Innocent I of Rome

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Our father among the saints Innocent I of Rome was the bishop of the Church of Rome from 402 to 417. Innocent was active in using every opportunity of making and extending the authority of the Roman see as the ultimate resort in the settlement of disputes within the Church. His feast day is March 25.

Life

Little is known of the early life of Bp. Innocent. The date of his birth is unknown. The Liber Pontificalis reports him as a native of Albano, now a suburb of Rome, whose father was named Innocentius. His contemporary, St. Jerome noted that his father was Bp. Anastasius I, who was Innocent's immediate predecessor as Bishop of Rome, as the Roman clergy, at the time, could not marry once ordained but a previous marriage was not an obstacle to ordination.

Having grown up among the clergy of Rome and in the service of the Church of Rome as a deacon, Innocent was elected Bishop of Rome unanimously by the clergy and people of Rome in early 402 after Bp. Anastasius' death on December 19, 401. Among the activities he pursued in Rome were his recovery of a number of churches from the Novations [1], and the banishment of Marcus, an adherent of Photinus, from Rome. He also took a strong position against Pelagianism, confirming the decisions of the provincial synod held in Carthage in 416.

During the siege of Rome by Alaric and the Visigoths in 408, Bp. Innocent participated in the embassy of Romans to emperor Honorius in Ravenna in an attempt to influence him to make peace with Alaric, an attempt that failed. During the resumption of the siege, Innocent and the other members of the Roman party were unable to return to Rome before it fell.

During the time of his episcopate, the disturbed state of the church following the controversies of Arianism provided many opportunities for Bp. Innocent to be placed in a position of acting as the final arbiter of disputes. Acting on the presumption that he headed the entire Christian church, Bp. Innocent reminded Abp. Anysius of Thessalonica, in a letter announcing his election to the see of Rome, that certain privileges of his office depended on Rome including those of confirming and consecrating bishops of Eastern Illyria. After clarifying disciplinary matters in regard an appeal from Bp. Victricius of Rouen, Innocent issued a decree on February 15, 404 that matters such as those involving celibacy, ordinations of clergy, and reception of Novatianists or Donatists must be sent to the apostolic see at Rome.

An appeal by St. John Chrysostom, following his deposition at the so-called Synod of the Oak in 403 over which Theophilus of Alexandria presided, provided Bp. Innocent with the opportunity to mediate the dispute between the bishops of Constantinople and Alexandria through an ecumenical council. This attempt failed when eastern emperor Acadius, who favored Theophilus, refused to call the council that would have allowed Rome to act in the affairs of the eastern church.

St. Innocent reposed on March 12, 417.

Reference

  1. Socrates, Church History, VII.2
Succession box:
Innocent I of Rome
Preceded by:
Anastasius I
Archbishop of Rome
402-417
Succeeded by:
Zosimus
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