. 1866. Volume II: February. The Lives of the Saints
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume II: February.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
|St. Gregory II. Pope and Confessor|
|HE was born in Rome, to an affluent fortune, and being educated in the palace of the popes, acquired great skill in the holy scriptures and in ecclesiastical affairs, and attained to an eminent degree of sanctity. Pope Sergius I. to whom he was very dear, ordained him subdeacon. Under the succeeding popes, John the sixth and seventh, Sisinnius, and Constantine, he was treasurer of the church, and afterwards library keeper, and was charged with several important commissions. The fifth general council had been held upon the affair of the three chapters, in 553, in the reign of Justinian, and the sixth against the Monothelites, in those of Constantine Pogonatus and Pope Agatho, in 660. With a view of adding a supplement of new canons to those of the aforesaid two councils, the bishops of the Greek church, to the number of two hundred and eleven, held the council called Quini-sext, in a hall of the imperial palace at Constantinople, named Trullus, in 692, which laid a foundation of certain differences in discipline between the Eastern and Western churches; for in the thirteenth canon it was enacted, that a man who was before married should be allowed to receive the holy orders of subdeacon, deacon, or priest, without being obliged to leave his wife, though this was forbidden to bishops. (can. 12.) It was also forbidden (can. 55.) to fast on Saturdays, even in Lent. Pope Sergius I. refused to confirm this council; and, in 695, the emperor Justinian II. surnamed Rhinotmetus, who had succeeded his father, Constantine Pogonatus, in 685, was dethroned for his cruelty, and his nose being slit, (from which circumstances he received his surname,) banished into Chersonesus. First Leontius, then Apsimarus Tiberius ascended the throne; but Justinian recovered it in 705, and invited Pope Constantine into the East, hoping to prevail upon him to confirm the council in Trullo. The pope was received with great honour, and had with him our saint, who, in his name, answered the questions put by the Greeks concerning the said council. After their return to Rome, upon the death of Constantine, Gregory was chosen pope, and ordained on the 19th of May, 715. The emperor Justinian being detested both by the army and people, Bardanes, who took the name of Philippicus, an Armenian, one of his generals, revolted, took Constantinople, put him and his son Tiberius, only seven years old, to death, and usurped the sovereignty in December, 711. In Justinian II. was extinguished the family of Heraclius. Philippicus abetted warmly the heresy of the Monothelites, and caused the sixth council to be prescribed in a pretended synod at Constantinople. His reign was very short; for Artemius, his secretary, who took the name of Anastasius II., deposed him, and stepped into the throne on the 4th of June, 713. By him the Monothelites were expelled; but, after a reign of two years and seven months, seeing one Theodosius chosen emperor by the army which had revolted in January, 716, he withdrew and took the monastic habit at Thessalonica. The Eastern army having proclaimed Leo III., surnamed the Isaurian, emperor on the 25th of March, 717, Theodosius and his son embraced an ecclesiastical state, and lived in peace among the clergy.||1|
|Pope Gregory signalized the beginning of his popedom by deposing John VI. the Monothelite, false patriarch of Constantinople, who had been nominated by Philippicus, and he promoted the election of St. Germanus, who was translated to that dignity from Cyzicus, in 715. With unwearied watchfulness and zeal he laid himself out in extirpating heresies on all sides, and in settling a reformation of manners. Besides an hospital for old men, he rebuilt the great monastery near the church of St. Paul at Rome, and, after the death of his mother, in 718, changed her house into the monastery of St. Agatha. The same year he re-established the abbey of Mount Cassino, sending thither, from Rome, the holy abbot St. Petronax to take upon him the government, one hundred and forty years after it had been laid in ruins by the Lombards. This holy abbot lived to see monastic discipline settled here in so flourishing a manner, that in the same century Carloman, duke or prince of the French, Rachis, king of the Lombards, St. Willebald, St. Sturmius, first abbot of Fulda, and other eminent persons, fled to this sanctuary. 1Our holy pope commissioned zealous missionaries to preach the faith in Germany, and consecrated St. Corbinian bishop of Frisingen, and St. Boniface bishop of Mentz. Leo the Isaurian protected the catholic church during the first ten years of his reign, and St. Gregory II. laid up among the archives of his church several letters which he had received from him, from the year 717 to 726, which proved afterwards authentic monuments of his perfidy. For being infatuated by certain Jews, who had gained an ascendant over him by certain pretended astrological predictions, in 726 he commanded holy images to be abolished, and enforced the execution of his edicts of a cruel persecution. St. Germanus, and other orthodox prelates in the East, endeavoured to reclaim him, refused to obey his edicts, and addressed themselves to Pope Gregory. Our saint employed long the arms of tears and entreaties; yet strenuously maintained the people of Italy in their allegiance to their prince, as Anastasius assures us. A rebellion was raised in Sicily, but soon quelled by the death of Artemius, who had assumed the purple. The pope vigorously opposed the mutineers, both here and in other parts of the West. When he was informed that the army at Ravenna and Venice, making zeal a pretence for rebellion, had created a new emperor, he effectually opposed their attempt, and prevented the effect. Several disturbances which were raised in Rome were pacified by his care. Nevertheless he by letters encouraged the pastors of the church to resist the heresy which the emperor endeavoured to establish by bloodshed and violence. The tyrant sent orders to several of his officers, six or seven times, to murder the pope: but he was so faithfully guarded by the Romans and Lombards, that he escaped all their snares. St. Gregory II. held the pontificate fifteen years, eight months, and twenty-three days, and died in 731, on the 10th of February; but the Roman Martyrology consecrates to his memory the 13th, which was probably the day on which his corpse was deposited in the Vatican church.||2|
|Note 1. Bulteau, Hist. Mon. d’Occid. t. 2. l. 4. c. 2. p. 8. [back]|
Saint Zachary, Pope and Confessor. March 15. Rev. Alban Butler. 1866. Volume III: March. The Lives of the Saints
|Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume III: March.|
The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
|St. Zachary, Pope and Confessor|
|HE succeeded Gregory III. in 741, and was a man of singular meekness and goodness; and so far from any thought of revenge, that he heaped benefits on those who had persecuted him before his promotion to the pontificate. He loved the clergy and people of Rome to that degree, that he hazarded his life for them on occasion of the troubles which Italy fell into by the rebellion of the dukes of Spoletto and Benevento against King Luitprand. Out of respect to his sanctity and dignity, that king restored to the church of Rome all the places which belonged to it, Ameria, Horta, Narni, Ossimo, Ancona, and the whole territory of Sabina, and sent back the captives without ransom. The Lombards were moved to tears at the devotion with which they heard him perform the divine service. By a journey to Pavia, he obtained also of Luitprand, though with some difficulty, peace for the territory of Ravenna, and the restitution of the places which he had taken from the exarchate. The zeal and prudence of this holy pope appeared in many wholesome regulations, which he had made to reform or settle the discipline and peace of several churches. St. Boniface, the apostle of Germany, wrote to him against a certain priest, named Virgilius; that he laboured to sow the seeds of discord between him and Odilo, duke of Bavaria, and taught, besides other errors, that there were other men under the earth, another sun and moon, and another world. 1 Pope Zachary answered, that if he taught such an error he ought to be deposed. This cannot be understood as a condemnation of the doctrine of Antipodes, or the spherical figure of the earth, as some writers have imagined by mistake. The error here spoken of is that of certain heretics, who maintained that there was another race of men, who did not descend from Adam, and were not redeemed by Christ. Nor did Zachary pronounce any sentence in the case: for in the same letter he ordered that Virgilius should be sent to Rome, that his doctrine might be examined. It seems that he cleared himself: for we find this same Virgilius soon after made bishop of Saltzburgh. 2 Certain Venetian merchants having bought at Rome many slaves to sell to the Moors in Africa, St. Zachary forbade such an iniquitous traffic, and, paying the merchants their price, gave the slaves their liberty. He adorned Rome with sacred buildings, and with great foundations in favour of the poor and pilgrims, and gave every year a considerable sum to furnish oil for the lamps in St. Peter’s church. He died in 752, in the month of March, and is honoured in the Roman Martyrology on this day. See his letters and the Pontificals, t. 6. Conc. also Fleury, l. 42. t. 9. p. 349.||1|
|Note 1. Quod alius mondus et alii homines sub terra sint, seu alius sol et luna. (Ep. 10. t. 6. Conc. p. 15. 21. et Bibl. Patr. inter Epist. S. Bonif.) To imagine different worlds of men upon earth, some not descending from Adam, nor redeemed by Christ, is contrary to the holy scriptures, and therefore justly condemned as erroneous, as Baronius observes. (add. ann. 784. n. 12.) [back]|
|Note 2. Many ancient philosophers thought the earth flat, not spherical, and believed no Antipodes. Several fathers adopted this vulgar error in philosophy, in which faith no way interferes, as St. Austin, (1. 16. de Civ. Dei. c. 9.) Bede, (l. 4. de Principiis Philos.) and Cosmas the Egyptian, surnamed Indicopleustes. It is, however, a mistake to imagine, with Montfaucon, in his preface to this last-mentioned author, that this was the general opinion of Christian philosophers down to the fifteenth century. For the learned Philophonus demonstrated before the modern discoveries, (de Mundi Creat. l. 3. c. 13.) that the greater part of the fathers teach the world to be a sphere, as Saint Basil, the two SS. Gregories, of Nazianzum and of Nyssa, Saint Athanasius, &c. And several amongst them mention Antipodes, as Saint Hilary, (in Ps. 2. n. 32.) Origen, (l. 2. de princip. c. 3.) Saint Clement, pope, &c. [back]|