BONIFACE I, pope 418–422. At the death of Pope Zosimus 417-418, part of the Roman clergy elected as his successor the archdeacon Eulalius, backed by the court of Ravenna and the powerful prefect Symmachus. The next day 28 December 418 the majority of the clergy chose Boniface, who was more popular with the people. Eulalius had recourse to the emperor Honorius, who ordered Boniface to leave Rome. In the confusion and disturbances that followed, a synod held at Spoleto enjoined both to stay away from Rome until the situation was clarified.
The reaction of Eulalius and his supporters was so negative and intransigent that Honorius deposed him and confirmed the election of Boniface. So as to avoid any such future occurrences, on his return to Rome Boniface presented a petition to Honorius, invoking his support of the church. In his rescript the emperor established that in the case of a doubleelection, the bishop of Rome would be chosen by a second consultation with the entire community Jaffé 353. The decision, which remained a dead letter, nevertheless pointed to a heavy interference of the political power in the election of the pope and in the ecclesial sphere more generally.
Boniface fulfilled his ministry with energy and responsibility, remedying some of his predecessor’s uncertainties and imprudences. In particular he revoked the primacy conceded by Zosimus to Bishop Patroclus of Arles, thus granting the requests of the Gallican metropolitans and restoring the old metropolitan order Jaffé 362. In 419 Boniface intervened against the Pelagians, whom Honorius had condemned Prosp. of Aquit., Contra collat. 21, 57: PL 45, 1831; on this occasion Augustine dedicated to him the Contra duas epist. Pelagianorum. But the most important aspect and event of Boniface’s pontificate concerned the defense and affirmation of Roman primacy in the face of some tendencies and positions of the Greco-Eastern Church.
In 421 the bishops of Thessaly solicited an edict from the emperor Theodosius II, based on which all controversies among the Illyrican churches were to be submitted to the bishop of Constantinople, since the city now had the prerogatives of ancient Rome. Writing to Rufus, bishop of Constantinople, and taking up the positions and language of Innocent I 401–417, Boniface recognized the privileged rank of the great Eastern churches Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople but reaffirmed the superior authority of the see of Rome over the whole church, including the Illyrican communities and all the churches of the East Ep. 15,5, “members” of the ecclesiastical body whose “head” was exclusively the Church of Rome Ep. 14,1. Boniface’s pontificate was thus a fundamental step in the historical configuration and dogmatic definition of the universal primacy of the bishop of Rome.
Boniface, Epistulae, PL 20, 745-792; Innocent, Ep. 23, PL 20, 546-547; Celestine, Ep. 3, PL 50, 427-429; Prosp. of Aquit., Contra collatorem, PL 51, 213-276; Socrates, HE VII, 36: PG 67, 820; Jaffé 52-54; LP I, LXII, 86-89 and 227-229; E. Caspar, Geschichte des Papsttums, I, Tübingen 1930, 359-364; P. Paschini – V. Monachino, I papi nella storia, I, Rome 1961, 81-87; E. Griffe, La Gaule chrétienne à l’époque romaine, I-II, Paris 1964-1966, passim; LTK 2, 578 P. Duckers – M. Wojtowytsch; P.J. Carefoote, Pope Boniface I, the Pelagian Controversy and the Growth of Papal Authority: Augustiniana 46 1996 261-289; Dizionario storico del Papato, ed. Ph. Levillain, I, Milan 1996, 195-197; J.N.D. Kelly, Vite dei Papi, Casale Monf. 21997, 76-78; EPapi I, 398-404 A. Pollastri.