Saint Zosimus, the Forty-First Pope (Successors of Peter – Part 41)

Saint Zosimus, the Forty-First Pope (Successors of Peter – Part 41)

Saint Zosimus succeeded Pope Innocent I, a strong defender of the truths of faith and church studies in the early Church's history.

Pope Zosimus elected on March 18, 417, led the Church for a very short time however his short papacy was fraught with difficulties and misfortunes.

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Assistant to Pope Innocent I, Pope Zosimus was a Greek priest sent to Rome by Bishop John Chrysostom. Shortly after his enthronement as Bishop of Rome, Pope Zosimus, who was unfamiliar with the customs and traditions of the Western Church, appointed the Bishop of Arles, who claimed the title without legitimacy, as the Metropolitan of Arles. He granted him authority over all the Bishops of Gaul. He also granted Bishop Petroclus of Vienna full power to govern the bishops in Gaul and to decide on cases requiring Rome's intervention.

Priests from Gaul visiting Rome were required to carry letters signed by Bishop Petroclus, confirming the purpose of their visit. However, this appointment and the powers granted to Bishop Petroclus faced strong opposition from bishops and priests.

The founders of Pelagianism, Pelagius and his disciple Celestius, appealed to Pope Zosimus to revoke the penalties imposed on them by Pope Innocent I. In response, the Pope Zosimus called for a reconsideration of the proceedings against Pelagius and Celestius. Celestius visited Rome in person and made his profession of faith.

In 418 A.D., Pope St. Zosimus read the commentary on the Biblical book of Romans that Pelagius wrote. The pontiff was stunned by the doctrine Pelagius had expressed and summoned his representative Celestius to come back to the papal palace for an explanation and examination. Celestius responded by fleeing the Eternal City, making him look guilty.

Pope Zosimus then issued his Epistolary Sermon in which he excommunicated both Celestius and Pelagius.

Pope Zosimus, unintentionally ignited a new controversy within the African episcopate by supporting the disreputable Priest Apiarius. Despite Apiarius being previously excommunicated by Bishop Urbanus of Sicca Veneria, Pope Zosimus interfered with the established procedures of canon law in Africa. He issued letters ordering changes to the process of appealing church disputes between Africa and Rome.

This intervention in African canon law was met with opposition from members of the Roman clergy, who circumvented Pope Zosimus and directly appealed to the Western Roman imperial court in Ravenna. The dispute remained unresolved at the time of Pope Zosimus' unexpected death.

The last days of Pope Zosimus were filled with more trials and challenges.

In the meantime he fell ill and passed away on December 26, AD418. He was laid to rest in the Basilica of St. Lawrence.
-edit&transl. SM

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