Pope Vitalian

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Pope Saint Vitalianus was Pope of the Catholic Church from July 30, 657, until January 27, 672.

He was born in Segni, Lazio, the son of Anastasius.



After the death of Pope Eugene I, on June 2 or 3, 657, Vitalian was elected his successor, and was consecrated and enthroned on July 30.[1]

Like Eugene, Vitalian tried to restore the connection with Constantinople by making friendly advances to the Eastern Emperor Constans II (641–668) and to prepare the way for the settlement of the Monothelite controversy. He sent letters (synodica) announcing his elevation to the emperor and to Patriarch Peter of Constantinople, who was inclined to Monothelitism. The emperor confirmed the privileges of the Holy See as head of the Catholic Church and sent to Rome a codex of the Gospels in a cover of gold richly ornamented with precious stones as a good-will gesture.[1]

The Patriarch Peter also replied, although his answer was somewhat noncommittal as to Monothelitism, a belief he defended. In his letter, he gave the impression of being in accord with the pope, whose letter to Peter had expounded the Catholic Faith. Thus ecclesiastical intercourse between Rome and Constantinople was restored, but the mutual reserve over the dogmatic question of Monothelitism remained. Vitalian's name was entered on the diptychs of the churches in Byzantium—the only name of a pope so entered between the reign of Honorius I (d. 638) and the Sixth Ecumenical Council of 680–81.[2]

The inclusion of Vitalian's name on the diptych was seen as some as being too conciliatory towards heresy, but that charge was unfounded.[3]

Vitalian showed reciprocity toward Constans, when the latter came to Rome in 663, spending twelve days there during a campaign against the Lombards. On 5 July the pope and members of the Roman clergy, met the emperor at the sixth milestone and accompanied him to St. Peter's, where the emperor offered gifts. The following Sunday, Constans went in state to St. Peter's, offered a pallium wrought with gold, and was present during the Mass celebrated by the pope. The emperor dined with the pope on the following Saturday, attended Mass again on Sunday at St. Peter's, and after Mass took leave of the pope. On his departure Constans removed a large number of bronze artworks, including the bronze tiles from the roof of the Pantheon, which had been dedicated to Christian worship.[1]

Constans then moved on to Sicily, oppressed the population, and was assassinated at Syracuse in 668. Vitalian supported Constans' son Constantine IV against the usurper Mezezius and thus helped him attain the throne. As Constantine had no desire to maintain the Monothelite decree (typus) of his father, Pope Vitalian made use of this inclination to take a more decided stand against Monothelitism and to win the emperor over to orthodoxy. In this latter attempt, however, he did not succeed. The Monothelite patriarch Theodore of Constantinople removed Vitalian's name from the diptychs. It was not until the Sixth Ecumenical Council (681) that Monothelitism was suppressed, and Vitalian's name was replaced on the diptychs of the churches in Byzantium.[1]

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