Gelasio I

Saint Gelasius I was an Italian religious coming from an African family who was proclaimed Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church , being the maximum leader of this institution between March 1 , 492 and November 21 , 496 .

Dionysius the Exiguous , who lived in Rome a few years later and collected the immediate memory of his life, makes Gelasius an impressive portrait: his humility, his determination in the service of others, his personal mortifications, his knowledge of the Bible , his prayer and his piety make him the Good Shepherd par excellence. He was the first to use the title of vicar of Christ . Unlike his immediate predecessors, he was an excellent theologian: hence the clarity emanating from his abundant documents. In particular, the so-called Gelasian Decree stands out , which provides the list of canonical books of the New Testament and also of the apocrypha.


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  • 1 Biographical data
    • 1 Pontificate
  • 2 References
  • 3 Source

Biographical data

San Gelasio I was born in Rome (although some historians place his birth in Algeria ), Italy , coming from a family originating in Africa .


At the time of his pontificate Italy was at war, the war campaign that allowed Theodoric to take over the region had caused serious economic losses: thousands of refugees fell on Rome causing serious problems of subsistence.

To serve so many people, Pope Gelasius put into practice the precepts of charity. For the first time, then, a Líber censuum was drawn up, allowing all the incomes available to the Apostolic See to be known : they were copious and their properties – especially those of Sardinia and Sicily – made it possible to have abundant reserves of wheat . Gelasio arranged that four parts be made from the income: one for the pope, who used alms to remedy so much misery; another part for the clergy; the third to distribute among the poor; the fourth and last for the factory of the churches. His excellent relations with Theodoric, despite being an Arian, gave Rome the degree of tranquility he needed. points out how his most important work consists of having finished off the process of converting Rome into a Christian city, suppressing the last relic of the pagan festivals, the Lupercalia , degenerated into a rude carnival. [one]

The fundamental problem of the Church continued to be relations with the East, interrupted since 484 by the excommunication of Acacio. The successor of this one demanded, to subscribe the document of faith of Chalcedon , that the excommunication decree be annulled, but in this the denial of the primacy of Rome was involved. Gelasius refused: the only thing was to forgive would access one of the legacies, Miseno, bishop of Cumae ( May 13 of the 495 ) because the lack of it affected only discipline. He declared himself absolutely determined to defend to the last extreme what, over time, would come to be defined as papal infallibility. These are his words:

What the Apostolic See affirms in a synod, acquires legal value; what he has rejected has no force of law.

In a letter to Emperor Anastasius and in some other doctrinal texts, he explained for the first time with absolute clarity the relations between the two powers.

Two powers govern the world: the sacred authority of the pontiff and the imperial power. From one and the other it is the priests who bear the greatest weight, since in the Last Judgment they will have to render accounts, not only of themselves, but also of the kings.

From a position of absolute faith, this doctrine appears as a result of a meridian logic, since the only purpose of human existence is to achieve eternal life, while temporal goods, which include the government, are only means to ensure to subjects that end. Completing this idea, he said that no one could place himself above that man whom the same word of Christ has placed over all men and whom the venerable faithful Church has recognized as his primacy. Gelasio explained the reciprocal autonomy of both powers, but declaring that both are subject to the moral order of which the Church is faithful custody.

In the synod of the 494 major disciplinary measures they were taken on the ordination of priests and pastoral action. The oldest of the preserved forms for the administration of the sacraments has been attributed to it.


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