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Pope Innocent I

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Innocent I
Bishop of Rome
Statue in San Martino ai Monti, Rome
ChurchCatholic Church
Papacy began22 December 401[1]
Papacy ended12 March 417
PredecessorAnastasius I
Personal details
Died(417-03-12)12 March 417
Rome, Western Roman Empire
Feast day
  • 12 March
  • 28 July (13th–20th centuries)
Venerated in
Other popes named Innocent

Pope Innocent I (Latin: Innocentius I) was the bishop of Rome from 401 to his death on 12 March 417. From the beginning of his papacy, he was seen as the general arbitrator of ecclesiastical disputes in both the East and the West. He confirmed the prerogatives of the Archbishop of Thessalonica, and issued a decretal on disciplinary matters referred to him by the Bishop of Rouen. He defended the exiled John Chrysostom and consulted with the bishops of Africa concerning the Pelagian controversy, confirming the decisions of the African synods.

The Catholic priest-scholar Johann Peter Kirsch, 1500 years later, described Innocent as a very energetic and highly gifted individual "...who fulfilled admirably the duties of his office".[2]

Family background[edit]

According to his biographer in the Liber Pontificalis, Innocent was a native of Albano Laziale and the son of a man called Innocentius.[2] On the other hand, in a letter to Demetriashis contemporary Jerome referred to him as the son of the previous pope, Anastasius I. It has, however, been suggested that Jerome was describing a link merely hierarchical rather than biological.[3] According to Urbano Cerri, Pope Innocent was a native of Albania.[4]


Innocent lost no opportunity to maintain and extend the authority of the Roman apostolic See, seen as final arbiter for all ecclesiastical disputes. That such opportunities were numerous and varied is evident from his communications with Victricius of Rouen, Exuperius of Toulouse, Alexander of Antioch and others, as well as how he acted when John Chrysostom appealed to him against Theophilus of Alexandria. On the Pelagian controversy he took a decided view. He reinforced the decisions of the synod of the province of proconsular Africa, held in Carthage in 416. He accordingly confirmed the condemnation in 411 against Cælestius, who was of the Pelagian view. In the same year he wrote likewise to the fathers of the Numidian synod of Mileve who had appealed to him. Soon after this, five African bishops, among them St. Augustine, wrote a personal letter to Innocent explaining their own position on Pelagianism.[2] In addition he acted as metropolitan over the bishops of Italia Suburbicaria.[5][6]

The historian Zosimus, in his Historia Nova, suggests that during the sack of Rome in 410 by Alaric I, Innocent I was willing to permit private pagan practices as a temporary measure. However, Zosimus also suggests that this attempt by pagans to restore public worship failed due to lack of public interest, suggesting that Rome in the previous century had been successfully and permanently won over to Christianity.[5]

Among Innocent I's letters is one to Jerome and another to John II, Bishop of Jerusalem, regarding annoyances to which the former had been subjected by the Pelagians at Bethlehem.

He died on 12 March 417. Accordingly, his feast day is now celebrated on 12 March, though from the thirteenth to the twentieth century he was commemorated on 28 July.[7] His successor was Zosimus.

In 405, Pope Innocent sent a list of the sacred books to a Gallic bishop, Exsuperius of Toulouse,[8] identical with that of Trent (which took place more than 1000 years later),[9][10][11] except for some uncertainty in the manuscript tradition about whether the letters ascribed to Paul were 14 or only 13, in the latter case possibly implying omission of the Epistle to the Hebrews.[8] Previously in 367, Athanasius of Alexandria had circulated the 39th Easter Letter mentioning the list of Scripture, both Old and New Testament, which he referred to as "canonized".


In 846, Pope Sergius II gave approval for the relics of St. Innocent to be moved by Duke Liudolf of Saxony, along with those of his father and predecessor Anastasius, to the crypt of the former collegiate church of Gandersheim, now Gandersheim Abbey, where most rest until this day.[12] Relics were also brought to The Church of Our Lady St Mary of Glastonbury upon its consecration.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Saint Innocent I | pope".
  2. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainKirsch, Johann Peter (1910). "Pope Innocent I". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  3. ^ Dunn, Geoffrey (2007). "Anastasius I and Innocent I: Reconsidering the Evidence of Jerome". Vigiliae Christianae. 61 (1): 30–41. doi:10.1163/004260307x164476. ISSN 0042-6032.
  4. ^ Cerri, Urbano; Steel, Richard (1715). An account of the state of the Roman-Catholick religion throughout the world. Transl. To which is added, A discourse concerning the state of religion in England. Transl. With a large dedication to the present pope, by sir Richard Steele [really B. Hoadly.]. Oxford University. p. 2. albania.
  5. ^ a b Public Domain Kirsch, Johann Peter (1910). "Pope Innocent I". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  6. ^ Dunn, Geoffrey (March 2013), "Innocent I's Letter to the Bishops of Apulia" (PDF), Journal of Early Christian Studies, 21 (1), Johns Hopkins University Press: 27–41, doi:10.1353/earl.2013.0000, ISSN 1086-3184, S2CID 170672101
  7. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 132; Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 978-88-209-7210-3)
  8. ^ a b "Text and translation of the list".
  9. ^ Matthew J. Ramage, Dark Passages of the Bible (CUA Press 2013 ISBN 978-0-81322156-4), p. 67
  10. ^ Lee Martin McDonald, Formation of the Bible (Hendrickson Publishers 2012 ISBN 978-1-59856838-7), p. 149
  11. ^ John L. Mckenzie, The Dictionary of the Bible (Simon and Schuster 1995 ISBN 978-0-68481913-6), p. 119
  12. ^ Birgit Heilmann, Aus Heiltum wird Geschichte. Der Gandersheimer Reliquienschatz in nachreformatorischer Zeit. Thomas Labusiak and Hedwig Röckelein, Regensburg, 2009 (Studien zum Frauenstift Gandersheim und seinen Eigenklöstern, vol. 1).
  13. ^ "Opening of the present church – Glastonbury Shrine".

External links[edit]

Titles of the Great Christian Church
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