St. Boniface I
Feast: September 4
Information: Feast Day: September 4
Died: September 4, 422
Elected 28 December, 418; d. at Rome, 4 September, 422. Little is known of his life antecedent to his election. The "Liber Pontificalis" calls him a Roman, and the son of the presbyter Jocundus. He is believed to have been ordained by Pope Damasus I (366-384) and to have served as representative of Innocent I at Constantinople (c. 405).
Boniface's reign was marked by great zeal and activity in disciplinary organization and control. He reversed his predecessor's policy of endowing certain Western bishops with extraordinary papal vicariate powers. Zosimus had given to Patroclus, Bishop of Arles, extensive jurisdiction in the provinces of Vienna and Narbonne, and had made him an intermediary between these provinces and the Apostolic See. Boniface diminished these primatial rights and restored the metropolitan powers of the chief bishops of provinces. Thus he sustained Hilary, Archbishop of Narbonne, in his choice of a bishop of the vacant See of Lodeve, against Patroclus, who tried to intrude another (422). So, too, he insisted that Maximus, Bishop of Valence, should be tried for his alleged crimes, not by a primate, but by a synod of the bishops of Gaul, and promised to sustain their decision (419). Boniface succeeded to Zosimus's difficulties with the African Church regarding appeals to Rome and, in particular, the case of Apiarius. The Council of Carthage, having heard the representations of Zosimus's legates, sent to Boniface on 31 May, 419, a letter in reply to the commonitorium of his predecessor. It stated that the council had been unable to verify the canons which the legates had quoted as Nicene, but which were later found to be Sardican. It agreed, however, to observe them until verification could be established. This letter is often cited in illustration of the defiant attitude of theAfrican Church to the Roman See. An unbiased study of it, however, must lead to no more extreme conclusion than that of Dom Chapman: "it was written in considerable irritation, yet in a studiously moderate tone" (Dublin Review. July, 1901, 109-119). TheAfricans were irritated at the insolence of Boniface's legates and incensed at being urged to obey laws which they thought were not consistently enforced at Rome. This they told Boniface in no uncertain language; yet, far from repudiating his authority, they promised to obey the suspected laws thus recognizing the pope's office as guardian of the Church's discipline. In 422 Boniface received the appeal of Anthony of Fussula who, through the efforts of St. Augustine, had been deposed by a provincial synod of Numidia, and decided that he should be restored if his innocence be established. Boniface ardently supported St. Augustine in combating Pelagianism. Having received two Pelagian letters calumniating Augustine, he sent them to him. In recognition of this solicitude Augustine dedicated to Boniface his rejoinder contained in "Contra duas Epistolas Pelagianoruin Libri quatuor".
In the East he zealously maintained his jurisdiction over the ecclesiastical provinces of Illyricurn, of which the Patriarch of Constantinople was trying to secure control on account of their becoming a part of the Eastern empire. The Bishop of Thessalonica had been constituted papal vicar in this territory, exercising jurisdiction over the metropolitans and bishops. By letters to Rufus, the contemporary incumbent of the see, Boniface watched closely over the interests of the Illyrian church and insisted on obedience to Rome. In 421 dissatisfaction expressed by certain malcontents among the bishops, on account of the pope's refusal to confirm the election of Perigines as Bishop of Corinth unless the candidate was recognized by Rufus, served as a pretext for the young emperor Theodosius II to grant the ecclesiastical dominion of Illyricurn to the Patriarch of Constantinople (14 July, 421). Boniface remonstrated with Honorius against the violation of the rights of his see, and prevailed upon him to urge Theodosius to rescind his enactment. The law was not enforced, but it remained in the Theodosian (439) and Justinian (534) codes and caused much trouble for succeeding popes. By a letter of 11 March, 422, Boniface forbade the consecration in Illyricum of any bishop whom Rufus would not recognize. Boniface renewed the legislation of Pope Soter, prohibiting women to touch the sacred linens or to minister at the burning of incense. He enforced the laws forbidding slaves to become clerics. He was buried in the cemetery of Maximus on the Via Salaria, near the tomb of his favorite, St. Felicitas, in whose honor and in gratitude for whose aid he had erected an oratory over the cemetery bearing her name.
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