The Edict of Milan
While Pope Damasus I began his ecclesiastic career, Constantine I became emperor of the Western Roman Empire and put forth the Edict of Milan. This document, written in 313, gave Christians across the Roman Empire freedom from religious persecution. Licinius, the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, entered a civil war with Constantine I, opting for paganism instead. This violent time secured Constantine I as the undisputed leader of the Roman Empire and inadvertently gave Constantinople more religious authority than Rome.
There is no question that the was a trying time for the Church. It led to the eventual banishment of the Roman Pope Liberius in 354. At the time, Pope Damasus I was the archdeacon and decided to go with his Pope Liberius into exile.
Election to Pope
With Pope Liberius’ death in 366, Pope Damasus I was elected to the papacy. This was, however, contested due to dissenting political groups within the Church. A small group of the clergy named Ursinus, a deacon, pope. No clear choice was made and as a result both men were made pope, leading to violent confrontations.
Though there is some debate on what actually occurred, it seems that two major events played out around Basilicas. Those for Pope Damasus I fought the Ursinians at the Julian Basilica over the course of three days. In response, the Ursinians carried out a violent attack of 137 people at the Basilica of Sicininus. This led to Roman prefects banishing Ursinus to France.
This did not stop the violence, as Ursinians kept attacking Pope Damasus I’s sovereignty. In 378, Pope Damasus I was officially made the pope, while Ursinus was fully condemned.
Acts as Pope
Pope Damasus I led a very minimalist life, focusing on purity rather than opulence. In this regard, he rejected Arianism. Supporters of Arianism, a heretical view of the Church, tried to besmirch Pope Damasus I with false accusations in his early career.
Among other things, Pope Damasus I made Latin the language of the Church and proclaimed that the Roman state was Christian. He also suggested that his secretary, Jerome, re-translate the Bible’s Old Latin text into something more attainable for the masses. This led to the writing of the Vulgate.
Quick Facts About Pope Damasus I
-Though the exact date is unclear, he is believed to be born around 305 in Rome, Italy.
-He has no other birth name than Damasus.
-At the approximate age of 78, he died on December 11, 384.
-He died of natural causes and was buried near his family members, though the exact location is no longer known.
-His papacy began on October 1, 366, where he was around 60 years old.
-After a long career in service to the Church, his papacy ended with his death on December 11, 384.
-Pope Liberius preceded him as pope, serving for 14 years.
-After him, Pope St. Siricus held the office for almost 15 years.
Interesting Facts About Pope Damasus I
-His feast day is December 11.
-He rebuilt his father’s church, where he first served as a deacon. It is now the famed St. Lawrence outside the Walls.
-He established Latin as the language of the Church.
-He venerated martyrs of the faith with rebuilt and redecorated tombs.