So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Popes and parallels. Popes commemorated on the Feast of Stephen. Looking back to see what's ahead?

Pope Dionysius
25th Pope

Pope Dionysius was Bishop of Rome from July 22, 259 until his death on Dec. 26th, A.D. 268.

It fell to Pope Dionysius to reestablish order in a Church devastated by the Emperor Valerian's violent persecutions of Christians. With the edict of toleration issued by Valerian I's successor Emperor Gallienus, Dionysius secured peace. He helped the churches of Cappadocia devastated by the Goths by donating large sums of money for rebuilding churches and to pay for the release of those taken captive by ISIS the Goths.

At the instigation of the faithful in Alexandria, Pope Dionysius demanded that the Bishop of Alexandria, also named Dionysius, explain his doctrine regarding God and the Logos. The Bishop of Alexandria complied with the Pope's ultimatum and the matter was settled to the preservation of the Catholic Faith in Alexandria. The people rose up; the Faith was preserved!

Dionysius is buried in a crypt in the catacomb of Callistus.

Pope Zosimus
41st Pope

Pope Zosimus was Bishop of Rome from March 18, 417 until his death in A.D. 418. He is commemorated on December 26th.
Pope Zosimus' "fractious temper coloured all the controversies in which he took part, in Gaul, Africa and Italy, including Rome, where at his death the clergy were very much divided."(Wikipedia)
Not long after the election of Zosimus the Pelagian Kasper Coelestius, 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. Clement before which Coelestius appeared. The propositions drawn up by the deacon Paulinus of Milan, on account of which Coelestius had been condemned at Carthage in 411, were laid before him. Coelestius refused to condemn these propositions, at the same time declaring in general that he accepted the doctrine expounded in Amoris Laetitia the letters of Pope St John Paul II Pope Innocent and making a confession of faith which was approved.
The pope was won over by the shrewdly calculated conduct of Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández Coelestius, 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 (Go Africans! Faithful then, and faithful now!) against Coelestius 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 Coelestius to appear at Rome within two months (Bring on the dubia!). Soon after this Zosimus received from Cardinal Kasper Pelagius also 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 skilfully chosen expressions of Kasper 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 Carthage quickly 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 1 May, 418, to 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 condemned. Thus, finally, the occupant of the Apostolic See at the right moment maintained with all authority the traditional dogma of the Church, and protected the truth of the Church against error.
(Zosimus) devoted most of his brief reign to advancing the cause of papal supremacy, albeit with very little success. While personally blameless in his private life, Zosimus did have a tactless and hasty personality, so much so that he found himself embroiled in various clashes with prelates throughout the Church. In fact he died while preparing to excommunicate a group of troublesome clerics. Zosimus wrote Episiola Thactaria, condemning Pelagianism. Since he was much disliked in Rome, his passing brought celebrations in the streets.
No sentimentalism or coddling among Romans, eh?

So, you see folks, conniving brethren have been outed before. Current events would not be the first time a group of sneaky clergy have tried to pull a fast one over the "eyes" of the Holy Spirit.

Ramallah or Rome or Zion? Where are you Stephen?

Pope Zosimus is buried in the sepulchral Church of St. Laurence in Agro Verano (Basilica Papale di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura), i.e., Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls, where also buried, it has long been claimed, are the remains of St. Stephen, Protomartyr. In 2014, however, at a Holy Land site controlled by the Greek Orthodox Church, Khirbet al Tirah, also known as Kafr Ghamla, a Byzantine church complex was uncovered which some contend is the burial site of St. Stephen and other well known figures.
In Arabic and Hebrew the site is known as Beit Jamal – the monastery is sometimes referenced as Beit Gemal or Beit Jimal. The name of the site is said to be from its local name (in years past), Kfar Gamla, purportedly so named for Rabban Gamliel I, or Gamaliel in Greek – president of the Sanhedrin. (C)hristian tradition believes that Gamaliel was buried here, as were St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and Nicodemus. In 415 their remains were disclosed in a dream and discovered by the priest Lucian, and removed at the orders of John, Bishop of Jerusalem, for depositing in the Church of Hagia Sion on Mt. Zion, at the site of today's Abbey of the Dormition. Thanks to the excavations carried out by Andrzej Strus on site, it is now largely accepted that in Byzantine times this was considered to be the burial site of St Stephen, Gamaliel, Nicodemus and Gamaliel's son Abibos.—Wikipedia. 

No bones about it.

Despite an eight line inscription of dedication, none of the saint's bones have been uncovered at the Khirbet al Tirah site.

Interestingly, relics attributed to Saint Stephen were transferred to Hagia Sion church on Mt. Zion on December 26, 415.

Were St. Stephen's relics translated to (the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in) Rome from the Holy Land? It wouldn't be the first time a saint's bones and other relics were removed to Rome for protection.

Catholic Encyclopedia
Catholic Herald (UK)
Catholic Online
Christian Media Center (Custodia Terrae Sanctae)
Holy See
National Catholic Register
The Spectator (Damian Thompson)

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