Elected 17 September, 530; died October, 532.
In calling him the son of Sigisbald, the "Liber Pontificalis" makes first mention of a pope's Germanic ancestry. Boniface served the Roman Church from early youth. During the reign of Pope Felix IV, he was archdeacon and a personage of considerable influence with the ecclesiastical and civil authorities. His elevation to the papacy is remarkable as offering an unquestionable example of the nomination of a pope by his predecessor, without even the formality of an election. Felix IV apprehending death and fearing a contest for the papacy between Roman and Gothic factions, gathered about him several of his clergy and a number of Roman Senators and patricians who happened to be near. In their presence, he solemnly conferred on his aged archdeacon the pallium of papal sovereignty, proclaiming him his successor and menacing with excommunication those refusing to recognize and obey Boniface as validly chosen pope. On Felix's death Boniface assumed succession, but nearly all of the Roman priests. Sixty out of perhaps about seventy, refused to accept him and elected Dioscorus. They feared the undue influence in papal affairs of the Ostrogothic King Athalaric, whose Grandfather, Theodoric I, had helped to elect Pope Felix IV, a circumstance rendering more odious the latter's nomination of Boniface.
Both popes were consecrated 22 September, 530, Boniface in the Basilica of Julius, and Dioscorus in the Lateran. The Roman Church was thus involved in the seventh anti-papal schism. Fortunately it endured but twenty-two days, for Dioscorus died 14 October, leaving Boniface in possession. He soon convened a Roman synod and presented a decree anathematizing his late rival to which he secured the signatures of the priests who had been Dioscorus's partisans (December, 530) Each of these expressed regret for their participation in the irregular election and pledged future obedience. Boniface reconciled many by his mild, conciliatory administration; but some resentment remained, for he seems not to have been tendered a formal election by those who, despite their submission, had impugned the validly of his nomination; and five years later a pope of their choice solemnly burned the anathema against Dioscorus. (See AGAPETUS I). In a second synod, held (531) in St. Peter's, Boniface presented a constitution attributing to himself the right to appoint his successor. The Roman Clergy subscribed to it and promised obedience. Boniface proposed as his choice the deacon Vigilius and it was ratified by priests and. people. This enactment provoked bitter resentment and even imperial disfavor, for in third synod (631) it was rescinded. Boniface burned the constitution before the clergy and senate and nullified the appointment of Vigilius.
The reign of Boniface was marked by his active interest in diverse affairs of the Western and Eastern Church. Early in his pontificate he confirmed the acts of the Second Council of Orange, one of the most important of the sixth century, which effectually terminated the Semipelagian controversies. Its presiding officer, Caesarius, Archbishop of Arles, an intimate friend of Boniface, had, previous to the latter's succession, sent the priest Armenius to Rome to ask Boniface to secure the pope's confirmation of the council. Being himself pope when the messenger came, Boniface sent a letter of confirmation to Caesarius (25 January, 531) in which he condemned certain Semipelagian doctrines. He received an appeal from the African bishops, who were laboring at the reorganization of their church after the Vandal devastation, requesting him to confirm in primatial rights the Archbishop of Carthage, that the latter might be better able to profit by the help of the Roman See. In the east he asserted the rights of the pope to jurisdiction in Illyricum. (See BONIFACE I.) In 531, Epiphanius, Patriarch of Constantinople, declared irregular the election of Stephen to the Archbishopric of Larissa in Thessaly. Despite the severe pressures taken in Constantinople to thwart his purpose, Stephen appealed to Rome on the ground that Epiphanius was not competent to decide the case, maintaining his point in terms which reveal a clear conception of Roman Primacy. Boniface convened a fourth Roman synod 7-9 December 531, in which some twenty-five documents were adduced in support of Rome's claim to jurisdiction in Illyricum. The outcome of the synod is not known. Boniface was esteemed for his charity, particularly towards the suffering poor of Rome during a year of famine. He was buried in St. Peter's, 17 October, 532, where a fragment of his epitaph may yet be seen.
JOHN B. PETERSON
Transcribed by William G. von Peters, Ph.D.