Pope Eugene II
|Papacy began||11 May 824|
|Papacy ended||27 August 827|
Rome, Papal States
|Died||27 August 827
|Other popes named Eugene|
Pope Eugene II (Latin: Eugenius II; ? – 27 August 827) was the head of the Catholic Church from 11 May 824 to his death in 827. A native of Rome, he 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.
He was elected pope on 6 June 824 after the death of Paschal I. The late pope had attempted to curb the rapidly increasing power of the Roman nobility, who had turned for support to the Franks to strengthen their positions against him. 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 more recent and more accurate editions his father's name is not given. While archpriest of the Roman Church, he is credited with having fulfilled most conscientiously the duties of his position. After he became pope, he beautified his ancient church of St. Sabina with mosaics and metalwork bearing his name that 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.
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 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 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 Eastern 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 to refer any doubtful points to the decision of Old Rome in accordance with ancient custom. 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 asked 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 that the Greeks had put before them. The leave was granted, but the bishops who met at Paris in 825 were incompetent for the task. 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. Nothing is known of the result of their researches.
A council which assembled at Rome in the reign of Eugene passed several enactments for the restoration of church discipline, took measures for the foundation of schools and chapters, and decided against priests wearing secular dress or engaging in secular occupations. Eugene also adopted various provisions for the care of the poor, widows and orphans, and on that account received the name of "father of the people". He died on 27 August 827.
In 826 Eugene held an important council at Rome of 62 bishops, in which 38 disciplinary decrees were issued. One or two of its decrees are noteworthy as showing that Eugene had at heart the advancement of learning. Not only were ignorant bishops and priests to be suspended till they had acquired sufficient learning to perform their sacred duties, but it was decreed that, as in some localities there were neither masters nor zeal for learning, masters were to be attached to the episcopal palaces, cathedral churches and other places to give instruction in sacred and polite literature. To help in the work of the conversion of the North, Eugene wrote commending St. Ansgar, the Apostle of the Scandinavians, and his companions "to all the sons of the Catholic Church". Coins of this pope are extant bearing his name and that of Emperor Louis. It is supposed that he was buried in St. Peter's Basilica in accordance with the custom of the time, even though there is no documentary record to confirm it.
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