36. Pope Liberius 352-366


Oh this poor Pope has a messy legacy. Liberius is the only Pontiff out of the first fifty to not be canonized a saint. It all goes back to the herectics who believed in arianism,the belief that God and Jesus are two separate beings. These guys began a huge push to get this accepted as Canon Law and they roped in the newest emperor of Rome,Constantius,to force Pope Liberius to sign off on their ideas. Liberius would have none of it and he also refused to silence Bishop Athanasius,who was a most fierce defender against this heresy. Constantius threatened the Pope with exile if he did not comply;the Pope said he’d just exile himself,and he did. Constantius offered huge sums of riches and glory to Liberius if he acknowledged arianism,but Liberius told him to stuff it. He was quite happy to stay in exile if it meant he was right in his faith.
The emperor eventually installed his own Pope,a man named Felix II,(Anti-Pope),and the Roman people accepted him as warmly as they would the plague. Riots and bloodshed and demands for Pope Liberius to return forced the emperor to allow Liberius to return to his people,triumphant that he held out and never wavered in his defense of the faith. All was good in Rome,and then people happened. Sore loser eastern Bishops that fought for arianism spread rumors that Liberius compromised his faith in order to return from exile and they forged many letters as proof of this. Never mind the fact that Pope Liberius still raged against the heresy once back in Rome or the fact that the emperor never bragged about supposedly causing Liberius to give in;the damage was quickly done and the bad PR fire spread quicker than the Pope could extinguish it. Liberius was guilty in the court of public opinion. Catholics still argued after his death about what he did or did not do,and by the time of possible canonization he was too much of a hot button issue to go forward into sainthood. Liberius’s fate was much like the current fate of Pius XI,who was Pope during World War II. A good man,a pious and brave man undone by gossip and rumors and negative forces. I say we start a letter writing campaign to the Vatican to get the poor guy his due. I bet I get 5….6….signatures easily….

35. St. Julius I 337-352


Roman native Pope Julius had to deal with problems right out of the gate. The heresy of Arianism,which basically believed that God and Jesus were two separate beings,started to become a issue in the Eastern Churches. Pope Julius exerted his authority over Eastern Bishops that were trying to spread this new heresy,and he helped back up St.Athanasius of Alexandria who was defending the faith on the front lines of this heresy battle. Pope Julius should really be known as the man who officially declared December 25th as the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord. Nobody really knows when Jesus was born,but early Christians would celebrate this event in secret by piggy-backing onto a pagan sun god holiday that took place in late December/early January.Once Christianity was allowed,it was easier to co-opt this holiday with pagans and Jews rather than force a new holiday on non-Christians.The first official December 25th Christ’s Mass,(or X-Mas to you damned heathens), took place in 336 and Pope J stamped it into the books a few years later.

34. St. Mark 336


Pope Mark was a native Roman who was only in office for about 9 months. Before becoming Pope,Mark was mentioned in letters written by Emperor Constantine and Pope Sylvester,meaning that he was probably a prominent member of the clergy and was fairly well known when he was elected. Mark donated his house to the Church and it became the Basilica of San Marco,named for St.Mark the Evangelist(Bible Mark,not Pope Mark). The Church is the National Church and former embassy of Venice in Rome and during World War II it was used as the offices for Mussolini(there went the neighborhood). Pope Mark died of natural causes and after moving around a few times,his remains finally came to rest in an urn in the church that he built. His feast day is the day of his death October 7th.

33. St. Sylvester I 314-335


Pope Sylvester I was in office for over 20 years and he was the longest reigning Pope at the time of his death. Emperor Constantine had just legalized Christianity and it really helps the job security of being Pope when the Roman Emperor isn’t always trying to martyr you. There is not very much known of Sylvester,as his time in office was pretty drama-free. What is known is that many churches were built during his time,including the original version of the most famous church in the world; St. Peter’s Basilica. When Jesus told Peter that he would be the “Rock upon which my Church is built”,he was speaking figuratively and now,literally,as St.Peter’s was built directly on top of the tomb of Peter. This version of the Church would last for over a thousand years until the present St. Peter’s was built in it’s place. Apostle burial grounds are much more accepting of having things built on top of them,as opposed to the Native American kind……..
One of the most famous legends concerning Pope Sylvester was the baptizing of Emperor Constantine. The Emperor was suffering from leprosy and when the baptizing waters flowed over him,he was miraculously healed. When the Pope mounted his horse to ride back to the Lateran Palace,the grateful Constantine took the bridle and humbly walked the Pope’s horse back home in front of all the Roman people. Pope Sylvester’s feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death on December 31.