Saint Gregory III

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By Catholic Digest Staff


Saint Gregory III

Feast Day: December 10

 

A Syrian cardinal so well renowned for his deep piety and intellect that the people suddenly seized him during the funeral mass of Pope Gregory II, carried him off, and made him the next pope. Despite his Syrian background and having his appointment of Pope confirmed in the name of the Byzantine emperor, a great conflict arose with Byzantine Emperor Leo III. An escalated cultural clash, Iconoclasts in Constantinople began to attack “Christian Idolatry,” holy statues and paintings that they believed were worshiped as gods, instead of the artwork being symbolic. In 726 a treasured image of Christ above the gate of the palace in Constantinople was destroyed by soldiers, art and theology schools were closed; statues, paintings, and books were smashed or burned. A riot of protest spilled into the streets, and despite the civil unrest Leo ultimately forbid anyone from venerating holy images. Stunned by the chaos in Constantinople, Pope Gregory sent out a stream of messengers to the Emperor, all of who were ultimately seized by Leo’s imperial officers and banished. An emergency synod was called and all levels of clergy and nobility approved an order to excommunicate anyone who condemned the veneration of images, especially those who damaged them. Furious, the emperor sent his navy to take the pope hostage and bring him back to Constantinople. However, a giant storm destroyed the fleet at sea before it reached Rome. Leo seized papal estates and Gregory countered by redecorating all the churches of Rome with magnificent artwork. Both men unyielding, Gregory continued to defend the faith, and the relationship between Rome and Constantinople began to schism. The Liber Pontificalis (Latin book of the popes) says that Gregory was, “a man of deep humility and true wisdom. He had a good knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures and knew the psalms by heart. He was a polished and successful preacher, skilled in both Latin and Greek, and a stout upholder of the Catholic Faith: a lover of poverty and the poor, a protector of the widowed and orphaned, a friend to monks and nuns.”

 

 

 

Catholic Digest Staff