St. Julius, Pope and Confessor
HE was a Roman, and chosen pope on the 6th of February, in 337. The Arian bishops in the East sent to him three deputies to accuse St. Athanasius, the zealous patriarch of Alexandria. These informations, as the order of justice required, Julius imparted to Athanasius, who thereupon sent his deputies to Rome; when, upon an impartial hearing, the advocates of the heretics were confounded, and silenced, upon every article of their accusation. The Arians then demanded a council, and the pope assembled one in Rome, in 341, at which appeared St. Athanasius, Marcellus of Ancyra, and other orthodox prelates, who entreated the pope that he would cite their adversaries to appear. Julius accordingly sent them an order to repair to Rome within a limited time. They, instead of obeying, held a pretended council at Antioch, in 341, in which they presumed to appoint one Gregory an impious Arian, bishop of Alexandria, detained the pope’s legates beyond the time mentioned for their appearance; and then wrote to his holiness, alleging a pretended impossibility of their appearing, on account of the Persian war and other impediments. The pope easily saw through these pretences, and, in a council at Rome, examined the cause of St. Athanasius, declared him innocent of the things laid to his charge by the Arians, and confirmed him in his see. He also acquitted Marcellus of Ancyra, upon his orthodox profession of faith. “Julius, by virtue of the prerogative of his see, sent the bishops into the East, with letters full of vigour, restoring to each of them his see,” says Socrates. 1 “For, because the care of all belonged to him, by the dignity of his see, he restored to every one his church.” as Sozomen writes. 2 He drew up and sent by Count Gabian, to the Oriental Eusebian bishops, who had first demanded a council, and then refused to appear in it, an excellent letter, which Tillemont calls one of the finest monuments of ecclesiastical antiquity. In it we admire an extraordinary genius, and solid judgment, but, far more, an apostolic vigour and resolution tempered with charity and meekness. “If,” says he, “they (Athanasius and Marcellus) had been guilty, ye should have written to us all, that judgment might have been given by all: for they were bishops and churches that suffered, and these not common churches, but the same that the apostles themselves had governed. Why did they not write to us especially concerning the church of Alexandria? Are you ignorant, that it is the custom to write to us immediately, and that the decision ought to come from hence? In case therefore that the bishop of that see lay under any suspicions, ye ought to have written to our church. But now, without having sent us any information on the subject, and having acted just as ye thought proper, ye require of us to approve your measures, without sending us any account of the reasons of your proceedings. These are not the ordinances of Paul, this is not the tradition of our fathers; this is an unprecedented sort of conduct.—I declare to you what we have learned from the blessed Apostle Peter, and I believe it so well known to every body, that I should not have mentioned it, had not this happened.” 3 Finding the Eusebians still obstinate, he moved Constans, emperor of the West, to demand the concurrence of his brother Constantius in the assembling of a general council at Sardica, in Illyricum. This was opened in May, 347, 4 and was a general synod, as Baronius and Natalis Alexander demonstrate; but is joined as an appendix to the council of Nice, because it only confirmed its decrees of faith. This council declared St. Athanasius and Marcellus of Ancyra orthodox and innocent, deposed certain Arian bishops, and framed twenty-one canons of discipline. The first of these forbids the translation of bishops; for, if frequently made, it opens a door to let ambition and covetousness into the sanctuary, of which Eusebius of Nicomedia was a scandalous instance. The third, fourth, and seventh agree, that any bishop deposed by a synod in his province has a right to appeal to the bishop of Rome. St. Julius sat fifteen years, two months, and six days, dying on the 12th of April, 352. See St. Athanasius, Hist. Arianorum ad Monachos, t. 1, p. 349, et Apolog. contra Arianos, p. 142, 199; Tillemont, t. 7, p. 278; Fleury, t. 3; Ceillier, t. 4, p. 484; see also the letter of Julius to Prosdocius, with remarks; and his letter to the church of Alexandria, with the notes of Muratori, &c., in the second tome of the new complete edition of the Councils, printed at Venice in 1759. 1
Note 1. Socr. b. 2, c. 15. [back]
Note 2. Soz. b. 3, c. 7; Fleury, l. 12, Hist. n. 20, t. 3, p. 310. [back]
Note 3. See this letter inserted entire by St. Athanasius in his Apology, p. 141. [back]
Note 4. See Mansi in Suppl. Concil. t. 1, where he shows, in a particular Dissertation, that the council of Sardica was not held in 347, as most modern historians imagine, but in 344, and rectifies the history of it from three letters which he first published.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume IV: April. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. April 12.