Saint of the Day – 10 March – Saint Pope Simplicius (?- 483) Papal Ascension 25 February 468 – 10 March 483. He was born in Tivoli, Italy, the son of a citizen named Castinus. Most of what is known of him personally is derived from the Liber Pontificalis. His remains are interred in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome, Italy.
After a vacancy of 10 days following the death of Pope Hilarius, Simplicius was consecrated on 25 February 468.
The reign of Simplicius coincided with the official fall of the Western Empire, in 476. The Italian peninsula was overrun by barbarians and was in a constant state of war. Eventually, the Herulis, an East Germanic tribe who formed a kingdom around the middle Danube, joined forces with Odoacer and beat the Roman soldiers. The weak Western emperor, Romulus Augustus, was deposed. Odoacer became king of a new kingdom. Simplicius had been bishop of Rome for eight years at this point and surely was concerned over a heretic taking command of the empire, considering the ties that had developed between church and state. However, Odoacer was an organiser. He saw the way the government that had been in power had worked hand in hand with the Catholic Church and, for the most part left the Church to rule itself.
One of the early difficulties Simplicius had was the defense of the Council of Chalcedon. Simplicius probably was not even involved in this council, which was called in October, 451 by the emperor and, reluctantly, by Leo the Great. This council repudiated the Second Council of Ephesus and defined the dual nature of Christ, both divine and human. In addition, the Council of Chalcedon claimed that the Patriarchy of Constantinople was second in standing only to Rome.
Simplicius found himself on both sides of the support of the council. He supported the definition of Christ’s nature. But those against the definition, known as monophysites, had spread like wildfire throughout the Levant and Egypt, thus showing a large population arguing about the nature of the Lord. Simplicius was also opposed to the elevation of the patriarchy of Constantinople. Thus began a tearing away of the Eastern church from orthodoxy. The current Eastern emperor, Zeno, was more or
less orthodox. He was overthrown for a year in 475 by the monophysite, Bascilicus. A year later, Zeno was reinstated but this time chose to reconcile with monophysitism. This was not an easy situation for the pope. And he did not live to see the outcome.
The pope clashed with Patriarch Acacius in the jurisdictional dispute and the argument almost destroyed the legacy of Chalcedon.
Aside from this large problem, Simplicius showed himself to be an able, effective administrator. Concerned about his role as she[herd to the Western Church, Simplicius appointed Bishop Zeno of Seville as a papal vicar. He constructed several churches, at least one of which was originally a columned walkway in the city of Rome. One church is still extant, St Bibiana’s. A concern this pope had was what to do with the churches of the catacombs, which were not used the same way as they had the first few hundred years of Church history. He appointed priests to say Masses, baptise and offer the Sacrament of Penance routinely in the three primary catacomb churches – St Peter’s at the Vatican, St Paul’s and St Lawrence Outside the Walls.
A long illness led to Simplicius’ death on 10 March 483.
Pope St Simplicius is seen as one who championed orthodoxy and promoted papal supremacy.