Saint of the Day – 15 March – Saint Pope Zachary (Died 752) – Papal Ascension 5 December 741- 752, abolitionist of slavery, apostle of the poor, Diplomat, Administrator of great renown, peace-maker. Born at Calabria, Italy of Greek ancestry and died on 22 March 752 of natural causes. He was the last Pope of the Byzantine Papacy. Zachary built the original Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, near the Pantheon and restored the decaying Lateran Palace, moving the Relic of the head of Saint George to the Church of San Giorgio al Velabro, he forbade the traffic of slaves in Rome, negotiated peace with the Lombards and sanctioned Pepin the Short’s usurpation of the Frankish throne from Childeric III. Zachary is regarded as a capable administrator and a skilful and subtle diplomat in a dangerous time. He is also known as Zacharias. The Roman Martyr ology states: – “At Rome, the birthday of St Zachary, who governed the Church of God with great vigilance and was renowned for his merits, rested in peace.”
Nothing is known of Zachary’s his early life, except that he was the son of a Greek, Polychronius of Calabria. He was most probably a Deacon of the Roman Church and as such, signed the Decrees of the Roman Council of 732. He was selected to succeed Gregory III as Pope on 5 December 741.
His Pontificate was marked by charity for the Clergy and poor of Rome but especially, by vigorous diplomatic relations with the Lombards, the Byzantine Empire and the Franks. Under Zachary’s predecessor, Gregory III, the Papacy had continually suffered the depredations of the Lombard King Liutprand. In line with his new political orientation, Zachary repudiated the alliance of the Papacy with the Duke of Spoleto against Liutprand and, instead, personally met with the King on two occasions, persuading him to return the four Cities he had taken from the Duchy of Rome and to desist from attacking Ravenna. Thus he achieved peace with the Lombards.
In accord with his desire to maintain friendly relations with Byzantium, Zachary immediately dispatched envoys to the Church of Constantinople and to the iconoclastic Emperor Constantine of Copronymos, to inform them of his election and to exhort the Emperor to restore the use of sacred images. His envoys shrewdly withheld their letters from the usurper Artabasdus, who at that time, had seized Constantine’s throne while he campaigned against the Saracens. They finally presented their letters in November 743, after the rightful Emperor had regained his throne and he replied with a gift to Rome of two large estates in South Italy.
Zachary’s close association with the Frankish Church began immediately, as he received St Boniface’s renewed expressions of loyalty and submission to the Chair of Peter and, confirmed for him, the establishment of the Bishoprics of Würzburg, Buraburg and Erfurt.
Zachary corresponded with Archbishop Boniface of Mainz, counseling him about dealing with disreputable prelates such as Milo, Bishop of Reims and Trier. “As for Milo and his like, who are doing great injury to the Church of God, preach in season and out of season, according to the word of the Apostle, that they cease from their evil ways.”
He also confirmed Boniface as a Papal Legate to a Frankish Council in 742. Until his death Zachary corresponded with Boniface and the Frankish Bishops and rulers, fostering ecclesiastical and moral discipline and extending papal jurisdiction among the Franks.
Again in 745, Zachary held a Council at Rome, in which he confirmed the condemnation for heresy, of Aldebert and Clement, previously condemned by a Frankish Council under Boniface.
When Pepin took the throne, he inaugurated a new era in Church-State relations, when he obtained the support of Zachary for the deposition of Childeric and for his own Coronation (751).
History has remembered Zachary for his part in creating the Carolingian-Papal alliance.
In his own time, he was noted for his Greek translation of the Dialogues of Pope Gregory I the Great.