Pope Zosimus

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Pope Zosimus was the bishop of Rome from 18 March 417 to his death on 26 December 418.  Zosimus took a decided part in the dispute in Gaul as to the jurisdiction of the See of Arles over that of Vienne.  Bishop Patroclus of Arles had been raised to that see in place of Bishop Heros of Arles and in 417, he received a papal letter which conferred upon him the rights of a metropolitan over all the bishops of the Gallic provinces of Viennensis and Narbonensis I and II.  The bishops of Vienne, Narbonne, and Marseille regarded this elevation of the See of Arles as an infringement of their rights, and raised objections which occasioned several letters from Zosimus. The dispute, however, was not settled until the pontificate of Pope Leo I.

Pope Zosimus was also involved in the Pelagian controversy.  Caelestius, a proponent of Pelagianism who had been condemned by the preceding pope, Innocent I, came to Rome to appeal to the new pope. In 418, Zosimus held a meeting with the Roman clergy and Caelestius in the Basilica of St. Clement.  Paulinus of Milan brought up the propositions for which  Caelestius had been condemned at Carthage in 411. Caelestius refused to condemn these propositions, but at the same time declared that he accepted the doctrine expounded in the letters of Pope Innocent. He then made a confession of faith which was approved by the council.  Pope Zosimus was won over by the conduct of Caelestius and wrote to the Bishops of North Africa that it was not certain whether Caelestius had really maintained the false doctrine rejected by Innocent.   After Pope Zosimus received from a confession of faith along with a new treatise on free will from Pelagius, Zosimus decided to hold a new synod of the Roman clergy.  After reading them, the assembly held the statements to be orthodox, and Zosimus again wrote to the African bishops defending Pelagius. Archbishop Aurelius of Carthage quickly called a synod, which sent a reply to Zosimus in which it was argued that the pope had been deceived by theses heretics.  Zosimus wrote back that he had settled nothing definitely, and wished to settle nothing without consulting the African bishops. After receiving the new synodal letter of the African council of 1 May 418 to the pope, Zosimus issued his Tractoria, in which Pelagianism and its authors were finally condemned.


  • Multiple Epistles

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Quotes and Excerpts:

“Although the tradition of the Fathers has attributed such great authority to the Apostolic See that no one would dare to disagree wholly with its judgment, and it has always preserved this [judgment] by canons and rules, and current ecclesiastical discipline up to this time by its laws pays the reverence which is due to the name of Peter, from whom it has itself descended …; since therefore Peter the head is of such great authority and he has confirmed the subsequent endeavors of all our ancestors, so that the Roman Church is fortified. . . by human as well as by divine laws, and it does not escape you that we rule its place and also hold power of the name itself, nevertheless you know, dearest brethren, and as priests you ought to know, although we have such great authority that no one can dare to retract from our decision, yet we have done nothing which we have not voluntarily referred to your notice by letters . . . not because we did not know what ought to be done, or would do anything which by going against the advantage of the Church, would be displeasing.”

From the epistle (12) “Quamvis Patrum traditio” to the African bishops, March 21, 418. Patrologia Latina 20. 676; Denzinger, H., & Rahner, K. (Eds.). (1954). The sources of Catholic dogma. (R. J. Deferrari, Trans.) (p. 47). St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co.)

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