Pope Eugene II

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Eugene II, (in Latin: Eugenius II), pope (824–827) was a native of Rome and was chosen to succeed Paschal I. Another candidate, Zinzinnus, was proposed by the plebeian faction, and the presence of Lothair I, son of the Frankish emperor Louis the Pious was necessary in order to maintain the authority of the new pope. Lothair took advantage of this opportunity to redress many abuses in the papal administration, to vest the election of the pope in the nobles, and to confirm the statute that no pope should be consecrated until his election had the approval of the Frankish emperor.

Election

He was elected pope on June 6, 824, after the death of Paschal I. The late pope had attempted to curb the rapidly increasing power of the Roman nobility, who, to strengthen their positions against him, had turned for support to the Franks. When Paschal died these nobles made strenuous efforts to replace him with a candidate of their own; and despite the fact that the clergy put forward a candidate likely to continue the policy of Paschal the nobles were successful in their attempt. They secured the consecration of Eugene, who was the archpriest of St Sabina on the Aventine, although by a decree of the Roman Council of 769, under Stephen IV, they had no right to a real share in a papal election. Their candidate is stated, in earlier editions of the Liber Pontificalis to have been the son of Boemund; but in the recent and better editions his father's name is not given. Whilst archpriest of the Roman Church he is credited with having fulfilled most conscientiously the duties of his position and after he became pope he beautified his ancient church of St. Sabina with mosaics and with metal work bearing his name, which were still intact as late as the 16th century. Eugene is described by his biographer as simple and humble, learned and eloquent, handsome and generous, a lover of peace, and wholly occupied with the thought of doing what was pleasing to God.

Frankish Influences

The election of Eugene II was a triumph for the Franks, and they subsequently resolved to improve their position. Emperor Louis the Pious accordingly sent his son Lothair to Rome to strengthen the Frankish influence. The Roman nobles who had been banished during the preceding reign, and who had fled to France, were recalled, and their property was restored to them. A Constitutio Romana was then agreed upon between the pope and the emperor in 824 which both advanced the imperial pretensions in the city of Rome but also checked the power of the nobles. This constitution included the statute that no pope should be consecrated until his election had the approval of the Frankish emperor.

Seemingly before Lothair left Rome, there arrived ambassadors from Emperor Louis, and from the Greeks concerning the image question. At first the Byzantine-Roman Emperor, Michael II, showed himself tolerant towards the image-worshippers, and their great champion, Theodore the Studite, wrote to him to exhort him "to unite us [the Church of Constantinople] to the head of the Churches of God, Rome, and through it with the three Patriarchs" and in accordance with ancient custom to refer any doubtful points to the decision of Old Rome. But Michael soon forgot his tolerance, bitterly persecuted the image worshippers, and endeavoured to secure the co-operation of Louis the Pious. He also sent envoys to the pope to consult him on certain points connected with the worship of images. Before taking any steps to meet the wishes of Michael, Louis sent to ask the pope's permission for a number of his bishops to assemble, and make a selection of passages from the Fathers to elucidate the question the Greeks had put before them. The leave was granted, but the bishops who met at Paris in 825 were incompetent for their work. Their collection of extracts from the Fathers was a mass of confused and ill-digested lore, and both their conclusions and the letters they wished the pope to forward to the Greeks were based on a complete misunderstanding of the decrees of the Second Council of Nicæa. They do not appear to have accomplished much as nothing at any rate is known of their consequences.

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