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Bible Dictionaries

A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Felix II, Bishop of Rome

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Felix (2) II. , bp. of Rome after the exile of pope Liberius (a.d. 355). He has a place in the Roman calendar as a saint and martyr, and in the Pontifical and in the Acts of St. Felix and St. Eusebius as a legitimately elected and orthodox pope, persecuted by the emperor and the Arian faction. Contemporary and other ancient writers (Faustus and Marcellinus, Hilary, Athanasius, Jerome, Rufinus, Sozomen, and Theodoret) unanimously represent him, on the contrary, as an interloper placed in the see violently and irregularly by the emperor and the Arians, and do not allude to his martyrdom. The following is the account given by Marcellinus and Faustus, two contemporary Luciferian presbyters of Rome, who must have had good opportunity of knowing the truth. It occurs in the preface to their Libellus Precum addressed to the emperors Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius during the pontificate of Damasus, who succeeded Liberius, and by whom the writers complain of being persecuted. Immediately on the banishment of Liberius all the clergy, including the archdeacon Felix, swore to accept no other bishop during the life of the exiled pope. Notwithstanding, the clergy afterwards ordained this Felix, though the people were displeased and abstained from taking part. Damasus, pope after Liberius, was among his perjured supporters. In 357 the emperor visited Rome, and, being solicited by the people for the return of Liberius, consented on condition of his complying with the imperial requirements, but with the intention of his ruling the church jointly with Felix. In the third year Liberius returned, and the people met him with joy. Felix was driven from the city, but soon after, at the instigation of the clergy who had perjured themselves in his election, burst into it again, taking his position in the basilica of Julius beyond the Tiber. The faithful and the nobles again expelled him with great ignominy. After 8 years, during the consulship of Valentinianus and Valens ( i.e. a.d. 365), on the 10th of the Calends of Dec. (Nov. 22), Felix died, leaving Liberius without a rival as bp. of Rome till his own death on the 8th of the Calends of Oct. (Sept. 24), 366. The other writers mentioned tell us that the election and consecration of Felix took place in the imperial palace, since the people debarred the Arians from their churches; that three of the emperor's eunuchs represented the people, the consecrators being three heretical bishops, Epictetus of Centumellae, Acacius of Caesarea, and Basil of Ancyra; and it was only the Arian section of the clergy, though apparently a large one, that supported Felix.

A very different account is given in the Pontifical and in the Acts of St. Felix and of St. Eusebius; the former account is undoubtedly to be preferred. But though Felix, as well as Liberius, has obtained a place in the list of lawful popes, and has even been canonized, it is thus evident that his claim is more than doubtful. Accordingly, Augustine, Optatus, and Eutychius (as did Athanasius, Jerome, and Rufinus) exclude him from their lists of popes. In the Roman church, however, his claim to the position appears to have remained unquestioned till the 14th cent., when, an emendation of the Roman Martyrology having been undertaken in 1582, under pope Gregory XIII., the question was raised and discussed. Baronius at first opposed the claims of Felix; a cardinal, Sanctorius, defended them. The question was decided by the accidental discovery, in the church of SS. Cosmas and Damian in the forum, of a coffin bearing the inscription, "Corpus S. Felicis papae et martyris, qui damnavit Constantium." In the face of this, Baronius was convinced, and retracted all he had written (Baron. ad Liberium , c. lxii.). Accordingly Felix retained his place in the Martyrology, though the title of pope was afterwards expunged from the oratio for his day in the breviary. What became of the inscribed slab is not known, and in the absence of any knowledge of its date, its testimony is valueless.


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Felix II, Bishop of Rome'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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