Pope St. Innocent I

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Pope St. Innocent I (died 417) was the bishop of Rome from 401 to his death in 417.  From the beginning of his papacy, he was seen as the general arbitrator of ecclesiastical disputes in both the East and the West.  The Roman Apostolic See was seen as the ultimate resort for the settlement of all ecclesiastical disputes, as shown through Pope Innocent’s various communications with prominent names such as  Victricius of Rouen, Exuperius of Toulouse, Alexander of Antioch and others, as well as the appeal made to him by John Chrysostom against Theophilus of Alexandria.  Pope Innocent I defended the then exiled John Chrysostom. He also took a decided view against the Pelagian heresy, confirming the decisions of the synod of Carthage in 416, confirming the condemnation which had been pronounced in 411 against Cælestius, who shared the views of Pelagius. He also wrote in the same year in a similar sense to the fathers of the Numidian synod of Mileve who had addressed him to help settle their dispute. Soon after this, five African bishops, among them St. Augustine, wrote a personal letter to Innocent regarding their own position against Pelagianism.  Among Innocent I’s letters is one to Jerome and another to John II, Bishop of Jerusalem, regarding annoyances to which the former had been subjected by the Pelagians at Bethlehem.  In 405 A.D. Pope Innocent sent a list of the sacred books to a Gallic bishop, Exsuperius of Toulouse, which was identical to the canonical list put forth by the Council of Rome, Council of Carthage, and Council of Hippo, as well as  identical with the Biblical Canon put forth by the Council of Trent 1000 years later.  All of these lists included the Deuterocanonical books or “Apocrypha” such as I and II Maccabees.


  • Epistle to Exsuperius, Bishop of Toulouse, on the Canon of the Bible
  • Epistle to Victricius of Rouen
  • Epistle to Alexander of Antioch
  • Epistle to John Chrysostom
  • Epistle to the Council of Carthage 
  • Epistle to the fathers of the Numidian synod of Mileve
  • Epistle to Jerome on Pelagianism
  • Epistle to John II, Bishop of Jerusalem on Pelagianism
  • Epistle of St. Augustine to Pope Innocent I on Pelagianism

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Quotes and Excerpts:

The Letter Consulenti Tibi to St. Exuperius (Written I.  405 A.D.)

It has been asked what is to be done about those who, after Baptism, have given
themselves on every occasion to the pleasures of incontinence, and at the very end of
their lives ask for Penance and at the same time the reconciliation of Communion.
[6] The former rule in their regard was more difficult, the recent more lenient, because
mercy has intervened. For the former custom held that Penance was to be granted but
Communion denied. For in times when there were cruel persecutions, lest the ease with
which Communion was granted might not restrain men, confident of reconciliation, from a
lapse, Communion was rightly denied; but Penance was granted, lest the whole be entirely
denied; and by reason of the times, forgiveness was made more difficult. But after our Lord
restored peace to His Churches, terror having now been removed, it was decided that
Communion should be given the dying, as a Viaticum for those about to set forth, both on
account of the mercy of the Lord and lest we seem to be following the harshness and rigor
of the Novatianist heretic in refusing forgiveness. With Penance, therefore, a last
Communion will be given, so that men of this sort or in their final extremities, our Savior
permitting, may be delivered from eternal ruin.

“A brief addition shows what books really are received in the canon. These are the things of which you desired to be informed verbally: of Moses, five books, that is, of Genesis, of Exodus, of Leviticus, of Numbers, of Deuteronomy, and Joshua, of Judges, one book, of Kings, four books, and also Ruth, of the prophets, sixteen books,
of Solomon, five books, the Psalms. Likewise of the histories,
Job, one book, of Tobit, one book, Esther, one, Judith, one, of
the Maccabees, two, of Esdras, two, Paralipomenon, two books.”

Letter to Exsuperius, bishop of Toulouse. (A.D. 405)  -The Latin text here conforms to the one printed in B.F. Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (5th ed. Edinburgh, 1881), pp. 570f. Followed by English Translation below:

“Qui vero libri recipiantur in canone sanctarum scripturarum brevis annexus ostendit. Haec sunt ergo quae desiderata moneri voluisti: Moysi libri quinque, id est Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium, necnon et Jesu Nave, et Judicum, et Regnorum libri quatuor simul et Ruth, prophetarum libri sexdecim, Salomonis libri quinque, Psalterium. Item historiarum Job liber unus, Tobiae unus, Hester unus, Judith unus, Machabeorum duo, Esdrae duo, Paralipomenon duo. Item Novi Testamenti: Evangeliorum libri iiii, Pauli Apostoli Epistolae xiiii: Epistolae Iohannis tres: Epistolae Petri duae: Epistola Judae: Epistola Jacobi: Actus Apostolorum: Apocalypsis Johannis. Caetera autem quae vel sub nomine Matthiae, sive Jacobi minoris, vel sub nomine Petri et Johannis, quae a quodam Leucio scripta sunt, vel sub nomine Andreae, quae a Nexocharide, et Leonida philosophis, vel sub nomine Thomae, et si qua sunt talia, non solum repudianda verum etiam noveris esse damnanda. Which books really are received in the canon, this brief addition shows. These therefore are the things of which you desired to be informed. Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and Joshua the son of Nun, and Judges, and the four books of Kings together with Ruth, sixteen books of the Prophets, five books of Solomon, and the Psalms. Also of the historical books, one book of Job, one of Tobit, one of Esther, one of Judith, two of Maccabees, two of Ezra, two of Chronicles. And of the New Testament: of the Gospels four. Epistles of the apostle Paul fourteen. Epistles of John three. Epistles of Peter two. Epistle of Jude. Epistle of James. Acts of the Apostles. John’s Apocalypse. But the rest of the books, which appear under the name of Matthias or of James the Less, or under the name of Peter and John (which were written by a certain Leucius), or under the name of Andrew (which were written by the philosophers Xenocharides and Leonidas), or under the name of Thomas, and whatever others there may be, you should know they are not only to be rejected but also condemned.”

The Letter of Pope Innocent I to John Chrysostom (Written ca 416 A.D.

“To presbyters and deacons, and all the clergy and people of the Church of Constantinople, the brethren beloved who are subject to the bishop John (Chrysostom), greetings. . . From the letters of your love which you have sent by the hands of Germanus the presbyter, and Casianus the deacon, I have studied with anxious care the scene of calamity which you have placed before my eyes. . . Not only therefore do we say that these ought not to be followed, but rather that they should be condemned among heretical and schismatic decrees, as was formerly done in the Council of Sardica by the bishops who were before us.”

 The Letter of Pope Innocent I to John Chrysostom (Written ca 416  A.D.)

“In regards to the observance of the canons we lay it down that we ought to follow those, which were defined at Nicæa, to which alone the Catholic Church is bound to pay obedience and recognition. And if others are brought forward by certain men, which are at variance with the canons framed at Nicæa, and are proved to have been composed by heretics, let them be rejected by the Catholic bishops. For the inventions of heretics ought not to be appended to the Catholic canons. . .”

Epistle 29, to the Council of Carthage (In requirendis). Jan 27, 417 AD. Patrologia Latina 33.780)

“In making inquiry with respect to those things that should be treated with all solicitude by bishops, and especially by a true and just and Catholic Council, by preserving, as you have done, the example of ancient tradition, and by being mindful of ecclesiastical discipline, you have truly strengthened the vigour of our Faith, no less now in consulting us than before in passing sentence. For you decided that it was proper to refer to our judgement, knowing what is due to the Apostolic See, since all we who are set in this place, desire to follow the Apostle (Peter) from whom the very episcopate and whole authority of this name is derived. Following in his steps, we know how to condemn the evil and to approve the good. So also, you have by your sacerdotal office preserved the customs of the Fathers, and have not spurned that which they decreed by a divine and not human sentence, that whatsoever is done, even though it be in distant provinces, should not be ended without being brought to the knowledge of this See, [39] that by its authority the whole just pronouncement should be strengthened, and that from it all other Churches (like waters flowing from their natal source and flowing through the different regions of the world, the pure streams of one incorrupt head), should receive what they ought to enjoin, whom they ought to wash, and whom that water, worthy of pure bodies, should avoid as defiled with uncleansable filth. I congratulate you, therefore, dearest brethren, that you have directed letters to us by our brother and fellow-bishop Julius, and that, while caring for the Churches which you rule, you also show your solicitude for the well-being of all, and that you ask for a decree that shall profit all the Churches of the world at once; [40] so that the Church being established in her rules and confirmed by this decree of just pronouncement against such errors, may be unable to fear those men, etc.”

(Written March 19, 416 A.D.)

“In regard to the confirming of infants, however, it is clear that it is not permitted to be done by
any other than the bishop. For the presbyters, granted they be secondary priests, do not, however, possess the summit of the pontificate. This pontifical
power by which they confirm or confer the Spirit,
is shown to belong only to bishops, not only by ecclesiastical custom but also by that passage of the Acts of the Apostles which declares that Peter and John were directed to give the Holy Spirit to persons already baptized. For it is permitted presbyters, when they baptize either without a bishop or in the presence of a bishop, to anoint the baptized with chrism, but with chrism which has been consecrated by a bishop; they are not permitted, however, to sign the forehead with that same oil, which signing pertains to bishops only, when they confer the Spirit Paraclete.”

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