Was Pope Vitalian a Monothelite?

Though there is much debate concerning the orthodoxy of Pope Honorius, notoriously condemned for heresy in 681 by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, later popes attempted to downplay it to negligence in teaching the faith – a distinction without a difference for reasons we will discuss later – little has been written concerning Pope St. Vitalian (657-672). Much of this is, undoubtedly, due to his status as a saint, but he is a key figure in the histories of Monothelitism and Monoenergism. Pope St. Vitalian is most noted for his embrace of Byzantine liturgics into the Roman Rite embellishing the rite heavily (Ekonomou 161-165) and choosing the Greek Theodore of Tarsus to be the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Sergius of Constantinople (d. 638), a Chalcedonian, had created Monoenergism in order to create a compromise between the Chalcedonians and the non-Chalcedonians and had tremendous success with it. He wrote to Pope Honorius  asking him his opinion of the belief and Honorius, most likely unaware of what was at stake, indulged the idea and agreed with Sergius that talk of one or two energies should be avoided and adding it was really an issue for “grammarians.” He also, notorious to history, used the phrase “one will” in his first letter to Sergius and it is still the topic of intense debate. Regardless of what he meant, his banning of discussion over the issue followed the previous Psephos and the later Typos, both of which were condemned at Lateran 649 and, along with Pope Honorius, again at Constantinople 681.

Embarrassed and reeling, Honorius’ successor Pope John IV, and St. Maximus the Confessor attempted to downplay the use of the term “one will” to the point that St. Maximus made the bizarre and amusingly desperate allegation that the phrase had not even been used by Honorius at all but was a fabrication made during the translation into Greek. Pope Severinus was elected in Oct. 638 and rejected the overtures of the government and therefore had the ratification of his election stalled until May 640 but died in Aug. 640. He was succeeded by Theodore, a Greek whose father had been a bishop in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and friend of St. Sophronius (d. 638). At the instigation of St. Maximus the Confessor and a group of Greek monks now resident in Rome, Pope Theodore convened the Roman Synod and anathematized the Ekthesis and several Monothelite prelates in the East going so far as to notoriously sign the synod’s decision on the tomb of St. Peter having mixed the ink with the Eucharist. Shortly thereafter, he began plans for a larger council but died in May of 649 before it began and left it to his successor, Pope St. Martin I, to carry it out.

Previous to this, the re-unionist efforts of the Emperor Heraclius from 629-633, based on the formula “one operation,” had been wildly successful but soon gave way to the Psephos in late 633 or early 634, which forbad discussion on the energies in Christ. In 636, the Ekthesis was published by a council in Cyprus attended by Roman legates, and it again disallowed discussion on the energies in Christ but then stated there is “one will” in Christ. By 647/8, the Typos was issued stating any discussion on the number of wills or energies in Christ was forbidden.[1]

The council Pope St. Theodore planned and Pope St. Martin headed became known as Lateran 649 again anathematized the prelates, condemned the Psephos, Ekthesis, the Typos, re-issued the previous depositions and named John of Philadelphia (present day Amman, Jordan) as papal legate with the authority to ordain new clergy and depose heretical ones (the letter reveals a pope pleading and begging him to take up the position and no word is known as to whether or not he accepted St. Martin’s request). Though relatively small with only 106 bishops in attendance (Lateran p. 69), the council attempted to present itself as a universal council and accepted legates and letters, often times dated by several years and not addressed to the council at all condemning Monoenergism and Monothelitism and upholding Orthodoxy.

Enraged by the calling of not just an unauthorized council by a pope whose election had not been ratified by the emperor’s representative and on edge due to an large scale rebellion in 646-647 by Gregory, the Exarch of North Africa (whose claim to fame was a rejection of Monothelitism), the new Exarch of Ravenna, Olympus died fighting the Muslims in Sicily before being able to arrest Pope St. Martin so his replacement, Calliopas arrested the great saint in June of 653 as he lay on a bed in ill health before the altar of a church in Rome. He was brought back to Constantinople in Sept. of 653 and was confined for three months before standing trial in Dec. 653 and sentenced for refusing to sign the Typos. He was again placed in prison for almost three months and finally sentenced to exile in the Cherson on the Black Sea where he arrived in May of 654 and began writing letters to Rome begging for assistance only to die the following year in March of starvation.

Meanwhile, in 655, St. Maximus was arrested in Rome and sent to Constantinople where he stood trial and was exiled to Bizya for refusing the Typos. At Bizya, in 656, he had his famous “Disputation at Bizya” with the Bishop Theodosius and the two consuls Theodosius and Paul. After being moved twice more and refusing to stop his writings against Monothelitism and the Typos, in 662, St. Maximus was again brought to Constantinople and with his two disciples, both named Anastasius, they had their tongues cut out, right hands cut off, and were then paraded around the city to be mocked before being exiled to Colchis (in modern day Georgia) where St. Maximus died on Aug. 13, 662.

Prior even to the death of St. Martin and against his will, Rome elected Eugenius I as their pope in Aug 654. When his legates to Constantinople returned with a letter from Patriarch Peter of Constantinople, the letter was vague and refused to specify either one or two energies and wills. According to the highly unreliable Liber Pontificalis, the people and clergy of Rome held the pope hostage in the basilica of St. Maria Major until he publically stated he would not enter communion with the Peter of Constantinople.[2] Ekonomou takes a more sympathetic stance stating:

“[Pope] Eugenius I seems to have rejected patriarch Peter’s II’s synodikon more from a desire to quell the disturbance that it caused in the church where he was celebrating Mass than from any doctrinal disagreement with it. LP I, p. 341.” 

p. 227 “Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes”

Dying in 657, he was succeeded by Vitalian. It is Vitalian who is our chief object of interest in this article and to him we now turn.

Vitalian was approved shortly after election by the Byzantine Exarch of Ravenna and was probably chosen, says Ekonomou, because the imperial officials believed he would be  “sympathetic” to the imperial agenda:

Moreover, the fact that the new pope’s [Vitalian] father was named Anastasios, thus indicating an Eastern provenance or at least an unmistakable identification with the East, must have given further confidence to his [Emp. Constans II] belief that he had authorized the enthronement of a pontiff who would be sympathetic to the reinvigorated Byzantine administration and its program of reconciliation. Neither the exarch nor the emperor would be disappointed in the choice [of pope].

Ekonomou “Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes” p. 161-162

He adds:

For the moment, however, his doctrinal flexibility and apparent willingness to be accommodating earned him the distinction of being the first Roman pontiff since Honorius to be inscribed on the diptychs of the church of Constantinople…The inclusion of Pope Vitalian among those who merited the special prayers of the church of Constantinople represented a symbolic recognition of his legitimacy and thus a highly significant gesture of benevolence towards the papacy. The imperial plan of reconciliation between Rome and Constantinople appeared to be progressing favorably.

Ekonomou “Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes” p. 162

From his election in 657 to 668, when the issuer of the Typos, Emperor Constans II (who had ruled since 641), died, there is no record of Pope Vitalian making any statement indicating he believed in two wills or energies. For all intents and purposes, he held to the contents of the Typos, which had been condemned by Lateran 649. Going softer on him than recent Catholic scholars is the Orthodox Christian patristic scholar Fr. Andrew Louth who writes:

Martin’s immediate successors – Eugenius I and Vitalian – seem to have compromised, although neither of them formally accepted the Typos, both of them were in communion with the Monothelite Patriarch Peter, who had presided at the trial of Martin. Resistance to Monothelitism was now virtually reduced to one man, the monk Maximus.”

Louth, “Maximus the Confessor” p. 17-18

Echoing this, Fr. Price, a Catholic priest and translator of the Acts of Lateran 649, states:

After the fall of Pope Martin the Roman see adopted a discreet silence over the synod and its decrees, that continued almost until the time of the Council of Constantinople of 680–1.

Price, “Acts of Lateran 649p. 17-18

He follows this by pointing out that:

In the period that followed the arrest and disgrace of Pope Martin, the chief, indeed virtually the only, champion of the synod and its decrees (as long as he remained alive) was Maximus the Confessor.

Price “Acts of Lateran 649″ p. 105

To put this in perspective, Pope St. Martin I and St. Maximus the Confessor were arrested, tried, and exiled for rejecting the Typos by Constans II, but Constans II does no such thing upon coming to Rome and meeting Pope Vitalian, who received him with full pomp and ceremony.

But most damning of all, the very letter from Peter of Constantinople, a Monothelite, which was the sole reason for Pope Vitalian entering into communion with him is the same letter which served as the sole piece of evidence against Peter at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 681 and resulted in his immediate condemnation as a Monothelite.

While in Constantinople, the apocrisiarii also delivered the new pope’s customary synodikon, containing a profession of his faith, to patriarch Peter. They probably returned to the West also carrying Peter’s reply to Vitalian’s synodikon for, although the pope’s letter to the patriarch is lost, the patriarch’s letter to Vitalian survived long enough to be read at the thirteenth session of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. We may well wonder what it was in Vitalian’s letter that caused patriarch Peter to say that it reflected a spiritual unity between him and the pope that delighted him, especially since it was based solely upon Peter’s reply to Vitalian that the patriarch was declared a Monothelite and anathematized.

Ekonomou “Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes” p. 162

So a letter that reeks so heavily of Monothelitism that it warrants the immediate condemnation of its author was deemed as orthodox by Vitalian despite being aware of the decrees of Lateran 649.

Agreeing with Ekonomou, Allen and Neil state:

Vitalian did not condemn the Typos in his synodical letter, and entered into communion with the church of Constantinople without apparent hesitation. Vitalian’s accord with the imperial position seems to have remained unaltered: in 663, he welcomed Emperor Constans II to Rome.” 

Allen and Neil “St. Maximus and His Companions” p. 24-25

Aware of how embarrassing it is for the Pope to be in communion with known Monothelites, the Catholic Encyclopedia attempts to soften the blow and give a somewhat torturous interpretation of events.

He sent letters (synodica) announcing his elevation by envoys both to the emperor and to Patriarch Peter of Constantinople, who was inclined to Monothelitism. […] The Patriarch Peter also sent an answer, though not a definite one, as to Monothelitism, which he sought to defend. He made it appear that he was of the same opinion as the pope, who in writing to Peter had expounded the Catholic Faith. Thus ecclesiastical intercourse between Rome and Constantinople was restored on the basis of this mutual reserve over the dogmatic question, and Vitalian’s name was entered on the diptychs of the Byzantine Church—the only name of a pope so entered between the reign of Honorius I (d. 638) and the Sixth Œcumenical Council of 680-81).”

Catholic Encyclopedia “Pope St. Vitalian”

One must truly wonder how one can ‘seek to defend’ Monothelitism on the one hand while simultaneously ‘making it appear that he was of the same opinion as the pope’ as one of them would overrule the other unless the Pope was himself accepting of the Monothelite position believing it, as the Monothelite leaders insisted, as synonymous with the dyothelite position.

This leads to a discussion on the main way the Monothelites would express their heresy. The issue was not so much that Monoenergists and Monothelites came right out and declared their belief in one energy or one will (which they occasionally did) but that they typically declared their belief in the need not to define the number of energies or wills. They were so notorious for this that a denial of the need to define this became a hallmark for recognizing them and why the Typos was ultimately a Monothelite document despite banning discussion on the topic of energies and wills. This is essentially what landed Pope Honorius in hot water: he used what was later revealed to be typical Monoenergist and Monothelite terminology and argumentation when, in his letter to Sergius of Constantinople, he chided St. Sophronius of Jerusalem for delving into the issue that should be left for “grammarians.” His dubious usage of the term “one will,” something that was initially ancillary, was then read through that lens.

What earned St. Maximus the ire of the Emperor was not so much his insistence on there being two will and energies, but on his refusal to obey the Typos, which demanded no discussion on the number of them take place. St. Maximus realized heresy can and would hide in mandated silence and for this reason, an adoption of the Typos fell under the same condemnation as Monothelitism. This was true for both Monoenergism and Monothelitism. This is St. Maximus soon abandoned the Psephos:

Thus, for example, where Sophronius and Maximus had at first embraced the principle of doctrinal silence (in the Psēphos), both soon abandoned it; and Maximus, though earlier able to countenance the qualified use of ‘one operation’, soon rejected it altogether.

Price “Acts of Lateran 649” p. 30

When told all he had to do was agree to the content of the Typos, St. Maximus answers:

‘If you believe as rational natures and the church of God do, how is it that you are forcing me to enter into communion on the terms of the Typos which contains only the abrogation of what you profess?

“Maximus the Confessor and his Companions” p. 111

For St. Maximus the Confessor, silence in the face of heresy is heresy.

The union between Pope Vitalian and the Monothelite Peter of Constantinople was not simply on paper, which would have been bad enough, but was real as is evinced when the Pope communed the Monothelite Constans II, who had overseen the arrest, torture, and exile of both Pope St. Martin the Confessor and St. Maximus the Confessor for rejecting the Typos:

On Sunday, July 16, his last day in Rome, the emperor participated in a stational mass where liturgical processions from Rome’s major basilicas and titular churches, in imitation of a practice reflecting the strong influence of Byzantium and the East, filed solemnly through the city’s streets converging at last at St. Peter’s. There Pope Vitalian offered the Eucharist, Constans again received communion, and in the midst of the blistering heat of midsummer, departed for Naples never to see either Rome or the pontiff again.

Ekonomou “Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes” p. 174

He also states:

The culmination of the years of rapprochement between Rome and Constantinople following the episode of Pope Martin occurred when the emperor received the Holy Eucharist from Pope Vitalian’s hand, thereby symbolically reforming the fractured communion between the two churches and expressing as no other act could the end of the years of religious discord and the return of unity to the Christian and orthodox empire.

Ekonomou “Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes” p. 176

Pope St. Vitalian, not simply content to leave it at communion, became a direct accomplice in the death sentence, later commuted to exile, of St. Maximus the Confessor and in so doing reveals he bound the Church to adhere to the contents of the Typos. Were it not for the patriarchal throne of Jerusalem being empty from 638 to 681 (possibly 692), all five of the patriarchs would have fallen to Monothelitism and the promise of Christ to Peter, that the Gates of Hades would not prevail would have been proven false. As it was, four out of five of them had and Rome had joined communion to make itself one of the four.

In a truncated quotation (ironically reused by Catholic apologists to assert he believed in modern Papal claims), St. Maximus recounts it for us himself that Pope Vitalian is involved in his condemnation:

I [St. Maximus] said to them: ‘The God of all pronounced that the catholic church was the correct and saving confession of the faith in him when he called Peter blessed because of the terms in which he had made proper confession of him’…’ Listen then,’ they said. ‘The master and the patriarch have decided, following an instruction from the pope of Rome [Pope Vitalian], that you will be anathematized if you do not obey and that you will be sentenced to death they have determined.’

‘May what has been determined by God before every age receive its end, bringing to him glory which has been known before every age,’ I answered when I heard this. And so that you might know (this), and increase your prayer and petition to God, I have made plain to you the messages that were sent, beseeching that you make these matters known to the divine Lord and to our holy Fathers who are there with him, for the same reason.

p. 121 &123 “Maximus the Confessor and his Companions”

One would assume a believer in modern papal theory to deny the plausibility of such an event that the Pope has signed on with the heretics and is now pushing for the execution of those, like St. Maximus, who fight against Monothelitism, but St. Maximus does not argue, he simply accepts it has occurred and resigns himself to execution. Speaking on this excerpt from the Letter to Anastasius, Maximus specialists Allen and Neil state:

Maximus was threatened with death by order of the emperor and the bishops of Constantinople and Rome, if he refused to obey the emperor’s command to enter into communion with the church of Constantinople. The letter of Anastasius to the monks in Cagliari rejects the compromise formula of the patriarch Peter, as defined in his letter to Pope Vitalian (657-72) on the subject of wills and operations in late 657 or early 658, in which Peter professed both one and two wills, and one and two activities in the economy of salvation, and excommunicated anyone who asserted otherwise. Anastasius asks the monks to go to Rome to plead with the pope on their behalf. The anxiety evident in his letter was due to uncertainty about the position of Vitalian, elected in June 657.

P. 24 Allen and Neil “St. Maximus and His Companions”

Reading that, one must truly wonder how the Catholic Encyclopedia can make the bizarre claim that:

Thus St. Maximus died for orthodoxy and obedience to Rome.[3]

He did not sound very obedient when he found out Rome had sold him out. If ordering the death of someone based purely on theological grounds and entering into communion with their persecutors is not evidence of binding the Church to a position, then this writer has no idea what could be.

In sum:

Vitalian’s initiatives also symbolize the return of peace between pope and emperor and an overt rejection of the disposition to emphasize the differences between Rome and Constantinople that had poisoned their relations and driven them apart, especially as a result of the Monothelite controversy.

Ekonomou “Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes” p. 165

Ekonomou concludes his comments on Pope Vitalian saying:

The Liber Pontificalis’ assertion that Pope Vitalian “maintained in all ways, as was the custom, ecclesiastical discipline and authority” appears to reflect a desire by this decidedly pro-Western source to express a note of reassurance on behalf of a pontiff who, consistent with the program of his imperial masters and benefactors, appeared willing to be more pliable than doctrinaire in matters of faith.

LP I, p. 343” p. 184 Ekonomou “Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes”

But when is Pope Vitalian a saint? After the death of Constans II in 668, Vitalian actually began to promote dyothelitism but could never get Constans II’s son to outright reject the Typos. This led the Monothelite Theodoros of Constantinople to begin agitating for the removal of his name from the diptycha:

The pope supported his son Constantine IV Pogonatus against a usurper and thus aided him to attain the Byzantine throne. The new emperor had no intention of using force to maintain the Monothelite decree (typus) of his father, and Pope Vitalian probably made use of this inclination to take a more decided stand against Monothelitism and to win the emperor to orthodoxy. In this latter attempt, however, he was not able to succeed. The Monothelite patriarch Theodore of Constantinople (from 678) even removed Vitalian’s name from the diptychs. It was not until the Sixth Œcumenical Council (681) that Monothelitism was suppressed, and Vitalian’s name was replaced on the diptychs of the Byzantine Church.”[4]

Ekonomou follows this with:

Although the debate over Monothelitism appears to have lain dormant for over twenty-five years, the combined machinations of patriarchs Theodoros of Constantinople and Makarios of Antioch to resurrect the conflict by finding fault with the Papacy convinced the emperor that the Christological issue had to be settled once and for all. Shortly after his elevation to the see of Constantinople in late 677, patriarch Theodoros, joined by the exiled Antiochian patriarch Makarios, began pressing Constantine to remove Pope Vitalian’s name from the diptych of the church of Constantinople. When the emperor refused to accede to their demand, both because he considered Vitalian to have been orthodox in his beliefs and because the pope had supported him in suppressing the revolt of Mezezius following the assassination of Constans II…

p. 201 Ekonomou “Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes” p. 201[5]

This inadvertently set off a chain of events that lead to the holding of the Sixth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 680-1 where Monothelitism was universally condemned.

Maurus of Ravenna

There is more, though. In his blog post (found here), Mr. Ybarra states:

Pope St. Vitalian (venerated by the Eastern Orthodox on July 23rd) ordered Metropolitan of Ravenna, Maurus (in office from 642-671), to travel to Rome in order to verify his theological positions in a Synod, but Maurus refused to obey the summons. Vitalian ended up excommunicating Maurus, and Maurus attempted the same for the Pope. Maurus appealed to the Emperor  in Constantinople for intervention, and it ended up being successful. In 662, Emperor Constans II, who himself was particularly interested in releasing Ravenna from Roman oversight given that the Byzantine exarch , by then, resided in Ravenna, granted autocephaly to the See of Maurus and it was decreed that all future elections to episcopal office in that see would not be required to be conducted by Rome, as was formerly the case, but rather that the Emperor himself would confirm elections along with three nearby suffragans.

It is recorded that when Maurus died in 671, his last words on his deathbed was for his colleagues to not submit to the authority of Rome. This event actually has a bigger backdrop. There had been previous tension between Rome and Ravenna, but that is outside the purview here. […]Metropolitan Theodore, 2nd successor to Maurus after Reparatus, was, like his predecessor Maurus, summoned to Rome by Pope St. Agatho I, third successor after Pope St. Vitalian, and, while there, negotiations were conducted and the autonomy acquired by Maurus was rescinded. […]The whole dispute would make it seem as though Maurus was in the right, and Vitalian was in the wrong. However, I wonder Maurus even a Saint venerated by the East? Fr. Enoch’s article seems to say so, but I cannot find any source material for that. I am not sure. Interestingly enough, it is Pope St. Vitalian who is venerated by today’s Orthodox.

It was actually in 666, not 662 as Mr. Ybarra erroneously writes.

In 666 the Emperor Constans, at Maurus’s request, granted the see autocephaly, giving it some independence from Rome.

Price “Acts of Lateran 649Footnote 29. p. 75

Autocephaly from Rome means Ravenna was able to name and consecrate its own metropolitan and did not require permission from Rome to do so as other major sees, even Milan, were required to do. But was it all based on a power grab as Mr. Ybarra tries to present it as or was there more?

We know a fair amount about Maurus as his life is recorded in the “The Book of the Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna” by Andreas Agnellus, an excerpt of which is below. Furthermore, Maurus, too ill to attend, sent several legates from Ravenna to Rome to attend the Lateran 649. He appears as a staunch dyothelite and admirer of Pope St. Martin I as his legates state:

In consequence that devotee of your beatitude Maurus the most God-beloved bishop of Ravenna, having accurately learnt this about them from his apocrisiarii, hastened to send us to your honoured feet, on account of his own inability at present to come according to your instructions because of certain compelling needs that prevent him…

Price “Acts of Lateran 649” p. 126

Concerning Maurus’ letter, Pope St. Martin says:

The letter that has been read from Maurus the most devout bishop of Ravenna agrees with the apostolic doctrines and accordingly contains together with a confirmation of the correct profession of the holy fathers, an annulment and condemnation of every heresy.

Price “Acts of Lateran 649″ p. 128

Based on the polite language used, Maurus is not someone to disrespect Rome for the sake of power. In fact, as Fr. Richard Price, the Catholic priest who translated the Acts of Lateran 649 makes clear, Maurus was a staunch dyothelite:

Maurus’ letter condemns the Ekthesis and set out a clear affirmation of his belief in two wills and operations.

Price “Acts of Lateran 649″ p. 75

Knowing Maurus had a history of strongly defended Dyotheletism and seeing how Pope Vitalian had a history of compromising Dyotheletism, we can start to understand what was actually happening. Vitalian became pope in 657 but it was not until 668, when Constans II died that Pope Vitalian actually began to preach Dyotheletism. After years of petitioning for it, Constans II finally granted autocephaly to Ravenna above the protests of Rome because Maurus did not want a prelate friendly to Monothelitism to be his successor and he knew that was a possibility so long as Ravenna was dependant upon Rome.

But the Catholic Encyclopedia agrees when it slips and states:

The archiepiscopal See of Ravenna was immediately subject to Rome. Archbishop Maurus of Ravenna (648-71) sought to rid himself of this dependence, and make his see autocephalous. When Pope Vitalian called upon him to justify his theological views, he refused to obey and declared himself independent of Rome. The pope excommunicated him, but Maurus did not submit, and even went so far as to excommunicate the pope. The Emperor Constans II sided with the archbishop, issued an edict removing the Archbishop of Ravenna from the patriarchal jurisdiction of Rome, and ordained that the former should receive the pallium from the emperor. The successor of Maurus, Reparatus, was in fact consecrated, in 671, by three of his suffragan bishops and received the pallium from the emperor. It was not until the reign of Pope Leo II (682-83) that the independence of the See of Ravenna was suppressed: Emperor Constantine IV repealed the edict of Constans and confirmed the ancient rights of the Roman See over the See of Ravenna.[6]

His theological views are not views on the pope as many sees were autocephalous even then (Constantinople, Alexandria, etc.) so being autocephalous was not a theological viewpoint. From the quotations above we can see what his theological viewpoint was: he held to orthodox Christology while Vitalian held to doctrinal silence as Constantinople, Antioch, and Alexandria did. That negotiations were held between the two sees and Ravenna voluntarily abandoned its autocephaly in either 682 or 683 is no coincidence because the Sixth Ecumenical Council took place at Constantinople in 680-1 in which Monothelitism was universally condemned and Rome ended its sojourn with doctrinal silence. In other words, the reason for schism had disappeared.

In closing, this following excerpt from “The Book of the Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna” describes the schism between Maurus and Rome:

“It happened in that time, that the Roman pope sent a legation to [Maurus] telling him to hasten to Rome, wanting to subjugate him to his dominion [i.e. jurisdiction as Patriarch]. Having received the letter, [Maurus] read and folded it, saying to the legates of the apostolic see, “What is this, what do you strive to do? Is there not an agreement and confirmed obligation between us that neither he should raise trouble against me or my Church, or his successors against my successors?! He has my signed pact by him, and I keep his, as well as all things written between us and confirmed by the signatures of my priests and his. In his hands the received document is confirmed; you have written your letters there for yourselves. I do not agree to these orders. Return to him who sent you, and tell him what you have heard!”

 “Having returned, they told the sequence of events. Then the indignant pope ordered written a letter of obligation, wound about with the chains of anathema, and he signed it with his own hand; [saying] that if Archbishop Maurus would not come to the apostolic see, he would not have permission to sing Masses, nor might any man approach him for communication, nor might any cleric cling to him nor approach the Sacrosanct Altar with him, nor offer any Oblation with him or for him.

 “However [St. Maurus] was bold, he did not accept that he was bound with the chains of the Jews and cast out from the Kingdom of God. The legates of the Roman see brought all these things inserted in a letter, they offered it to Bishop Maurus of the city of Ravenna. Bishop Maurus, accepting it, read the unhappy words. And he was filled with anger, not with outward fury, but like an irrevocable rage, and he wrote a letter similarly sending restrictions of anathema, so that the pope would not have license to sing the Mass, as he did not; he ordered this to be written corresponding to the Roman letter and sent it to Rome to the said pope.

 “Having read it [the pope] cast it away from him, and again ordered [St. Maurus] to be brought. After this [the pope] wanted to send legates to Constantinople to the emperor, that he might coerce Archbishop Maurus to go to the council at Rome, telling how he dared to send a letter of obligation to his master.

 “Indeed in such obligation both died. And from that day they did not offer Oblations for [Maurus] at Rome, nor for [the pope] here; but every week, on Thursday after the Office of Vespers were completed, the priests, deacons, subdeacons and clergy gathered, they entered the secretarium and divided among themselves a round loaf of bread and individual sausages, a vial of wine; and the priest or whoever was first in rank said, “May the Lord God give eternal rest to the soul of him in whose commemoration we have eaten this,” and the others said, “May God order it”; and with these words they retired.

 “However in the hour of his death he [St. Maurus of Ravenna] called all his priests, weeping before them, seeking their forgiveness, and he said to them, “I am entering the path of death, I call to witness and warn you, do not place yourselves under the Roman yoke. Choose a pastor for yourselves, and let him be consecrated by his bishops. Seek the pallium from the emperor. For on whatever day you are subjugated to Rome, you will not be whole.” And with these words he died; and he was buried in the narthex of Blessed Apollinaris, in a wonderful tomb.”

From “The Book of the Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna” by Andreas Agnellus [+846], pages 229-231. 

[1] Price Acts of Lateran 649, p. 7-16 for information on the reunion with the Nestorians and Armenians, Plerophoria, Psephos, Ekthesis, Typos.

[2] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05598a.htm

[3] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10078b.htm

[4] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15484b.htm

[5] “In order to achieve his purpose of fomenting discord, Theodoros appears to have intentionally misrepresented the reception accorded by Pope Vitalian to the synodikon of patriarch Thomas II, with whose doctrinal profession the pope appears to have concurred. Mansi XI, 576C. p. 227 Ekonomou “Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes”

[6] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15484b.htm

2 thoughts on “Was Pope Vitalian a Monothelite?

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