Saint of the Day – 8 December – Saint Pope Eutychian (Died 283) – Born in Etruria or Tuscany (both in modern Italy) and died on 7 December 283. The Church states his reign as January, 275 to 7 December 283.
This was a time of relative quiet in the Roman Church. There was no persecution or outright hostilities. However, the Empire was in deep trouble. This era is called the Crisis of the Third Century. Emperors were assassinated with great frequency. While the Church fought battles over dogma, the Empire, in only 20 years, had to go through many battles over land.
Eutychian was thus free to fight internal battles which threatened to divide the Church. The two biggest battles were the Novationist schism and the Trinitarian controversy. Novatian had begun his campaign during the time of Pope Cornelius. The persecutions had scared many into denouncing Christianity to save themselves. After peace came, many wanted to come back to communion with the Church. Could they be given absolution? Novatian said no. He was so adamant and pushed his teaching so convincingly that he was elected pope by some in Rome, claiming primacy from 251 to 258. This led to the question of whether a schismatic presbyter could validly baptise someone, or did that person need to be re-baptised. Although previous popes declared that not to be so, it was still a point of contention during Eutychian’s papacy. Although Novatian left Rome during another series of persecutions, giving up his claim to antipope and no-one hearing from him again, his concepts lasted for several centuries.
The other battle waged in Rome was the question of the Trinity. It was obvious that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit were mentioned individually in the New Testament. Were they three modes of God’s being? Or were they three “persons” in one God? There is no record of Eutychian’s opinion. The established concept was not decided on his watch.
Under Eutychian’s papacy and the next few, as well, the Roman Catholic Church became a main cultural institution in the empire. Peaceful acceptance of the religion had begun. This is his legacy.
St Eutychian was the last pope buried in the papal crypt at the Catacombs of Callixtus.