St Eugene I


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(10 Aug. 654–2 June 657)

A Roman, son of Rufinianus, he had been brought up in the church's ministry from childhood and was an elderly presbyter when elected after the deposition and banishment of Martin I by Emperor Constans II (641–68). It had been Martin's hope that the Roman clergy would not elect a successor while he was still alive, but in view of pressure from the Byzantine court and its exarch in Italy they had little option. Since Eugene did not seem likely to cause trouble, the government found no difficulty in ratifying their choice. According to many he should not be considered legitimate pope until Martin's death in Sept. 655, but while disappointed by his election Martin himself seems to have acquiesced in it.

As in Martin's time, the burning issue was still whether Christ had two wills, as Roman orthodoxy affirmed, or one, the view (monothelitism) favoured at Constantinople in spite of the banning of discussion of the subject by the Typos. A mild and saintly man, Eugene was out to be conciliatory after the brutal treatment meted out to Martin, and dispatched envoys to Constantinople to restore relations between the holy see and the court. These were warmly received by the recently appointed patriarch Peter (654–66), who proposed to them a compromise formula which maintained that, while each of Christ's two natures had its own will, considered as a person or hypostasis he possessed only one will. Although this logically entailed that he had three wills, they were talked into accepting it, and on this basis, at Pentecost 655, entered into communion with the new patriarch. Peter then handed the envoys his synodical letters, announcing his appointment and containing his profession of faith, for transmission to the pope, and they returned to Rome. But when the profession, which embodied an ambiguous theory of Christ's wills, was formally read out in Sta Maria Maggiore, the outraged clergy and people prevented Eugene, who was disposed to accept it, from proceeding with the mass until he had promised to reject it. Thus instead of the peace he was working for, there was again schism between Rome and Constantinople. In his exasperation Constans II threatened that, once his hands were freed from fighting the heathen, he would administer the same treatment to Eugene as to Martin. Before any steps could be taken, however, the pope was dead. He was revered for his unaffected goodness, and left bequests for both the clergy and the people of Rome. Buried in St Peter's, he was ignored by the ancient martyrologies, and his name was inserted in the Roman Martyrology by the famous church historian Cesare Baronius (1538–1607). Feast 2 June.

Further Reading

JW i. 233 f., ii. 699, 740LP i. 341 f. (Davis 1: 73)D. Mallardo, Papa S. Eugenio I (Naples, 1943)Caspar ii. 580–87DCB ii. 270 (J. Barmby)DHGE xv. 1346 f. (H. Marot)BSS v. 194 f. (P. Burchi)Levillain i. 531–2 (J. Durliat)NCE v. 442–3 (C. M. Aherne)Seppelt ii. 580–87JR 191–4

Subjects: Christianity.

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