Saint of the Day – 28 February – Saint Pope Hilary (Died 468) Deacon then Pope, Papal aide to St Pope Leo the Great, Papal Legate, Reformer of Episcopal discipline, builder of Churches, libraries, Chapels and public works. Born in Sardinia and died on 28 February 468 in Rome of natural causes.
Hilary was the Sardinian Archdeacon of Rom, and was elected Bishop of Rome, the Pope on 17 November 461. As the Archdeacon under St Pope Leo I (the Great), he manifested immense strength in protecting the rights of the Roman See. As Pope, he continued the policies of his predecessor, Leo. He continued to strengthen Papal control over Episcopal discipline. Some of his Encyclicals were in the interests of increased discipline. A synod was to be convened yearly by the Bishop of Arles but all important matters were to be submitted to the Apostolic See. No Bishop could leave his Diocese without written permission from his Archbishop. Church property could no longer be sold, until a synod had examined the cause of the sale.
Pope Hilary gave decisions to the Churches of Spain, which sometimes tended to operate outside the Papal orbit. Before the death of Nundinarius, Bishop of Barcelona, he expressed a wish that Irenaeus might be chosen his successor, and he himself, had made Irenaeus Bishop of another See. The request was granted, and the Synod of Tarragona confirmed the nomination of Irenaeus, after which the Bishops sought the Pope’s approval. Elections and installations of new Bishops were done without his approval, making it necessary for him to exercise Episcopal Discipline. The Roman Synod of 19 November 465 was held at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, which settled the matter. It is the oldest Roman Synod whose original records have survived.
In Rome, Pope Hilary worked hard to counter the new Emperor’s 467 edict of toleration for schismatic sects. On one of the Emperor’s visits to St Peter’s Basilica, the Pope openly called him to account for his conduct, exhorting him by the grave of St Peter, to promise that he would not allow schismatic assemblies in Rome. St Hilary erected several Churches and other buildings in Rome, which he was praised for in the Liber Pontificalis. He erected two Oratories in the Baptistery of the Lateran, one in honour of St John the Baptist, the other of St John the Apostle. He also erected a Chapel of the Holy Cross in the Baptistery, Convents, Two Public Baths and Libraries near the Basilica of St Lawrence, in which he was buried.