Bonifacius I., pope
Bonifacius I., pope and saint, successor of Zosimus, a Roman, son of a
priest, Jocundus, has been identified with Boniface the priest, the papal representative
at Constantinople during the time of Innocent I. (Baronius s.a. 405, § 15,
cf. Bianchi-Giovini, Storia dei Papi, i. 353). Zosimus died on Dec. 26, 418.
On the 28th Boniface was elected bishop in the Church of St. Theodora by a majority
of the clergy and people, and consecrated next day in the church of St. Marcellus.
Previously, however, a small body of the clergy, contrary to the command of the
prefect Symmachus, had shut themselves up in the Lateran, and as soon as the burial
of Zosimus took place, proclaimed Eulalius the archdeacon pope. Three bishops (including
the bp. of Ostia) assisted at the consecration of Eulalius, nine at that of Boniface.
Symmachus reported to the emperor Honorius in favour of Eulalius. Honorius decided
accordingly, and ordered Boniface to quit the city, but ultimately pronounced in
his favour. This was the third disputed election (see full account, with all the
documents, in Baronius s.a. 419; Jaffé, Regesta). Personally, Boniface
is described as an old man at the time of his appointment, which he was unwilling
to accept, of mild character, given to good works (Anastasius, Lib. Pont.).
In the contest against Pelagius, Boniface was an unswerving supporter of orthodoxy
and Augustine. [Pelagius]
Two letters of the Pelagians had fallen into the pope's hands, in both of which
Augustine was calumniated. Boniface sent them promptly by the hands of Alypius to
Augustine himself, that he might reply to them. His reply, contained in the "Quatuor
libri contra duas Epp. Pelagianorum" (Opp. x. 411, Ben. ed.; cf. Repr.
ii. 61 in vol i.), is addressed to Boniface, and bears testimony to the kindness
and condescension of his character. Boniface was strenuous in enforcing the discipline
of the church. Thus he insisted that Maximus, bp. of Valence, should be brought
to trial for
135his misdemeanours before the bishops of Gaul (see letter in Labbe,
Conc. ii. 1584). So also in the case of the vacancy of the see of Lodève
he insisted on a rigid adherence to the decrees of the council of Nicaea, that each
metropolitan, and in this case the metropolitan of Narbonne, should be supreme
within his own province, and that the jurisdiction conferred by his predecessor
Zosimus on the bp. of Arles should be of none effect (Labbe, ib. 1585). On
the significance of this transaction as regards the history of the relation of the
pope to the metropolitans, see Gieseler, Ecc. Hist. i. § 92 (p. 265, Eng.
trans.). Nor was he less strenuous in his assertion of the rights of the Roman see.
Following the policy of his predecessors, Siricius and Innocent, he vindicated the
supremacy of his patriarchate over the province of Eastern Illyria. The people of
Corinth had elected a certain Perigenes bishop, and sent to Rome to ask the pope
to ratify the election. Boniface refused to entertain their request until sent through
the hands and with the consent of the papal legate, Rufus, archbp. of Thessalonica.
The party in Corinth opposed to Perigenes appealed to the Eastern emperor. Theodosius
decreed that canonical disputes should be settled by a council of the province with
appeal to the bp. of Constantinople. Boniface immediately complained to Honorius
that this law infringed the privileges of his see, and Theodosius, on the request
of his uncle, annulled it. Proposals, however, had actually been made for the convocation
of a provincial council to consider the Corinthian election. To check this tendency
to independence, and to defeat the rival claims of Constantinople, Boniface forthwith
addressed letters to Rufus, to the bishops of Thessaly, and to the bishops of the
entire province. Rufus was exhorted to exercise the authority of the Roman see with
all his might; and the bishops were commanded to obey him, though allowed the privilege
of addressing complaints concerning him to Rome. "No assembly was to be held without
the consent of the papal vicar. Never had it been lawful to reconsider what had
once been decided by the Apostolic see" (see documents in Labbe, iv. 1720 sqq.).
Among the lesser ordinances attributed to him by Anastasius the most important is
that whereby he forbade slaves to be ordained without the consent of their masters.
Boniface died on Sept. 4, 422, and was buried, according to the Martyr. Hieronym.
(ap. Jaffé, Reg.), in the cemetery of St. Maximus, according to Anastasius
in that of St. Felicitas (cf. Ciacconius, Vat. Pont. who gives several epitaphs).
He was succeeded by Celestine I. His letters are given by Labbe, vol. iv.; Migne,
Patr. vol. xx.; Baronius. (Cf. Jaffé, Regesta and App. pp.
932, 933, where spurious letters and decrees attributed to Boniface are given).