Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Pope Saint Leo the Great

Pope, Father of the Church, and Doctor of the Church

Pope Saint Leo the Great is a Latin Father of the Church and a Doctor of the Church. He was born around 400 A.D., at Tuscany, Italy. His family was of Italian nobility. He was a strong student, especially in scripture and theology. He was a deacon and priest. As deacon, he was sent to Gaul as a mediator by Emperor Valentinian III. 

He was elected Pope in 440, when the Western Empire was disintegrating and heresy rife. His chief aim was to sustain church unity. To achieve this end he established the vicariates of Arles, as the center of the Gallican (France) episcopacy, and Thessalonica, as the center of Eastern Illyria (Adriatic coastal regions from Albania northward). He established closer relationships between distant episcopates and Rome, and had the primacy of the Bishop of Rome over the whole Church recognized in an edict of Emperor Valentinian III in 445. 

He fought the heresies of Pelagianism, Manichaeanism, and Priscillianism, and upheld the decision of the Patriarch of Constantinople against Eutyches by a dogmatic letter confirming the doctrine of the Incarnation. Later in the general council held at Chalcedon, this letter was accepted as an expression of Catholic Faith concerning the Person of Christ.

Pope Saint Leo the Great reformed Church discipline, built and restored churches, and protected Rome from the Huns (a nomadic people, probably originating in northern central Asia) under Attila and the Vandals (an ancient Germanic people) under Genseric. When Attila marched on Rome, Leo went out to meet him and pleaded for him to leave. As Leo spoke, Attila saw the vision of a man in priestly robes, carrying a bare sword, and threatening to kill the invader if he did not obey Pope Leo. As Leo had a great devotion to Saint Peter, it is generally believed the first pope was the visionary opponent to the Huns. When Genseric invaded Rome, Leo's sanctity and eloquence saved the city once again.

Pope Saint Leo the Great was an eloquent writer and homilist, writing valuable letters and sermons encouraging and teaching his flock, many of which survive today.

Pope Saint Leo the Great died of natural causes at Rome, Italy in 461. He was the 45th Pope.

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