- Pope Zosimus
March 18, 417
December 26 418
deathplace=???| infobox popestyles
papal name=Pope Zosimus
Saint|:"For the historian, see Zosimus."Pope Saint Zosimus was popefrom March 18, 417to December 26, 418.
He succeeded Innocent I, and was followed by Boniface I. Zosimus took a decided part in the protracted dispute in
Gaulas to the jurisdiction of the see of Arlesover that of Vienne, giving energetic decisions in favour of the former, but without settling the controversy. His fractious temper coloured all the controversies in which he took part, in Gaul, Africaand Italy, including Rome, where at his death the clergy were very much divided.
According to the "
Liber Pontificalis", Zosimus was a Greek and his father's name was Abram. Some scholars deduce from this that the family was of Jewish origin, but this cannot be certain.
Nothing is known of the life of Zosimus before his elevation to the papal see. His consecration as
Bishopof Rometook place on March 18, 417. The festival was attended by Patroclus, Bishop of Arles, who had been raised to that see in place of Bishop Hero, who had been forcibly and unjustly removed by the imperial general Constantine. Patroclus gained the confidence of the new pope at once; as early as 22 Marchhe received a papal letter which conferred upon him the rights of a metropolitan over all the bishops of the Gallic provinces of Viennensisand NarbonensisI and II. In addition he was made a kind of papal vicarfor the whole of Gaul; no Gallic ecclesiastic being permitted to journey to Rome without bringing with him a certificate of identity from Patroclus.
In the year 400, Arles had been substituted for
Trieras the residence of the chief government official of the civil Diocese of Gaul, the "Prefectus Praetorio Galliarum". Patroclus, who enjoyed the support of the commander Constantine, used this opportunity to procure for himself the position of supremacy above mentioned, by winning over Zosimus to his ideas. The bishops of Vienne, Narbonneand Marseilleregarded this elevation of the See of Arles as an infringement of their rights, and raised objections which occasioned several letters from Zosimus. The dispute, however, was not settled until the pontificate of Pope Leo I.
Confrontation with Pelagianism
Not long after the election of Zosimus the proponent of
Pelagianism, Caelestius, who had been condemned by the preceding pope, Innocent I, came to Rome to justify himself before the new pope, having been expelled from Constantinople. In the summer of 417, Zosimus held a meeting of the Roman clergy in the Basilica of St. Clementbefore which Caelestius appeared. The propositions drawn up by the deacon Paulinus of Milan, on account of which Caelestius had been condemned at Carthagein 411, were laid before him. Caelestius refused to condemn these propositions, at the same time declaring in general that he accepted the doctrine expounded in the letters of Pope Innocent and making a confession of faith which was approved. The pope was won over by the shrewdly calculated conduct of Caelestius, and said that it was not certain whether the heretic had really maintained the false doctrine rejected by Innocent, and that therefore he considered the action of the African bishops against Caelestius too hasty. He wrote at once in this sense to the bishops of the African province, and called upon those who had anything to bring against Caelestius to appear at Rome within two months. Soon after this Zosimus received from Pelagiusalso an artfully expressed confession of faith, together with a new treatise by the heretic on free will. The pope held a new synod of the Roman clergy, before which both these writings were read. The skillfully chosen expressions of Pelagius concealed the heretical contents; the assembly held the statements to be orthodox, and Zosimus again wrote to the African bishops defending Pelagius and reproving his accusers, among whom were the Gallic bishops Hero and Lazarus. Archbishop Aurelius of Carthagequickly called a synod, which sent a letter to Zosimus in which it was proved that the pope had been deceived by the heretics. In his answer Zosimus declared that he had settled nothing definitely, and wished to settle nothing without consulting the African bishops. After the new synodal letter of the African council of May 1, 418to the pope, and after the steps taken by the emperor Honorius against the Pelagians, Zosimus recognized the true character of the heretics. He now issued his "Tractoria", in which Pelagianism and its authors were finally condemned.
Shortly after this Zosimus became involved in a dispute with the African bishops in regard to the right of appeal to the Roman See clerics who had been condemned by their bishops. When the priest
Apiarius of Siccahad been excommunicated by his bishop on account of his crimes, he appealed directly to the pope, without regard to the regular course of appeal in Africa which was exactly prescribed. The pope at once accepted the appeal, and sent legates with letters to Africa to investigate the matter. A wiser course would have been to have first referred Apiarius to the ordinary course of appeal in Africa itself. Zosimus next made the further mistake of basing his action on a reputed canon of the First Council of Nicaea, which was in reality a canon of the Council of Sardica. In the Roman manuscripts the canons of Sardica followed those of Nicaea immediately, without an independent title, while the African manuscripts contained only the genuine canons of Nicaea, so that the canon appealed to by Zosimus was not contained in the African copies of the Nicenecanons. Thus a serious disagreement arose over this appeal, which continued after the death of Zosimus.
Besides the writings of the pope already mentioned, there are extant other letters to the bishops of the Byzantine province in Africa, in regard to a deposed bishop, and to the bishops of Gaul and Spain in respect to
Priscillianism and ordination to the different grades of the clergy. The "Liber Pontificalis" attributes to Zosimus a decree on the wearing of the maniple by deacons and on the dedication of Eastercandles in the country parishes; also a decree forbidding clerics to visit taverns. Zosimus was buried in the sepulchral Church of St. Laurence in Agro Verano.
*De Rossi, "Bulletino di arch. christ.", 1881, 91 sqq
*Duchesne, "Histoire ancienne de l'église", 111, 228, note
*Harnack "Sitzungsberichte der Berliner Akademie", 1904, 1050
* [http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/01_01_0417-0418-_Zosimus,_Sanctus.html Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia Latina]
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