23. St. Stephen I 254-257


Christians were given a choice by Emperor Decius;renounce Christ or be executed. Now most Christians were glad to lay down their lives,but some Christians,being regular human beings like you or I,renounced their faith for fear of their life. Once the persecution died down,these lapsed Christians wanted to return to the Church.Some members of the Church were angry with them,passing judgement and forbidding communion. Some suggested a second baptism to clear them of their sin. Pope Stephen showed much compassion and leniency and suggested that no re-baptism take place,and only penance and reconciliation be required. There was also the question of previously lapsed priests and the baptisms they performed after they returned to the Church. Pope Stephen upheld the Church’s belief that the power of the Sacrament is much more powerful than any one human being,so if the priest was of questionable character(then and now),the baptism was still valid. This was also one of the first instances where the Bishop of Rome was able to assert his authority over other regions. Bishops as far away as Africa respected the Pope’s decision on baptism. Still to this day when we say the Nicene Creed;”We believe in ONE baptism for the forgiveness of all sins”,that’s due to the work and compassion of Popes like Cornelius,Lucius and Stephen.


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