Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pope Boniface VI of Rome

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The 111th successor of the glorious martyr St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, was Pope Boniface VI of Rome. Many people claim that the 898 Roman Council under Pope John IX (898-900) annulled the election of Pope Boniface VI, the Roman-born{1} son of the bishop Adrian,{2} because he was not canonically restored after being degraded from the subdiaconate and from the priesthood for gross immorality.{3} This would make him an antipope, but this is doubtful for six reasons: (1) if this was the case, one would expect the Vatican to omit him from the list of popes.{4} (2) On the contrary, Pope Boniface VI was recognized as legitimate pope by his contemporaries{5} and (3) his successors{6} and (4) the Boniface of Canon 3 is not called pope or associated with the Holy See by any title or description.{7} (5) If Pope Boniface VI, who ruled from April 11, 896 until his death from gout{8} in Rome{9} on April 26, 896,{10} was an antipope, Frodoard of Rheims would not have called him a saint.{11} (6) Pope Boniface VI was interred in the portico of the popes in the Vatican,{12} where a fragment of the epitaph on his sepulchral monument read,
"Atria magnificis (quae) sunt (jam) plena sepulchri(s)
Sedis apostolicæ Bonifati presulis almi
(Suscipiunt corpus, etc.)."
{13}
Notes & References
{1} Ennis, A. J. "Boniface VI, Pope." New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 2, 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 500. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. Fordham University Libraries. 19 Dec. 2009.
{2} Ibid.
{3} Mann, Rev. Fr. Horace Kinder. The Lives of the Popes In The Early Middle Ages, vol. IV. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, & Co., Ltd., 1910. <http://www.archive.org/details/livesofpopesinea04mannuoft>. p. 74.
{4} It's a very straightforward case (i.e, there was no rival claimant to the papacy like in the cases of Benedict V & Leo VIII and Benedict IX & Sylvester III). Cf. Huysman, Will R. "Antipope Leo VIII?" The Banana Republican. 6 Dec. 2009. 17 Jan. 2010 <http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2009/12/antipope-leo-viii.html>.
{5} Mann, op. cit, 75.
{6} Ibid.
{7} Ibid., 74.
{8} Ibid.
{9} Ennis, loc. cit.
{10} Ibid.
{11} Mann, loc. cit.
{12} Ennis, loc. cit.
{13} According to the great 19th-century archaeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi. Mann, loc. cit.

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