POPE Felix II, or, according to another reckoning, III, (483-492), continued the war of his predecessor against the Monophysitism of the East, rejected the Henoticon of the emperor Zeno, as an unwarrantable intrusion of a laymen in matters of faith, and ventured even the excommunication of the bishop Acacius of Constantinople. Acacius replied with a counter anathema, with the support of the other Eastern patriarchs; and the schism between the two churches lasted over thirty years, to the pontificate of Hormisdas. 

GELASIUS I (492-496) clearly announced the principle, that the priestly power is above the kingly and the imperial, and that from the decisions of the chair of Peter there is no appeal. Yet from this pope we have, on the other hand, a remarkable testimony against what he pronounces the “sacrilege” of withholding the cup from the laity, the communio sub una specie

ANASTASIUS II (496-498) indulged in a milder tone toward Constantinople, and incurred the suspicion of consent to its heresy. 

His sudden death was followed by a contested papal election, which led to bloody encounters. The Ostrogothic king Theodoric (the Dietrich of Bern in the Niebelungenlied), the conqueror and master of Italy (493-526), and, like Odoacer, an Arian, was called into consultation in this contest, and gave his voice for SYMMACHUS against Laurentius, because Symmachus had received the majority of votes, and had been consecrated first. But the party of Laurentius, not satisfied with this, raised against Symmachus the reproach of gross iniquities, even of adultery and of squandering the church estates. The bloody scenes were renewed, priests were murdered, cloisters were burned, and nuns were insulted. Theodoric, being again called upon by the senate for a decision, summoned a council at Rome, to which Symmachus gave his consent; and a synod, convoked by a heretical king, must decide upon the pope ! In the course of the controversy several councils were held in rapid succession, the chronology of which is disputed. The most important was the synodus palmaris, the fourth council under Symmachus, held in October, 501. It acquitted this pope without investigation, on the presumption that it did not behoove the council to pass judgment respecting the successor of St. Peter. In his vindication of this council—for the opposition was not satisfied with it—the deacon Ennodius after bishop of Pavia (251), gave the first clear expression to the absolutism upon which Leo had already acted: that the Roman bishop is above every human tribunal, and is responsible only to God himself. Nevertheless, even in the middle age, popes were deposed and set up by emperors and general councils. This is one of the points of dispute between the absolute papal system and the constitutional episcopal system in the Roman church, which wag left unsettled even by the council of Trent. 

Under HORMISDAS (514-523) the Monophysite party in the Greek church was destroyed by the energetic zeal of the orthodox emperor Justin, and in 519 the union of that church with Rome was restored, after a schism of five-and-thirty years.

Theodoric offered no hindrance to the transactions and embassies, and allowed his most distinguished subject to assert his ecclesiastical supremacy over Constantinople. This semi barbarous and heretical prince was tolerant in general, and very liberal toward the Catholic church; even rising to the principle, which has waited till the modern age for its recognition, that the power of the prince should be restricted to civil government, and should permit no trespass on the conscience of its subjects. “No one,” says he, “shall be forced td believe against his will.” Yet, toward the close of his reign, on mere political suspicion, he ordered the execution of the celebrated philosopher Boethius, with whom the old Roman literature far more worthily closes, than the Roman empire with Augustulus; and on the same ground he caused the death of the senator Symmachus and the incarceration of Pope John I (523-526). 

Almost the last, act of his reign was the nomination of the worthy FELIX III (IV) to the papal chair, after a protracted struggle of contending parties. With the appointment he issued the order that hereafter, as heretofore, the pope should be elected by clergy and people, but should be confirmed by the temporal prince before assuming his office; and with understanding the clergy and the city gave their consent to the nomination. 

Yet, in spite of this arrangement, in the election of BONIFACE II (530-532) and JOHN II (532-535) the same disgraceful quarreling and, briberies occurred; a sort of chronic disease in the history of the papacy.

Soon after the death of Theodoric (526) the Gothic empire fell to pieces through internal distraction and imperial weakness. Italy was conquered by Belisarius (535), and, with Africa, again incorporated with the East Roman empire, which renewed under Justinian its ancient splendor, and enjoyed a transient after-summer. And yet this powerful, orthodox emperor was a slave to the intriguing, heretical Theodora, whom he had raised from the theatre to the throne; and Belisarius likewise, his victorious general, was completely under the power of his wife Antonina. 

With the conquest of Italy the popes fell inter a perilous and unworthy dependence on the emperor at Constantinople, who reverenced, indeed, the Roman chair, but not less that of Constantinople, and in reality sought to use both as tools of his own state-church despotism. AGAPETUS (535-536) offered fearless resistance to the arbitrary course of Justinian and successfully protested against the elevation of the Eutychian Anthimus to the patriarchal see of Constantinople. But, by the intrigues of the Monophysite empress, his successor, Pope SILVERIUS (a son of Hormisdas, 536-538), was deposed on the charge of treasonable correspondence with the Goths, and banished to the island of Pandataria, whither the worst heathen emperors used to send the victims of their tyranny, and where in 540 he died—whether a natural or a violent death, we do not know. 

VIGILIUS, a pliant creature of Theodora, ascended the papal chair under the military protection of Belisarius (538-554). The empress had promised him this office and a sum of money, on condition that he nullify the decrees of the council of Chalcedon, and pronounce Anthimus and his friends orthodox. The ambitious and doubled-tongued prelate accepted the condition, and accomplished the deposition and perhaps the death of Silverius. In his pontificate occurred the violent controversy of the three chapters and the second general council of Constantinople (553). His administration was an unprincipled vacillation between the dignity and duties of his office and subservience to an alien theological and political influence; between repeated condemnation of the three chapters in behalf of a Eutychianizing spirit, and repeated retraction of that condemnation. In Constantinople, where he resided several years at the instance of the emperor, he suffered much personal persecution, but without the spirit of martyrdom, and without its glory. For example, at least according to Western accounts, he was violently torn from the altar, upon which he was holding with both hands so firmly that the posts of the canopy fell in above him; he was dragged through the streets with a rope around his neck, and cast into a common prison; because he would not submit to the will of Justinian and his council. Yet, he yielded at last, through fear of deposition. He obtained permission to return to Rome, but died in Sicily, of the stone, on his way thither (554). 

PELAGIUS I (554-560), by order of Justinian, whose favor he had previously gained as papal legate at Constantinople, was made successor of Vigilius, but found only two bishops ready to consecrate him. His close connection with the East, and his approval of the fifth ecumenical council, which was regarded as a partial concession to the Eutychian Christology, and, so far, an impeachment of the authority of the council of Chalcedon, alienated many Western bishops, even in Italy and induced a temporary suspension of their connection with Rome. He issued a letter to the whole Christian world, in which he declared his entire agreement with the first four general councils, and then vindicated the fifth as in no way departing from the Chalcedonian dogma. But only by the military aid of Narses could he secure subjection; and the most refractory bishops, those of Aquileia and Milan, he sent as prisoners to Constantinople. 

In these two Justian-made popes we see how much the power of the Roman hierarchy was indebted to its remoteness from the Byzantine despotism, and how much it was injured by contact with it. 

With the descent of the Arian Longobards into Italy, after 568, the popes became more independent of the Byzantine court. They continued under tribute indeed to the exarches in Ravenna, as the representatives of the Greek emperors (from 554), and were obliged to have their election confirmed and their inauguration superintended by them. But the feeble hold of these officials iti Italy, and the pressure of the Arian barbarians upon them, greatly favored the popes, who, being the richest proprietors, enjoyed also great political consideration in Italy, and applied their influence to the maintenance of law and order amidst the reigning confusion. 

In other respects the administration of JOHN II (560- 573), BENEDICT I (574-578), and PELAGIUS II (578-590), are among the darkest and the most sterile in the annals of the papacy. 

But with GREGORY I (590-604) a new period begins. Next to Leo I he was the greatest of the ancient bishops of Rome, and he marks transition of the patriarchal system into the strict papacy of the middle ages. For several reasons we prefer to place him at the head of the succeeding period. He came, it is true, with more modest claims than Leo, who surpassed him in boldness, energy, and consistency. He even solemnly protested, as his predecessor Pelagius II had done, against the title of universalbishop, which the Constantinopolitan patriarch, John Jejunator, adopted at a council in 587; he declared it an antichristian assumption, in terms which quite remind us of the patriarchal equality, and seem to form a step in recession from the ground of Leo. But when we take his operations in general into view, and remember the rigid consistency of the papacy, which never forgets, we are almost justified in thinking, that this protest was directed not so much against the title itself, as against the bearer of it, and proceeded more from jealousy of a rival at Constantinople, than from sincere humility. From the same motive the Roman bishops avoided the title of patriarch, as placing them on a level with the Eastern patriarchs, and preferred the title of pope, from a sense of the specific dignity of the chair of Peter. Gregory is said to have been the first to use the humble-proud title: “servant of the servant of God.” His successors, notwithstanding his protest, called themselves “the universal bishops” of Christendom. What he had condemned in his oriental colleagues as antichristian arrogance, the later popes considered but the appropriate expression of their official position in the church universal.