Friday, July 28, 2006

Saint of the Day: St. Victor I, Pope

Victor I was the first pope from Africa. His reign extended from about 189 to 199. Conscious of the nature of baptism, Victor decreed that anyone baptized in an emergency should be treated as a Christian in full standing, not as a neophyte undergoing catechesis.

A woman named Marcia, probably a Christian herself, had considerable influence on the Roman emperor and sympathy for the plight of the persecuted Church. She asked Pope Victor for a list of Christians condemned to the salt mines in Sardinia and secured their release, ushering in a lull in the ongoing persecutions.

A troublesome controversy over when Easter should be celebrated occurred during the reign of Victor, with the result that Christians observed different days for the most important feast of the year. Victor decreed that Easter should be celebrated on a Sunday, but a synod of Asiatic bishops convened by the bishop of Ephesus refused to abandon their custom. Victor excommunicated them, then--under the influence of St. Ireneus--lifted the ban. Nevertheless, the custom of all Christians celebrating Easter on a Sunday soon took hold.

Other controversies arising in St. Victor's reign included a leather seller who denied the divinity of Christ and set up his own church in Rome, as well as continuing problems with the Gnostic heresy, which taught a mystical dualism that made evil as powerful as good. St. Victor upheld on one hand the divinity of Christ and also the infinite power of good over evil.

He was also the first to celebrate Mass in Rome in the language of the people, Latin. Previously, Mass had been celebrated even in Rome in Greek.

Pope St. Victor wrote several treatises including one on dice throwers. St. Jerome calls him the first Latin writer in the Church.

According to the "Liber Pontificalis," St. Victor died a martyr and was buried in the Vatican near St. Peter.

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