"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012
The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch
During the disintegration of the Western Empire, when heresy was rife and all moral values were threatened by the barbarian invasions, Pope Leo I stands out as the resolute champion of the faith. His courage and sagacity lifted the prestige of the Holy See mightily, and earned for him the title of "The Great," a distinction bestowed on but one other pope, Gregory I. The Church honored Leo further with the title of Doctor because of his expositions of Christian doctrine, extracts from which are now incorporated in the lessons of the Catholic breviary. Of his birth and early years we have no reliable information; his family was probably Tuscan. We know that he was at Rome as a deacon under Pope Celestine I and Pope Sixtus III, whose pontificates ran from 422 to 440. Leo must have achieved eminence early, for even then he corresponded with Archbishop Cyril of Alexandria, and Cassian dedicated his treatise against Nestorius to him. In 440 Leo was sent to Gaul to try to make peace between the imperial generals, Aetius and Albinus. Soon afterward Pope Sixtus died, and a deputation came up from Rome to inform Leo that he had been elected to the chair of St. Peter. His consecration took place in September of that year, and he at once began to show great energy in the performance of the papal duties.The new pope set himself to make the Roman church a pattern for all other churches. In the ninety-six sermons which have come down to us, we find Leo stressing the virtues of almsgiving, fasting, and prayer, and also expounding Catholic doctrine with clarity and conciseness, in particular the dogma of the Incarnation. He was determined to shield his flock from heresy, and when he discovered that many Manichaeans, who had fled from the Vandals in Africa, had settled in Rome and were spreading their errors, he summoned them before a council of clergy and laymen. Under cross- examination some confessed to immoral practices and some recanted. Against the recalcitrant, Leo invoked the secular authority; their books were burned, and they themselves were banished or else left Rome of their own volition. Meanwhile he was preaching vigorously against the false teaching, as Augustine had done earlier, and writing letters of warning to all the Italian bishops. One hundred and forty-three letters written by him and thirty letters written to him have been preserved; they illustrate the Pope's extraordinary vigilance over the Church in all parts of the Empire. He also encouraged the bishops, especially the Italian ones, to come to Rome to consult him in person.
From Spain Turibius, bishop of Astorga, sent Leo a copy of a letter he had been circulating on the heresy of Priscillianism. The sect had made great headway in Spain and some of the Catholic clergy favored it. As it developed there, it seems to have combined astrology and fatalism with the Manichaean theory of the evil of matter. Leo wrote back a long refutation of this doctrine and described the measures he had taken against the Manichaeans in Rome. Several times he was asked to arbitrate affairs in Gaul. Twice he nullified acts of the saintly Hilary, bishop of Arles, who had exceeded his powers. The Emperor Valentinian III in the famous edict of 445 denounced the Gallic bishop and declared "that nothing should be done in Gaul contrary to ancient usage, without the authority of the bishop of Rome, and that the decree of the apostolic see should henceforth be law." Thus was the primacy of Rome given official recognition. One of Leo's letters to Anastasius, bishop of Thessalonica, reminds him that all bishops had a right to appeal to Rome, "according to ancient tradition." In 446 he writes to the African church in Mauretania, forbidding the appointment of a layman to the episcopate, or of any man who had been twice married or who had married a widow. (I Timothy iii,2.) The rules which he incorporated into Church law regarding admission to the priesthood deserve mention: former slaves and those employed in unlawful or unseemly occupations could not be ordained; to be acceptable, candidates must be mature men who had already proved themselves in the service of the Church.
Leo was now called upon to deal with difficulties in the East far greater than any he had so far encountered in the West. In the year 448, he received a letter from Abbot Eutyches of Constantinople, complaining of a revival of the Nestorian heresy at Antioch. The next year came a second letter, copies of which he sent also to the patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem. In this Eutyches protested against a sentence of excommunication just issued against him by Flavian, patriarch of Constantinople, and asked to be reinstated. His appeal was supported by a letter from the Emperor of the East, Theodosius II. As no official notice of the proceedings at Constantinople had hitherto reached Rome, Leo wrote to Flavian for his version; with his reply, he sent a report of the synod at which Eutyches had been condemned. From this it seemed clear that Eutyches had fallen into the error of denying the human nature of Christ, a heresy which was the opposite of Nestorianism.
A council was summoned at Ephesus by Theodosius, ostensibly to inquire impartially into the matter. Actually it was packed with friends of Eutyches and presided over by one of his strongest supporters, Dioscorus, patriarch of Alexandria. This gathering, which Leo branded as a Robber Council, acquitted Eutyches and condemned Flavian, who was also subjected to physical violence. The Pope's legates refused to subscribe to the unjust sentence; they were not allowed to read to the council a letter from Leo to Flavian, known later as Leo's . One legate was imprisoned and the other escaped with difficulty. As soon as the Pope heard of these proceedings, he declared the decisions null and void, and wrote a bold letter to the Emperor, in which he said: "Leave to the bishops the liberty of defending the faith; neither worldly power nor terror will ever succeed in destroying it. Protect the Church and seek to preserve its peace, that Christ in His turn may protect your empire."
Two years later, in 451, under a new emperor, Marcian, a greater council was held at Chalcedon, a city of Bithynia in Asia Minor. At least six hundred bishops were present. Leo sent three legates. Flavian was dead but his memory was vindicated; Dioscorus was convicted of having maliciously suppressed Leo's letters at the Robbers' Council, and of virtually excommunicating the Pope himself. For these and other offenses he was declared excommunicate and deposed. Leo's of 449 to Flavian was now read by his legates to the council. In it he concisely defined the Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation and the two natures of Christ, avoiding the pitfalls of Nestorianism on the one hand and of Eutychianism on the other. "Peter has spoken by the mouth of Leo!" exclaimed the bishops. This statement of the two-fold nature of Christ was to be accepted by later ages as the Church's official teaching. Leo, however, refused to confirm the council's canon which recognized the patriarch of Constantinople as primate over the East.
In the meantime, serious events of another kind were happening in the West. Attila, "the scourge of God," after overrunning Greece and Germany with his Huns, had penetrated France, where he had been defeated at Chalons by the imperial general Aetius. Falling back, he gathered fresh forces, and then entered Italy from the northeast, burning Aquileia and leaving destruction in his wake. After sacking Milan and Pavia, he set out to attack the capital. The wretched Emperor Valentinian III shut himself up within the walls of remote Ravenna; panic seized the people of Rome. In the emergency, Leo, upheld by a sense of his sacred office, set out to meet Attila, accompanied by Avienus, the consul, Trigetius, the governor of the city, and a band of priests. Near where the rivers Po and Mincio meet, they came face to face with the enemy. The Pope reasoned with Attila and induced him to turn back.
A few years later the Vandal king, Genseric, appeared from Africa with his army before the walls of Rome, then almost defenseless. This time Leo was able to win from the invader only the promise to restrain his troops from arson and carnage. After ten days of pillaging the city, the Vandals withdrew, taking back to Africa a host of captives and immense booty, but sparing the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul. Leo now set about repairing the damage brought by the invasion. To the Italian captives in Africa he sent priests, alms, and aid in rebuilding their churches. He was apparently never discouraged, maintaining a steady trust in God in the most desperate situations. His pontificate lasted for twenty-one years, and during this time he won the veneration of rich and poor, emperors and barbarians, clergy and laity. He died on November 10, 461, and his body was laid in the Vatican basilica, where his tomb may still be seen. ( Sermon III )3. Peter, persevering in the strength of the Rock, which he received, has not abandoned the helm of the Church which he accepted. For he was ordained before the rest in such a manner that as he was called the Rock, as he was declared the foundation, as he was constituted doorkeeper of the kingdom of Heaven, as he was appointed judge to bind and loose, whose judgments will retain their validity in Heaven, by all these mystical titles we might perceive the nature of his relationship to Christ.
And today he still more fully and effectually performs the office entrusted to him and carries out every part of his duty and his charge in Him and with Him by whom he was glorified. So if any act or decree of ours is righteous, if we obtain anything by our daily supplications from God's mercy, it is his work and his merits, whose power lives in his see and whose authority is so high. For, dearly beloved, his confession won this reward, his confession inspired by God the Father in the apostle's heart, which transcended all the uncertainty of human judgment and was endowed with the firmness of a rock that no assault could shake. Throughout the Church Peter still says daily: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," and every tongue which confesses the Lord is inspired by the leadership of his voice....
4. And so, dearly beloved, with reasonable obedience, we celebrate today's festival in such a way that in my humble person he may be recognized and honored, on whom rests the care of all the shepherds, as well as the charge of the sheep commended to him. His dignity is not diminished by even so unworthy an heir. Hence the presence of my venerable brethren and fellow priests, as much desired and valued by me, will be still more sacred and precious if they will transfer the chief honor of this service, in which they have deigned to take part, to him whom they know to be not only the patron of this see but also the primate of all bishops. When therefore we utter our exhortations in your ears, holy brethren, believe that he is speaking whose representative we are, because it is his warning that we give and nothing but his teaching that we preach Tome3. Without detriment, therefore, to the properties of either nature and substance (the divine and the human), which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality, and for the payment of the debt belonging to our condition inviolable nature was united with suffering nature, so that, as suited the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Jesus Christ, could both die with the one and not die with the other. Thus in the whole and perfect nature of true man was true God born, complete in what was his own, complete in what was ours....
4. There enters then these lower parts of the world the Son of God, descending from his heavenly home and yet not quitting His Father's glory, begotten in a new order by a new birthing. In a new order, because being invisible in His own nature, He became visible in ours, and He whom nothing could contain was content to be contained. Abiding before all time, He began to be in time; the Lord of all things He obscured His immeasurable majesty and took on Him the form of a servant. Being God who cannot suffer, He did not disdain to be man that can and, immortal as He is, to subject Himself to the laws of death. The Lord assumed His mother's nature without faultiness, nor in the Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin's womb, does the marvel of His birth make his nature unlike ours. For He who is true God is also true man, and in this union there is no deceit, since the humility of manhood and the loftiness of the Godhead both meet there. For as God is not changed by the showing of pity, so man is not swallowed up in the dignity.... To be hungry and thirsty, to be weary and to sleep is clearly human, but to satisfy five thousand men with five loaves, to bestow on the woman of Samaria living water, draughts of which can secure the drinker from thirsting ever again, to walk upon the surface of the water with feet that do not sink and to quell the risings of the waves by rebuking the winds is without any doubt divine. Just as also-to pass over many other instances-it is not part of the same nature to be moved to tears of pity for a dead friend and, when the stone that closed the four-days grave was removed, to raise that same friend to life with a voice of command; or to hang on the cross, and to turn day into night to make all the elements tremble; or to be pierced with nails and then to open the gates of paradise to the robber's faith. So it is not part of the same nature to say: "I and the Father are one," and to say: "The Father is greater than I."! For although in the Lord Jesus Christ God and man is one person, yet the source of the degradation which is shared by both is one, and the source of the glory which is shared by both is another. For his manhood, which is less than the Father, comes from our side; His Godhead, which is equal to the Father, comes from the Father. (, Series II.)1 Cyril, archbishop of Alexandria from 412 to 444, was a zealot for orthodoxy, who, the pagans said, incited his monks to kilt the Platonic philosopher Hypatia, when she was lecturing in his city. Cassian, a recluse and theologian, founded the monastery of St. Victor, near Marseilles.
2 Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople from 428 to 431, taught a doctrine of the humanity of Christ, according to which God the divine Son and Jesus the Man were always two distinct persons; Jesus alone was born of woman, and as a man of surpassing goodness became the dwelling place of the Word, which was incarnate in him. The Catholic doctrine is that God and man is one Christ, one person in two natures. In 431 Nestorius was deposed and excommunicated by the Council of Ephesus, under the influence of Cyril of Alexandria and Pope Celestine. He and his followers withdrew to the East, where in time they formed many communities, spreading as far as India and the borders of China.
3 For the Manichaeans, see above, , n. I.
Leo was a significant contributor to the centralisation of spiritual authority within the Church and in reaffirming Papal authority. While the Bishop of Rome had always been viewed as the chief patriarchate in the Western church, much of the Pope's authority was delegated to local diocesan bishops. Not without serious opposition did he succeed in reasserting his authority in Gaul.Patroclus of Arles(d. 426) had received fromPope Zosimusthe recognition of a subordinateprimacyover the Gallican Church which was strongly asserted by his successorHilary of Arles. An appeal fromCelidonius of Besançongave Leo the opportunity to reassert the Pope's authority over Hilary, who defended himself stoutly at Rome, refusing to recognize Leo's judicial status. Feeling that the universal jurisdiction of the papacy was threatened, Leo appealed to the civil power for support, and obtained fromValentinian IIIthe famous decree of June 6, 445, which recognized the primacy of the bishop of Rome based on the merits of Peter, the dignity of the city, and theNicene Creed(in their interpolated form); ordained that any opposition to his rulings, which were to have the force of ecclesiastical law, should be treated as treason; and provided for the forcible extradition by provincial governors of anyone who refused to answer a summons to Rome. Faced with this decree, Hilary submitted to the Pope, although under his successor,Ravennius, Leo divided the metropolitan rights between Arles and Vienne (450).
In 445, Leo disputed withPope Dioscorus, St.Cyril's successor asPope of Alexandria, insisting that the ecclesiastical practice of his see should follow that of Rome on the basis thatMark the Evangelist, the disciple ofSaint Peterand founder of the Alexandrian Church, could have had no other tradition than that of the prince of the apostles. This, of course, was not the position of theCopts, who saw the ancient patriarchates as equals.
Regarding Africa, the fact that the African province ofMauretania Caesariensishad been preserved to the empire and thus to theNicenefaith during theVandalinvasion, and in its isolation was disposed to rest on outside support, gave Leo an opportunity to assert his authority there, which he did decisively in regard to a number of questions of discipline.
Regarding Italy, in a letter to the bishops ofCampania,Picenum, andTuscany(443) he required the observance of all his precepts and those of his predecessors; and he sharply rebuked the bishops ofSicily(447) for their deviation from the Roman custom as to the time ofbaptism, requiring them to send delegates to the Roman synod to learn the proper practice.
Regarding Greece, Because of the earlier line of division between the western and eastern parts of theRoman Empire,Illyriawas ecclesiastically subject to Rome.Pope Innocent Ihad constituted themetropolitanofThessalonicahisvicar, in order to oppose the growing influence of thepatriarch of Constantinoplein the area. In a letter of about 446 to a successor bishop of Thessalonica, Anastasius, Leo reproached him for the way he had treated one of the metropolitan bishops subject to him; after giving various instructions about the functions entrusted to Anastasius and stressing that certain powers were reserved to the pope himself, Leo wrote: "The care of the universal Church should converge towards Peter's one seat, and nothing anywhere should be separated from its Head."
A favorable occasion for extending the authority of Rome in the East was offered in the renewal of theChristologicalcontroversy byEutyches, who in the beginning of the conflict appealed to Leo and took refuge with him on his condemnation byFlavian. But on receiving full information from Flavian, Leo took his side decisively. In 451 at theCouncil of Chalcedon, after Leo'sTomeon the two natures of Christ was read out, the bishops participating in the Council cried out: "This is the faith of the fathers ...Peterhas spoken thus through Leo ..."