mercredi 11 mars 2015

Saint ÉLEUTHÈRE, Pape et martyr



Saint Eleuthère

Pape (13 ème) de 175 à 189 (✝ 189)

Pape pendant une courte période de paix au temps de la persécution de l'empereur Commode. D'origine grecque, il reçut saint Irénée de Lyon qui n'était encore que prêtre pour aborder avec lui la question de l'hérésie montaniste et la question d'une hiérarchie charismatique et non pas institutionnelle.

À Rome, en 189, saint Éleuthère, pape, à qui les illustres martyrs de Lyon, alors détenus en prison, écrivirent une noble lettre sur le maintien de la paix dans l’Église.

Martyrologe romain


Saint Eleuthère (175-189)

Il naquit à Épiro. Pendant son pontificat eurent lieu les persécutions déclenchées par Mar Aurèle contre les chrétiens.

Á cette même époque fut martyrisée sainte Cécile.

Saint Eleuthère fut lui-même martyrisé en 189.


St Eleuthère, pape et martyr

Le Liber Pontificalis donne le 25 mai pour la déposition du pape Éleuthère (175-188) sans le qualifier de martyr. D’autres calendriers le mentionnent le 26 ou le 27.

Les calendriers du Latran et du Vatican sont les premiers à l’honorer comme martyr en inscrivant sa date au 26 mai. Il est inconnu en dehors de l’Italie.

Leçon des Matines avant 1960

Neuvième leçon. Éleuthère, né à Nicopolis en Grèce, fut d’abord Diacre du Pape Anicet, puis gouverna l’Église sous l’empire de Commode. Au commencement de son pontificat, il reçut des lettres de Lucius, roi des Bretons, qui le priait de l’admettre, ainsi que ses sujets, au nombre des Chrétiens. C’est pourquoi Éleuthère envoya dans la Grande-Bretagne Fugacius et Damien, personnages doctes et pieux, pour porter à ce prince et à sa nation, le bienfait de la foi. Irénée, disciple de Polycarpe, étant venu à Rome fut accueilli par ce Pontife avec bienveillance. A cette époque l’Église jouissait d’une grande paix et d’un profond repos, et la foi faisait beaucoup de progrès dans le monde entier, principalement à Rome. Éleuthère vécut dans le pontificat quinze ans et vingt-trois jours. Il fit au mois de décembre trois ordinations, dans lesquelles il ordonna douze Prêtres, huit Diacres et sacra quinze Évêques pour divers lieux. Il fut enseveli dans le Vatican, près du corps de saint Pierre.

Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique

La journée est encore embellie par la mémoire d’un de ces premiers pontifes qui, comme Urbain, ont été les fondements de la sainte Église à l’âge des tempêtes. Éleuthère monta sur le Siège Apostolique au milieu de la tourmente excitée par la persécution de Marc-Aurèle et de Commode. Il vit arriver à Rome la légation que lui envoyaient les martyrs de l’Église de Lyon, et qui avait à sa tête le grand Irénée. Cette illustre Église, couronnée à ce moment des palmes les plus glorieuses, venait les offrir à la nouvelle Rome en qui elle reconnaissait la « puissante principauté » qu’a célébrée le même saint Irénée, dans ses livres Contre les Hérésies.

La paix ne tarda pas à être rendue à l’Église, et le reste du pontificat d’Éleuthère s’écoula dans le calme et la tranquillité. Au sein de cette paix, avec son nom qui exprime la Liberté, ce pontife est une image de notre divin ressuscité, dont le Psalmiste nous dit qu’il est « libre entre les morts [1] ».

L’Église honore saint Éleuthère comme martyr, avec les autres papes qui ont siégé avant la paix de Constantin, et qui presque tous ont versé leur sang dans les persécutions des trois premiers siècles. Associés à toutes les souffrances de l’Église, gouvernant la chrétienté à travers mille périls, ne goûtant la paix que dans de rares et courts intervalles, cette suite de trente-trois pontifes a droit d’être considérée comme une série de martyrs.

Une gloire particulière pour Éleuthère est d’avoir été l’apôtre de la grande île britannique qui est devenue plus tard l’Angleterre. Les Romains avaient colonisé dans cette île, qui n’était plus comme auparavant séparée du reste du monde. La divine Providence choisit les années de paix du pontificat d’Éleuthère pour agréger à l’’Église les prémices de la race bretonne. Plus tard, l’île évangélisée ainsi dès le second siècle par les soins de notre saint pape deviendra l’Ile des saints, et dans deux jours ses gloires chrétiennes resplendiront une seconde fois sur le cycle.

Votre nom, ô Éleuthère, est le nom du chrétien ressuscité avec Jésus-Christ. La Pâque nous a tous délivrés, tous affranchis, rendus tous libres. Priez donc, afin que nous conservions toujours cette « glorieuse liberté des enfants de Dieu », que recommande l’Apôtre [2]. Par elle nous sommes retirés des liens du péché qui nous livrait à la mort, de la servitude de Satan qui nous entraînait loin de notre fin, de la tyrannie du monde qui nous égarait par ses maximes charnelles La vie nouvelle que nous a donnée la Pâque est toute du ciel où le Christ nous attend dans sa gloire ; nous ne pourrions la perdre que pour être esclaves de nouveau Saint Pontife, obtenez que la Pâque, à son retour en l’année qui suivra, nous retrouve dans cette heureuse liberté qui est le fruit de notre délivrance par le Christ [3].

Il est une autre liberté que vante le monde, et pour la conquête de laquelle il arme les hommes les uns contre les autres. Elle consiste à fuir, comme on fuirait un crime, toute sujétion et toute dépendance, à ne s’incliner devant aucune autorité qu’on ne l’ait créée soi-même, pour ne durer qu’autant qu’il nous plaira. Délivrez-nous, saint Pontife, de tout attrait pour cette prétendue liberté si contraire à la soumission chrétienne, et qui n’est que le triomphe de l’orgueil humain. Dans sa frénésie, elle verse des torrents de sang ; enivrée de ce qu’elle appelle fastueusement les droits de l’homme, elle substitue l’égoïsme au devoir. Pour elle la vérité n’est plus, car elle va jusqu’à reconnaître des droits à l’erreur ; pour elle le bien n’est plus, car elle a abdiqué tout droit d’enchaîner le mal : tant elle est devenue esclave du principe sauvage de l’indépendance. Elle détrône Dieu autant qu’il lui est possible, en refusant de le reconnaître dans les dépositaires de l’autorité sociale, et jette l’homme sans défense sous le joug de la force brutale, l’écrasant sous le poids de ce qu’elle appelle les majorités, et sous la pression monstrueuse des faits accomplis. Non, telle n’est pas, ô Éleuthère, la liberté à laquelle nous a conviés le Christ, notre libérateur. « Soyez comme des hommes libres, » nous dit Pierre votre prédécesseur, « et ne soyez pas de ceux qui, sous un voile trompeur, sont les sectateurs de la liberté du mal [4]. »

Demeurez toujours, ô saint Pontife, le père de la société humaine dont vous fûtes le chef ici-bas. Durant votre règne pacifique, vous avez siégé près des Césars dans la ville aux sept collines. La pourpre et le diadème étaient portés par d’autres ; mais votre nom n’était pas ignoré dans le monde.

Tandis que le pouvoir matériel tenait la hache suspendue sur votre tête, d’innombrables fidèles se dirigeaient vers Rome pour vénérer la tombe de Pierre et rendre hommage à son successeur. Vous vîtes arriver un jour l’ambassade d’un roi barbare. Cette légation ne se dirigeait pas vers le palais des Césars ; elle s’arrêtait à la porte de votre humble demeure. Un peuple était appelé par la grâce divine à recevoir la bonne nouvelle, à entrer dans la famille chrétienne. Les destinées de ce peuple que vous avez évangélisé le premier devaient être grandes dans l’Église. L’île des Bretons est fille de l’Église Romaine ; et c’est en vain qu’elle voudrait effacer cette noble origine. Prenez ses maux en pitié, ô vous qui fûtes son premier apôtre ; aidez les efforts qui sont faits de toutes parts pour la rendre à l’unité. Souvenez-vous de la foi de Lucius et de son peuple, et montrez votre paternelle sollicitude en faveur d’un pays que vous avez enfanté à la foi.

[1] Psalm. LXXXVII, 6.

[2] Rom. VIII, 21.

[3] Gal. IV, 31.

[4] I Petr. II, 16.

Bhx Cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum

Le pape Éleuthère succéda à Soter entre 174 et 189, et Irénée le mentionne dans son troisième livre contre les hérésies (ch. III), où, établissant la liste des papes, il arrive jusqu’à lui : Nunc duodecimo loco episcopatum ab Apostolis habet Eleutherius. On a pensé que cet évêque romain qui, au témoignage de Tertullien, accorda d’abord, puis retira les lettres de communion à quelques communautés montanistes d’Asie, était précisément Éleuthère (Advers. Praxeam, ch. Ier). Le Liber Pontificalis indique sa sépulture à Saint-Pierre, et sa fête en ce jour remonte à la seconde moitié du moyen âge.

La messe est entièrement du Commun : Protexisti, si elle tombe durant le temps pascal ; autrement, on dit la messe Statuit.

La première lecture est tirée de l’épître de saint Jacques (1, 12-18). L’apôtre de l’espérance y fait l’éloge de la souffrance chrétienne ; tout en attribuant la cause des épreuves de la vie à la malice du diable et à la fragilité de notre nature, saint Jacques déclare cependant que Dieu les fait rentrer elles-mêmes dans le plan magnifique de notre prédestination, pour augmenter notre mérite et comme gage de notre béatitude future.

En 177 ou 178, le clergé et les martyrs de Vienne et de Lyon, emprisonnés par suite de la persécution de Marc-Aurèle, envoyèrent au pape Éleuthère, par l’intermédiaire du prêtre Irénée, un écrit rédigé par eux sur l’hérésie montaniste, lui recommandant le porteur comme zélé pour le Testament du Christ. Le Pontife accueillit avec déférence l’héritier de la tradition johannique, le disciple de Polycarpe de Smyrne, et c’est surtout à cette occasion que saint Irénée s’imprégna de cet esprit d’attachement à l’orthodoxie romaine qui le distingue.

Dom Pius Parsch, le Guide dans l’année liturgique

Saint Éleuthère gouverna l’Église de 174-189. Saint Irénée termine par son nom la liste des papes. « Maintenant Éleuthère est le douzième après les Apôtres qui possède la charge épiscopale ». Il est enseveli à Saint-Pierre.

SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/26-05-St-Eleuthere-pape-et-martyr

Pope St. Eleutherius (Eleutheros)

Pope (c. 174-189). The Liber Pontificalis says that he was a native of Nicopolis, Greece. From his contemporaryHegesippus we learn that he was a deacon of the Roman Church under Pope Anicetus (c. 154-164), and evidently remained so under St. Soter, the following pope, whom he succeeded about 174. While the conditionof Christians under Marcus Aurelius was distressing in various parts of the empire, the persecution in Romeitself does not seem to have been violent. De Rossi, it is true, dates the martyrdom of St. Cecilia towards the end of this emperor's reign; this date, however, is by no means certain. During the reign of Commodus (180-192) the Christians enjoyed a practically unbroken peace, although the martyrdom of St. Appollonius at Rometook place at the time (180-185). The Montanist movement, that originated in Asia Minor, made its way toRome and Gaul in the second half of the second century, more particularly about the reign of Eleutherius; its peculiar nature made it difficult to take from the outset a decisive stand against it (see MONTANISTS). During theviolent persecution at Lyons, in 177, local confessors wrote from their prison concerning the new movement to the Asiatic and Phrygian brethren, also to Pope Eleutherius. The bearer of their letter to the pope was thepresbyter Irenæus, soon afterwards Bishop of Lyons. It appears from statements of Eusebius concerning these letters that the faithful of Lyons, though opposed to the Montanist movement, advocated forbearance and pleaded for the preservation of ecclesiastical unity.


Just when the Roman Church took its definite stand against Montanism is not certainly known. It would seem from Tertullian's account (Against Praxeas 1) that a Roman bishop did at one time address to the Montanistssome conciliatory letters, but these letters, says Tertullian, were recalled. He probably refers to Pope Eleutherius, who long hesitated, but, after a conscientious and thorough study of the situation, is supposed to have declared against the Montanists. At Rome heretical Gnostics and Marcionites continued to propagate their false teachings. The "Liber Pontificalis" ascribes to Pope Eleutherius a decree that no kind of food should be despised by Christians (Et hoc iterum firmavit ut nulla esca a Christianis repudiaretur, maxime fidelibus, quod Deus creavit, quæ tamen rationalis et humana est). Possibly he did issue such an edict against theGnostics and Montanists; it is also possible that on his own responsibility the writer of the "Liber Pontificalis"attributed to this pope a similar decree current about the year 500. The same writer is responsible for a curious and interesting assertion concerning the early missionary activity of the Roman Church; indeed, the"Liber Pontificalis" contains no other statement equally remarkable. Pope Eleutherius, says this writer, received from Lucius, a British king, a letter in which the latter declared that by his behest he wishes to become a Christian (Hic accepit epistula a Lucio Brittanio rege, ut Christianus efficerentur per ejus mandatum). Whence the author of the first part of the "Liber Pontificalis" drew this information, it is now impossible to say. Historically speaking, the fact is quite improbable, and is rejected by all recent critics.

As at the end of the second century the Roman administration was so securely established in Britain, there could no longer have been in the island any real native kings. That some tribal chief, known as king, should have applied to the Roman bishop for instruction in the Christian faith seems improbable enough at that period. The unsupported assertion of the "Liber Pontificalis", a compilation of papal biographies that in its earliest form cannot antedate the first quarter of the sixth century, is not a sufficient basis for the acceptanceof this statement. By some it is considered a story intended to demonstrate the Roman origin of the BritishChurch, and consequently the latter's natural subjection to Rome. To make this clearer they locate the origin of the legend in the course of the seventh century, during the dissensions between the primitive British Churchand the Anglo-Saxon Church recently established from Rome. But for this hypothesis all proof is lacking. It falls before the simple fact that the first part of the "Liber Pontificalis" was complied long before these dissensions, most probably (Duchesne) by a Roman cleric in the reign of Pope Boniface II (530-532), or (Waitz and Mommsen) early in the seventh century. Moreover, during the entire conflict that centered around the peculiar customs of the Early British Church no reference is ever made to this alleged King Lucius. Saint Bedeis the first English writer (673-735) to mention the story repeatedly (Hist. Eccl., I, V; V, 24, De temporum ratione, ad an. 161), and he took it, not from native sources, but from the "Liber Pontificalis". Harnack suggests a more plausible theory (Sitzungsberichte der Berliner Akademie, 1904, I, 906-916). In the document, he holds, from which the compiler of the "Liber Pontificalis" drew his information the name found was not Britanio, but Britio. Now this is the name (Birtha- Britium) of the fortress of Edessa. The king in question is, therefore, Lucius Ælius Septimus Megas Abgar IX, of Edessa, a Christian king, as is well known. The original statement of the "Liber Pontificalis", in this hypothesis, had nothing to do with Britain. The reference was to Abgar IX of Edessa. But the compiler of the "Liber Pontificalis" changed Britio to Brittanio, and in this way made a British king of the Syrian Lucius.


The ninth-century "Historia Brittonum" sees in Lucius a translation of the Celtic name Llever Maur (Great Light), says that the envoys of Lucius were Fagan and Wervan, and tells us that with this king all the other island kings (reguli Britanniæ) were baptized (Hist. Brittonum, xviii). Thirteenth-century chronicles add other details. The "Liber Landavensis", for example (ed. Rees, 26, 65), makes known the names of Elfan and Medwy, the envoys sent by Lucius to the pope, and transfers the king's dominions to Wales. An echo of this legendpenetrated even to Switzerland. In a homily preached at Chur and preserved in an eighth- or ninth-centurymanuscript, St. Timothy is represented as an apostle of Gaul, whence he came to Britain and baptized there a king named Lucius, who became a missionary, went to Gaul, and finally settled at Chur, where he preached the gospel with great success. In this way Lucius, the early missionary of the Swiss district of Chur, became identified with the alleged British king of the "Liber Pontificalis". The latter work is authority for the statement that Eleutherius died 24 May, and was buried on the Vatican Hill (in Vaticano) near the body of St. Peter. Hisfeast is celebrated 26 May.

Sources

Acta SS., May, III, 363-364; Liber Pontificalis, ed. DUCHESNE, I, 136 and Introduction, xii-civ; HARNACK, Geschichte der altchristl. Literatur, II, I, 144 sqq.; IDEM, Der Brief des britischen Königs Lucius an den Papst Elutherus (Sitzungsberichte der Berliner Akademie, 1904), I, 906-916; LANGEN, Geschichte der römischen Kirche (Bonn, 1881), I, 157 sqq.; MAYER, Geschichte des Bistums Chur (Stans, 1907), I, 11 sqq.; CABROL, L'Angleterre chrétienne avant les Normands (Paris, 1909), 29-30; DUCHESNE, Eleuthère et le roi breton Lucius, in Revue Celtique (1883-85), VI, 491-493; ZIMMER, The Celtic Church in Britain and Scotland, tr. MEYER (London, 1902); SMITH AND WACE, Dict. of Christian Biography, s.v.; see also under Lucius.

Kirsch, Johann Peter. "Pope St. Eleutherius (Eleutheros)." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 24 Feb. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05378a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to Fr. John Hilkert, Akron, Ohio.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.


May 26

St. Eleutherius, Pope and Martyr

HE was by birth a Grecian, and deacon of the church of Rome under Pope Anicetus. He succeeded St. Soter in the pontificate in 176, and governed the church whilst it was beaten with violent storms. Montanus, an ambitious vain man of Mœsia on the confines of Phrygia, sought to raise himself among men by pretending that the Holy Ghost spoke by his mouth, and published forged revelations. His followers afterwards advanced that he was himself the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete Spirit sent by Christ according to his promises to perfect his law. They seem at first only to have been schismatics and enthusiasts; but soon after added heresy and blasphemy, calling Montanus the Holy Ghost in the same manner that Christ is God the Son. They affected an excessive rigour, had many fasts, kept three Lents in the year, refused the communion and absolution to persons who had fallen into any sin of impurity, condemned second marriages as adulteries, and taught that it is unlawful to flee from persecution. Priscilla and Maximilla, two women of the town of Pepuza in Phrygia, vaunted their pretended prophecies, and were the oracles of their deluded votaries. The devil uses all sorts of baits to destroy souls. If many perish by those of pleasure, others fall by pride, which is gratified by a love of singularity, and by an affected austerity. Some who braved the racks and gridirons of the persecutors, and despised the allurements of pleasure, had the misfortune to become the dupes of this wretched enthusiast, and martyrs of the devil. False prophets wear every face except that of a sincere and docile humility, though their austerity towards themselves usually ends in a short time in some shameful libertinism, when vanity, the main-spring of their passions, is either cloyed or finds nothing to gratify it. In this we see the false rigorists of our times resemble those of former ages. Pharisee-like they please themselves, and gratify their own pride in an affected severity; by it they also seek to establish themselves in the opinion of others. But humility and obedience are a touchstone which discovers their spirit. Montanus succeeded to the destruction of many souls who by pride or the like passions sought the snare; among others the great Tertullian fell, and not only regarded Montanus as the paraclete, but so much lost his faith and his reason as to honour the ground on which his two pretended prophetesses had trod; and to publish in his writings their illusions and dreams concerning the colour of a human soul, and the like absurdities and inconsistencies as oracles of the eternal truth. The Montanists of Asia, otherwise called Cataphyrges and Pepuzenians, sought in the beginning the communion and approbation of the bishop of Rome, to whom they sent letters and presents. A certain pope was prevailed upon, by the good accounts he had received of their severe morals and virtue, to send them letters of communion. But Praxeas, one who had confessed his faith before the persecutors, arriving at Rome, gave him such informations concerning the Pepuzenians and their prophecies, showing him that he could not admit them without condemning the judgment of his predecessors, that he revoked the letters of peace which he had determined to send, and refused their presents. This is the account which Tertullian, himself a Montanist, gives of the matter. 1 Dr. Cave and some others think this pope was Eleutherius, and that he approved the very doctrine of the Montanists; which is certainly a mistake. For the pope received from Praxeas only information as to matters of fact. He was only undeceived by him as to persons and facts, and this before any sentence was given. Nay, it seems that the Montanists had not then openly broached their errors in faith, which they for some time artfully disguised. It seems also, from the circumstances of the time, that the pope whom Praxeas undeceived was Victor the successor of Eleutherius, and that Eleutherius himself had before rejected the pretended prophets.

This good pope had the affliction to see great havoc made in his flock by the persecution, especially at Lyons and Vienne, under Marcus Aurelius. But he had, on the other side, the comfort to find the losses richly repaired by the acquisition of new countries to the faith. The light of the gospel had, in the very times of the apostles, crossed the sea into the island of Great Britain; but seems to have been almost choked by the tares of the reigning superstitions, or oppressed by the tumults of wars in the reduction of that valiant people under the Roman yoke, till God, 3 who chose poor fishermen to convert the world, here taught a king to esteem it a greater happiness to become an apostle, and to extend his faith in this remote corner of the world, than to wear a crown. This was Lucius, a petty king who reigned in a part of the island. His Roman name shows that he was one of those kings whom the Romans honoured with that dignity in remote conquered countries to be their instruments in holding them in subjection. Lucius sent a solemn embassy to Rome to beg some zealous clergymen of Pope Eleutherius who might instruct his subjects and celebrate and administer to them the divine mysteries. Our saint received the message with joy, and sent apostolical men who preached Christ in this island with such fruit, that the faith in a very short time passed out of the provinces which obeyed the Romans into those northern parts which were inaccessible to their eagles, as Tertullian wrote soon after. 4 Fugatius and Damianus are said to have been the two principal of these Roman missionaries: the old Welsh Chronicle, quoted by Usher, calls them Dwywan and Fagan. They died in or near the diocess of Landaff; and Harpsfield 5 says, there stood in Wales a church dedicated to God under their invocation. Stow in his Annals says that in Somersetshire there remaineth a parish church bearing the name of St. Deruvion. From this time the faith became very flourishing in Britain, as is mentioned by Origen, Eusebius, St. Chrysostom, Theodoret, Gildas, &c. quoted by Usher, Alfred, &c. 6 Florinus, who taught that God was the author of evil, and Blastus, who pretended that the custom of celebrating Easter on the fourteenth day of the moon, which was tolerated in the Orientals, ought to be followed at Rome, were condemned by St. Eleutherius, who governed the church fifteen years, and died soon after the Emperor Commodus in 192. He was buried on the Salarian road; but his remains have been translated to the Vatican church. See St. Irenæus, l. 3, c. 3. Eusebius, l. 4, c. 22, l. 5, c. 3, 4, 14. Tillemont, t. 3, p. 60.

Note 1. L. contra Prax. c. 1.

Note 2. See Tillemont, Ceillier on Victor.

Note 3. See Bede, l. 1, ch. 4.

Note 4. L. contra Judæos.

Note 5. Hist. l. 1, c. 3.

Note 6. Some late Protestant writers have endeavoured to persuade us, that the Britons received the faith from the Orientals, not from Rome. The matter is no otherwise of importance than as an historical fact. But the testimony of all our ancient historians and monuments shows, that as the provinces of the West in general received the faith principally from the preaching of SS. Peter and Paul and their disciples, so Britain in particular was indebted to the bishops of Rome on that score, and at first kept the feast of Easter according to the tradition of that church. The council of Arles, in 314, confirmed the Roman custom of celebrating Easter; in which synod were present three British bishops, viz., those of London, Colchester, and York, witnesses of the practice of this whole church. The same point of discipline was ordained by the council of Nice in 325, and that same year Constantine reckoned the Britains among those who agreed with Rome in the keeping of Easter. After this time, whether by ignorance or by what other means is uncertain, the Britons, Scots, and Irish admitted an erroneous rule in this point of discipline, by which once in several years they kept Easter on the same day with the Jews; yet did not fall in with the Asiatics, who celebrated that feast always with the Jews on the fourteenth day of the first lunar month, after the vernal equinox, on whatever day of the week it fell, as Eusebius (b. 5, ch. 22,) and others testify. Those who did this upon the false and heretical principle, that the Jewish ceremonial laws bound Christians, and were not abolished when fulfilled by the coming of Christ, were heretics: the rest on account of their separation from the church, and obstinately refusing submission to its decrees and censures, were, after the councils of Arles and Nice, schismatics, and were called Quartodecimans. But the erroneous practice of the Britons differed widely from this of the Orientals, as St. Wilfrid demonstrated before Oswi, king of the Northumbrians, as is related by Bede. (Hist. b. 3, c. 25.) For they celebrated Easter always on a Sunday, and on that which fell on or after the fourteenth day; whereas Catholics, with the council of Nice, to recede further from the appearance of observing the legal rites, never kept it on the fourteenth day; but when that happened to be a Sunday, deferred the celebration of this festival to the Sunday following; to which practice the Scots and Britons at length acceded, as we shall see in the lives of SS. Wilfrid and Cummianus: in the mean time they lay under no censure, differing from the Quartodecimans, who kept Easter always with the Jews, on the fourteenth day.



ST. ELEUTHERIUS

ca. 174 - 189 AD

According to the "Liber Pontificalis," St. Eleutherius was a Greek from Nicopolis in Epirus. His father's name was Habundius. He ordered that no food which was fit for a human being should be despised by Christians. This decree, if authentic, probably was aimed at the Montanists, a fanatical puritanical sect, or the Manicheans, who despised meat.

St. Irenaeus, the famous father of the Church, was sent by St. Pothinus and the clergy of Lyons to confer with Pope Eleutherius about Montanism. Unfortunately Eusebius, who narrates the fact, did not preserve the details of this interesting mission. Montanism was a peculiar exaggeration or parody of Christianity started by a Phrygian ex-priest of Cybele, Montanus. This man taught that inspiration and ecstasy rather than the hierarchy should guide the faithful, that martyrdom should be rashly sought, that marriage was wrong, and that Montanus was, if not the Holy Ghost himself, the authentic herald of the Holy Ghost. In a modified form this heresy infiltrated into the West. Since its most common manifestation was an exaggerated strictness and since at first in the West it did not seek to break away from the Church, it is not surprising that it took a little time before it was discovered for the heresy it was. It is not clear whether Pope St. Eleutherius condemned Montanism at this time.

A very interesting item in the "Liber Pontificalis" concerns the reception by Pope Eleutherius of a letter from Lucius, the king of Britain, asking for instruction in the Christian faith: very interesting but almost certainly untrue. Britain at this time was a Roman province. It is true that some high land chief from beyond the wall might call himself king, but it is quite unlikely that such a remote red-shanks should have written to Rome. The early British historian Gildas makes not the slightest mention of such an incident. Most modern scholars agree that the story is apocryphal. An interesting theory advanced by some modern scholars is that the author of the "Liber Pontificalis" or a copyist confused Lucius, king of Britain, with Lucius, king Britium in Mesopotamia.

St. Eleutherius was buried near St. Peter in the Vatican. He is honored by the Church as a martyr.


Pope Saint Eleutherius

(175-189)

Buried in the Church of Santa Susanna, he was the twelfth successor of St. Peter. Eleutherius was a Greek from Nicopolis in Epirus and had served as deacon to Pope Anicetus (155-166). It was during his papacy that St. Irenaeus of Lyon visited Rome to discuss the suffering of the Christians of Lyon and to bring a letter critical of the prophesies of the heresy of Montanism. This movement was derived from a series of prophesies which announced the end of the world and demanded that Christians live rigid and severe lives in preparation. Tertullian a prominent convert from North Africa states that Eleutherius was initially attracted to Montanism and only later in his papacy did he come to condemn it.

Eleutherius is listed as a martyr. He died during the reign of the Emperor Commodus (180-192). Commodus was the son of the emperor Marcus Aurelius. The new emperor was insane and during his reign Rome became increasingly violent. Fascinated with eastern mystery religions and violent circus games, a number of Christians, including Eleutherius perished under his misrule.

The body of Eleutherius originally rested in the catacombs and then in the small church of San Giovanni della Pigna, near the Pantheon. In 1591, his body was brought to the Church of Santa Susanna by Camilla Peretti (the sister of Pope Sixtus V). The great fresco over his tomb altar by Giovanni Pozzo (1563-1591) shows Eleutherius being dragged by horses and then burned over a grill while the Emperor Commodus watched. Pope St. Eleutherius' feast day is May 26th.