Sunday, January 12, 2014
The African Popes part # 2
Contrary to the belief of those who call Christianity a white man's religion, Christianity was founded with the genius of three Black theologians, and further developed and propelled by devoted contributions from three Black Roman African popes.
Pope Victor's ten years as pope left a great legacy to the papacy and the church can be summed up in three practices that touch our lives today. First, he set the date for the celebration of Easter on the liturgical calendar that combined the Egypt-Judeo heritage with the Christian heritage. Secondly, he promoted in the case of death and persecution a baptism with water from a spring, river or sea when a pagan wanted to accept Christ. And he was the first pope to use Latin as the official language of the Church in his writings, before the language was Greek. He died a martyr for the faith and was buried close to St. Peter in the Vatican. For more information on the popes see the references listed below.
Pope Melchiades (Miltidades) was pope for a brief 5 years. However, his importance to the history of the papacy is enormous. He became pope when the Emperor Galerius was ill and one of his doctors attributed the incurable disease to a curse from the Christian God for his persecution of the group.
The emperor's hope was to restore the religion and revive his health. This was after tens of thousands of Christians were killed for their faith. With this relaxation of persecution the nextemperor, Constantine, continued the favor of the emperor towards the church.
The Lateran Palace was given to the church. Melchiades began the construction of the Lateran Basilica in which the first African American priest, Fr. Augustus Tolton, would be ordained 1600 years later. Melchiades died on January 11, 314.
Pope Gelesius was pope for five years. The lasting contributions of Pope Gelesius are found in the worship of the church to this day. He is the organizer and writer of the Roman Sacramentary which hold the prayers and prefaces for the sacraments. He promoted the reception of Eucharist in the form of bread and wine, which was the tradition until the 15th century, and was restored with Vatican II. He was a writer of music, and his prolific works in the form of books have been preserved to this day.