Saint of the Day – 28 July – Saint Pope Innocent I (Died 417) Papal Ascension 402 until his death on 12 March 417, Confessor. He defended the exiled Saint John Chrysostom and consulted with the Bishops of Africa concerning the Pelagian controversy, confirming the decisions of the African synods. The Catholic priest-scholar Johann Peter Kirsch, 1500 years later, described Innocent as “a very energetic and highly gifted individual …who fulfilled admirably the duties of his office.”
Before his elevation to the Chair of Peter, very little is known concerning the life of this energetic pope, so zealous for the welfare of the whole Church. According to the “Liber Pontificalis” he was a native of Albano – his father was called Innocentiu but his contemporary St Jerome, referred to him as the son of the previous pope, Anastasius I, probably a unique case of a son succeeding his father in the Papacy. He grew up among the Roman clergy and in the service of the Roman Church. After the death of Anastasius (December 401) he was unanimously chosen Bishop of Rome by the clergy and people. Not much has come down to us concerning his ecclesiastical activities in Rome. Nevertheless, one or two instances of his zeal for the purity of the Catholic Faith and for Church discipline are well attested.
Innocent I lost no opportunity in maintaining and extending the authority of the Roman apostolic See, which was seen as the ultimate resort for the settlement of all ecclesiastical disputes. His communications with St Victricius of Rouen, St Exuperius of Toulouse, St Alexander of Antioch and others, as well as his actions on the appeal made to him by St John Chrysostom against Theophilus of Alexandria, show that opportunities of this kind were numerous and varied. He took a decided view on the Pelagian controversy, confirming the decisions of the Synod of the Province of proconsular Africa, held in Carthage in 416, confirming the condemnation which had been pronounced in 411 against Cælestius, who shared the views of Pelagius. He also wrote in the same year, in a similar sense, to the fathers of the Numidian Synod of Mileve who had addressed him. Soon after this, five African Bishops, among them St Augustine, wrote a personal letter to Innocent regarding their own position in the matter of Pelagianism. In addition, he acted as metropolitan over the Bishops of Italia Suburbicaria.
The historian Zosimus in his Historia Nova suggests that during the sack of Rome in 410 by Alaric I, Innocent I was willing to permit private pagan practices as a temporary measure. However, Zosimus also suggests that this attempt by pagans to restore public worship failed due to lack of public interest, suggesting that Rome had been successfully ChristianiSed in the last century.
Among Innocent I’s letters is one to St Jerome and another to John II, Bishop of Jerusalem, regarding annoyances to which the former had been subjected by the Pelagians at Bethlehem.
He died on 12 March 417, although from the thirteenth to the twentieth century, he has beens commemorated on 28 July. His successor was Pope Zosimus.
In 846, Pope Sergius II gave approval for the relics of St. Innocent to be moved by Duke Liudolf of Saxony, along with those of his father and predecessor Anastasius, to the Crypt of the former collegiate Church of Gandersheim, now Gandersheim Abbey, where most of them rest until this day. Some Relics were also brought to The Church of Our Lady St Mary of Glastonbury upon its consecration.