the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Julius (5), Bishop of Rome
Wace's Dictionary of Early Christian Biography
Julius (5), bp. of Rome after Marcus, Feb. 6, 337, to Apr. 12, 352, elected after a vacancy of four months. His pontificate is specially notable for his defence of Athanasius, and for the canons of Sardica enacted during it. When Julius became pope, Athanasius was in exile at TrÃ¨ves after his first deposition by the council of Tyre, having been banished by Constantine the Great in 336. Constantine, dying on Whitsunday 337, was succeeded by his three sons, by whose permission Athanasius returned to his see. But the Eusebians continuing their machinations, the restoration of Athanasius was declared invalid; and one Pistus was set up as bp. of Alexandria in his stead. A deputation was now sent to Rome to induce Julius to declare against Athanasius and acknowledge Pistus; but having failed to convince the pope, desired him to convene a general council at which he should adjudicate upon the charges against Athanasius. Socrates ( H. E. ii. 11) and Sozomen ( H. E. iii. 7) state that Eusebius wrote to Julius requesting him to judge the case. But this is not asserted by Julius, and is improbable. Julius undertook to hold a council wherever Athanasius chose, and seems to have sent a synodical letter to the Eusebians apprising them of his intention. The dates of the events that followed are not without difficulty.
Early in 340 Pistus had been given up as the rival bishop, and one Gregory, a Cappadocian, violently intruded by Philagrius the prefect of Egypt into the see; and the Lenten services had been the occasion of atrocious treatment of the Catholics of Alexandria. Athanasius, having concealed himself for a time in the neighbourhood and prepared an encyclic in which he detailed the proceedings, seems to have departed for Rome about Easter 340, and to have been welcomed there by Julius, who, after his arrival, sent two presbyters, Elpidius and Philoxenes, with a letter to Eusebius and his party fixing Dec. 340, at Rome, for the proposed synod. The Eusebians refused to come, and detained the envoys of Julius beyond the time fixed. Elpidius and Philoxenes did not return to Rome till Jan. 341, bringing then a letter, the purport of which is gathered from the reply of Julius to be mentioned presently. Julius suppressed this letter for some time, hoping that the arrival of some Eusebians in Rome might spare him the pain of making it public, and in this hope he also deferred the assembling of the council. But no one came. The Eusebians now shewed themselves by no means prepared to submit to his adjudication, but took advantage of the dedication of a new cathedral at Antioch to hold a council of their own there, known as the "Dedication council" (probably in Aug. 341) and attended by 97 bishops. They prepared canons and three creeds, designed to convince the Western church of their orthodoxy, confirmed the sentence of the council of Tyre against Athanasius, and endeavoured to prevent his restoration by a canon with retrospective force, debarring even from a hearing any bishop or priest who should have officiated after a canonical deposition. Julius meanwhile had made public their letter, and, not yet knowing of the proceedings at Antioch, assembled his council in the church of the presbyter Vito at Rome, apparently in Nov. 341, Athanasius being stated to have been then a year and a half in Rome. It was attended by more than 50 bishops. Old and new accusations were considered; the Acts of the council of Tyre, and those of the inquiry in the Mareotis about the broken chalice, which had been left at Rome by the Eusebian envoys two years before, were produced; witnesses were heard in disproof of the charges and in proof of Eusebian atrocities; and the result was the complete acquittal of Athanasius and confirmation of the communion with him, which had never been discontinued by the Roman church. Marcellus of Ancyra, who had been deposed and banished on a charge of heresy by a Eusebian council at Constantinople in 336 and had been 15 months in Rome, was declared orthodox on the strength of his confession of faith which satisfied the council. Other bishops and priests, from Thrace, Coelesyria, Phoenicia, Palestine, and Egypt, are said by Julius in his subsequent synodal letter to have been present to complain of injuries suffered from the Eusebian party. Socrates (H. E. ii. 15) and Sozomen ( H. E. iii. 8) say that all the deposed bishops were reinstated by Julius in virtue of the prerogative of the Roman see, and that he wrote vigorous letters in their defence, reprehending the Eastern bishops and summoning some of the accusers to Rome. But there seems much exaggeration here. Paul certainly, the deposed patriarch of Constantinople (whom Eusebius had succeeded and who is mentioned by Socrates and Sozomen among the successful appellants), was not restored till the death of his rival in 342, and then only for a time and not through the action of Julius; nor did Athanasius regain his see till 346. Indeed, Sozomen himself acknowledges (iii. 10) that Julius effected nothing at the time by his letters in favour of Athanasius and Paul, and consequently referred their cause to the emperor Constans. Julius's real attitude and action are best seen in the long letter he addressed to the Easterns at the desire of the Roman council, which has been preserved entire by Athanasius ( Apol. contra Arian. 21â€“36). He begins by animadverting strongly on the tone of the letter brought to him by his envoys, which was such, he says, that when he had at last reluctantly shewn it to others they could hardly believe it genuine. His own action had been complained of in the letter. He therefore both defends himself and recriminates: "You object to having your own synodal judgment [that of Tyre] questioned in a second council. But this is no unprecedented proceeding. The council of Nice permitted the re-examination of synodical Acts. If your own judgment were right, you should have rejoiced in the opportunity of having it confirmed; and how can you, of all men, complain, when it was at the instance of your own emissaries, when worsted by the advocates of Athanasius, that the Roman council was convened? You certainly cannot plead the irreversibility of a synodical decision, having yourselves reversed even the judgment of Nice in admitting Arians to communion. If on this ground you complain of my receiving Athanasius, much more may I complain of your asking me to acknowledge Pistus, a man alleged by the envoys of Athanasius to have been condemned as an Arian at Nice and admitted by your own representatives to have been ordained by one Secundus, who had been so condemned. It must have been from chagrin at being so utterly refuted in his advocacy of Pistus that your emissary Macarius fled by night, though in weak health, from Rome." He next refers sarcastically to an allegation of his correspondents as to the equality of all bishops, made either in justification of their having judged a bp. of Alexandria or in deprecation of the case being referred to Rome. "If, as you write, you hold the honour of all bishops to be equal, and unaffected by the greatness of their sees, this view comes ill from those who have shewn themselves so anxious to get translated from their own small sees to greater ones." He here alludes to Eusebius himself, who had passed from Berytus to Nicomedia, and thence to Constantinople. Having treated as frivolous their plea of the short time allowed them to get to the Roman council, he meets their further complaint that his letter of summons had been addressed only to Eusebius and his party, instead of the whole Eastern episcopate. "I naturally wrote to those who had written to me." He adds emphatically, "Though I alone wrote, I did so in the name of, and as expressing the sentiments of, all the Italian bishops." He then justifies at length his action and that of the Roman council. The letters of accusation against Athanasius had been from strangers living at a distance, and contradicted one another: the testimonies in his favour from his own people, who knew him well, had been clear and consistent. He exposes the false charges about the murder of Arsenius and the broken chalice, and the unfairness of the Mareotic inquiry. He contrasts the conduct of Athanasius, who had come of his own accord to Rome to court investigation, with the unwillingness of his accusers to appear against him. He dwells on the uncanonical intrusion of Gregory the Cappadocian by military force into the Alexandrian see, and on the atrocities committed to enforce acceptance of him. "It is you," he adds, "who have set at nought the canons, and disturbed the church's peace; not we, as you allege, who have entertained a just appeal, and acquitted the innocent." After briefly justifying the acquittal of Marcellus from the charge of heresy, he calls upon those to whom he writes to repudiate the base conspiracy of a few and so remedy the wrong done. He points out what would have been the proper course of procedure in case of any just cause of suspicion against the bishops. This part of his letter is important, as shewing his own view of his position in relation to the church at large. "If," he says, "they were guilty, as you say they were, they ought to have been judged canonically, not after your method. All of us [ i.e. the whole episcopate] ought to have been written to, that so justice might be done by all. For they were bishops who suffered these things, and bishops of no ordinary sees, but of such as were founded by apostles personally. Why, then, were you unwilling to write to us [ i.e. to the Roman church] especially about the Alexandrian see? Can you be ignorant that this is the custom; that we should be written to in the first place, so that hence [ i.e. from this church] what is just may be defined? Wherefore, if a suspicion against the bishop had arisen there [ i.e. in Alexandria], it ought to have been referred hither to our church. But now, having never informed us of the case, they wish us to accept their condemnation, in which we had no part. Not so do the ordinances of St. Paul direct; not so do the Fathers teach: this is pride, and a new ambition. I beseech you, hear me gladly. I write this for the public good: for what we have received from the blessed Peter I signify to you." This language will hardly bear the inferences of Socrates (ii. 8, 17) and of Sozomen (iii. 10), that, according to church law, enactments made without the consent of the bp. of Rome were held invalid. It certainly implies no claim to exclusive jurisdiction over all churches. All that Julius insists on is that charges against the bishops of great sees ought, according to apostolic tradition and canonical rule, to be referred to the whole episcopate; and that, in the case of a bp. of Alexandria at least, custom gave the initiative of proceedings to the bp. of Rome. In this reference to custom he probably has in view the case of Dionysius of Alexandria, the charges against whom had been laid before Dionysius of Rome. The allegation in the earlier part of his letter of the fathers of Nice having sanctioned the reconsideration of the decisions of synods is more difficult to account for. He may be alluding to the action of the Nicene council in entertaining the case of Arius after he had been synodically condemned at Alexandria. The action of pope Julius appears open to no exception, for if the synod consisted of Westerns only, that was because the Easterns refused to attend it, though Julius had convened it at the suggestion of their own emissaries; and, after all, the Roman synod only confirmed the continuance of communion with Eastern prelates whom it deemed unjustly condemned. It had no power to do more. Still, the action of Julius may have served as a step towards subsequent papal claims of a more advanced kind; and it probably suggested the canons of Sardica, pregnant with results, which will be noticed presently.
Athanasius remained still in Rome, till, in his fourth year of residence thereâ€”probably in the summer of 343â€”he received a summons from Constans, now sole emperor of the West, to meet him at Milan (Athan. Apol. ad Imp. Constantium , 4), about the holding of a new council, at which both East and West should be fully represented. With the concurrence of the Eastern emperor Constantius, this council was summoned at the Moesian town of Sardica on the confines of their empires, probably towards the end of 343. The scheme of united action failed, the Eastern bishops holding a separate synod at Philippopolis. The rest met at Sardica under the venerable Hosius of Cordova. In some editions of the Acts of the council he is designated one of the legates of the Roman see. But this designation seems due only to the desire, which appears in other cases, of assigning the presidency of all councils to the pope. According to Athanasius (Apol. contra Arian. 50), Julius was represented by two presbyters, Archidamus and Philoxenes, whose names appear in the signatures to the synodal letter of the council after that of Hosius. Hosius undoubtedly presided, and there is no sign of his having done so as the pope's deputy either in the Acts of the council or in the letter sent to Julius at its close. Nor can the initiative of the council be assigned to Julius, for this is inconsistent with the statement of Athanasius, who calls God to witness that when summoned to Milan he was entirely ignorant of the purpose of the summons, but found that it was because "certain bishops" there had been moving Constans to induce Constantius to allow a general council to be assembled ( Apol. ad Imp. Constantium , 4). If Julius had been the mover, it is unlikely that Athanasius, who was with him at Rome, would have been ignorant of the purpose of his summons or would have spoken only of "certain bishops." The council was convened by the emperors on their own authority, to review the whole past proceedings, whether at Tyre, Antioch, or Rome, without asking the pope's leave or inviting him to take the lead. It confirmed and promulgated anew all the decisions of the Roman council, decreed the restoration of the banished orthodox prelates, and excommunicated the Eusebian intruders. It also passed 21 canons of discipline, 3 being of special historic importance. The extant Acts of the council give them thus. Canon III. (al. III., IV.) "Bp. Osius said: This also is necessary to be added, that bishops pass not from their own province to another in which there are bishops, unless perhaps on the invitation of their brethren there, that we may not seem to close the gate of charity. And, if in any province a bishop have a controversy against a brother bishop, let neither of the two call upon a bishop from another province to take cognizance of it. But, should any one of the bishops have been condemned in any case, and think that he has good cause for a reconsideration of it, let us (if it please you) honour the memory of the blessed Apostle St. Peter, so that Julius, the Roman bishop, be written to by those who have examined the case; and, if he should judge that the trial ought to be renewed, let it be renewed, and let him appoint judges. But, if he should decide that the case is such that what has been done ought not to be reconsidered, what he thus decides shall be confirmed. Si hoc omnibus placet? The synod replied, Placet. " Canon IV. (al. V.) "Bp. Gaudentius said: Let it, if it please you, be added to this decree that when any bishop has been deposed by the judgment of bishops who dwell in neighbouring places, and he has proclaimed his intention of taking his case to Rome, no other bishop shall by any means be ordained to his see till the cause has been determined in the judgment of the Roman bishop." Canon V. ( al. VII.) "Bp. Osius said: It has seemed good to us ( placuit ) that if any bishop has been accused, and the assembled bishops of his own region have deposed him, and if he has appealed to the bishop of the Roman church, and if the latter is willing to hear him, and considers it just that the inquiry should be renewed, let him deign to write to the bishops of a neighbouring province, that they may diligently inquire into everything, and give their sentence according to the truth. But if the appellant in his supplication should have moved the Roman bishop to send a presbyter [al. presbyters] 'de suo latere,' it shall be in his [ i.e. the Roman bishop's] power to do whatever he thinks right. And if he should decide to send persons having his own authority to sit in judgment with the bishops, it shall be at his option to do so. But if he should think the bishops sufficient for terminating the business, he shall do what approves itself to his most wise judgment." In these canons we notice, firstly , they were designed to provide what recent events had shewn the need of, and what the existing church system did not adequately furnishâ€”a recognized court of appeal in ecclesiastical causes. The canons of Nice had provided none beyond the provincial synod, for beyond that the only strictly canonical appeal was to a general council, which could be but a rare event and was dependent on the will of princes. The need was felt of a readier remedy. Secondly , this remedy was provided by giving the Roman bishop the power to cause the judgment of provincial synods to be reconsidered; but only on the appeal of the aggrieved party, and only in certain prescribed ways. He might refuse to interfere, thus confirming the decision of the provincial synod; or he might constitute the bishops of a neighbouring province as a court of appeal; he might further, if requested and if he thought it necessary, send one or more presbyters as his legates to watch the proceedings, or appoint representatives of himself to sit as assessors in the court. But he was not empowered to interfere unless appealed to, or to summon the case to Rome to be heard before himself in synod; still less, of course, to adjudicate alone. Thirdly , it is evident that this course was sanctioned for the first time at Sardica. The canons, on the face of them, were not a confirmation of a traditional prerogative of Rome. The words of Hosius were, "Let us, if it please you, honour the memory of the blessed Apostle St. Peter," i.e. by conceding this power to the Roman bishop. Fourthly , the power in question was definitely given only to the then reigning pope, Julius, who is mentioned by name; and it has hence been supposed that it was not meant to be given his successors (cf. Richer. Hist. Concil. General. t. i. c. 3, Â§ 4). But the arrangement was probably at any rate intended to be permanent, since the need for it and the grounds assigned for it were permanent. Fifthly , since it was the causes of Eastern bishops that led to the enactment, the canons were probably meant to apply to the whole church, and not to the Western only. The Greek canonists, Balsamon and Zonaras, maintain their narrower scope; and it is true that, the council having consisted of Westerns only, they were never accepted by the churches of the East. But though the council of Sardica was not in fact oecumenical, the emperors had intended it to be so, and the Roman canonists call it so in virtue of the general summons. They, however, regard it as an appendage to that of Nice; and probably its canons were from the first added at Rome to those of Nice as supplementary to them, since in the well-known case of Apiarius, the African presbyter (A.D. 417), pope Zosimus quoted them as Nicene; and pope Innocent (A.D. 402) seems previously to have done the same in defending his appellate jurisdiction over Gaul. In the African case the error was eventually exposed by reference to the copies of the Nicene canons preserved at Constantinople and Alexandria, and the Africans thereupon distinctly repudiated the claims of Rome which rested upon this false foundation. But Boniface and Celestine, the successors of Zosimus, refer to these canons as Nicene, as did Leo I. in 449; and this continued to be the Roman position. The persistence of the popes in quoting them as Nicene after the mistake had been discovered is an early instance of Roman unfairness in support of papal claims. It is further a significant fact that in some Roman copies the name of Sylvester was substituted for that of Julius, as if with an intention of throwing their date back to the Nicene period. The scope also of the canons came in time to be unduly extended, being made to involve the power of the pope to summon at his will all cases to be heard before himself at Rome. Our proper conclusion seems to be that, though probably intended by their framers to bind the whole church, their authority was not really adequate to the purpose; and that the popes afterwards appealed to them unfairly in support of their claims by misrepresenting both their authority and their scope.
At the close of its sittings the council of Sardica addressed letters to the two emperors, to Julius, to the church of Alexandria, to the bishops of Egypt and Libya, and an encyclic "to all bishops." In that to Julius the reason he alleged for not attendingâ€”viz. the necessity of remaining in Rome to guard against the schemes of hereticsâ€”is allowed as sufficient; and he is presumed to have been present in spirit. The documents sent him and the oral report of his emissaries would inform him of what had been done, but it was thought fit to send him also a brief summary: The most religious emperors had permitted the council to discuss anew all past proceedings, and hence the following questions had been considered: (1) The definition of the true faith; (2) The condemnation or acquittal of those whom the Eusebians had deposed; (3) The charges against the Eusebians themselves of having unjustly condemned and persecuted the orthodox. For full information as to the council's decisions he is referred to the letters written to the emperors; and he is directed, rather than requested ("tua autem excellens prudentia disponere debet, ut per tua scripta," etc.), to inform the bishops of Italy, Sardinia, and Sicily of what had been done, that they might know with whom to hold communion. A list is appended of those excommunicated by the synod. The whole drift of the letter is inconsistent with the council having been convened by the pope himself, or held in his name, or considered dependent on him for ratification of its decrees. He is not even charged with the promulgation of them, except to bishops immediately under his jurisdiction. The only expression pointing to his pre-eminent position is that it would appear to be best and exceedingly fitting ("optimum et valde congruentissimum") that "the head, that is the see of St. Peter," should be informed respecting every single province. Nor is there in the letter to the Alexandrians, or in the encyclic to all bishops, any reference to him as having initiated or taken part in the council; only in the latter a passing allusion to the previous council which he ("comminister poster dilectissimus") had convened at Rome. The letter to Julius is signed, first by Hosius, and then by 58 other bishops, being probably those present at the close of the council. But as many as 284 are given by Athanasius (Apol. contra Arian. 49, 50) as having assented to its decrees and signed its encyclic letter. They include, from various parts of the West with a few from the East 78, from Gaul and Britain 34, from Africa 36, from Egypt 94, from Italy 15, from Cyprus 12, from Palestine 15.
Not till Oct. 346, some three years after the council, was Athanasius allowed to return to his see. Before that he again visited Rome, and was again cordially received by Julius, who wrote a letter of congratulation to the clergy and laity of Alexandria, remarkable for its warmth of feeling and beauty of expression. He regards the return at last of their beloved bishop after such prolonged affliction as a reward granted to their unwavering affection for him, shewn by their continual prayers and their letters of sympathy that had consoled his exile, as well as to his own faithfulness. He dwells on the holy character of Athanasius, his resoluteness in defence of the faith, his endurance of persecution, his contempt of death and danger. He congratulates them on receiving him back all the more glorious for his long trials and fully proved innocence. He pictures vividly his welcome home by rejoicing crowds at Alexandria. The letter is the more admirable for the absence of all bitterness towards the persecutors.
The only further notice of Julius is of his having received the recantation of Valens and Ursacius, two notable opponents of Athanasius who had been condemned at Sardica. They had already recanted before a synod at Milan, and written a pacific letter to Athanasius; but went also of their own accord, A.D. 347, to Rome, and presented a humble apologetic letter to Julius, and were admitted to communion (Athan. Hist. Arian. ad Monachos , 26; Hilar. Fragm. i.). Their profession however (in which they owned the falsity of their charges against Athanasius and renounced Arian heresy), proved insincere. For when, after the defeat of Constans in 350 and the defeat of Maxentius in 351, the tide of imperial favour began to turn, they recanted their recantation, which they said had been made only under fear of Constans. But Julius, who died Apr. 12, 352, was spared the troublous times which ensued. The fresh charges now got up, and sent to him and the emperor, arrived at Rome too late for him to entertain them. [See LIBERIUS.]
His only extant writings are the two letters, to the Eusebians and the Alexandrians, referred to above. Ten decreta are ascribed to him in the collections of Gratian and Ivo. One is interesting for its allusion to certain usages in the celebration of the Eucharistâ€”viz. using milk, or the expressed juice of grapes, instead of wine; administering the bread dipped in the wine, after the manner of the Greeks at the present day; and using a linen cloth soaked in must, reserved through the year and moistened with water, for each celebration. All these are condemned, except the use of the unfermented juice of the grape, in which (it is said) is the efficacy of wine, in case of need, if mixed with water, which is declared always necessary to represent the people, as the wine represents the blood of Christ.
Julius was buried, according to the Liberian and Felician Catalogues, "in coemeterio Calepodii ad Callistum" on the Aurelian Way, where he had built a basilica.
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Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Julius (5), Bishop of Rome'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hwd/​j/julius-5-bishop-of-rome.html. 1911.