Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Hilarius, bp. of Rome
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Hilarius, bp. of Rome
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Hilarius (18) (Hilarus), bp. of Rome from Nov. 19 (or 17, Bolland.), 461, to Sept. 10, 467, succeeding Leo I., after a vacancy of nine days. He was a native of Sardinia and, when elected pope, archdeacon of Rome. He had been sent, when a deacon, as one of the legates of pope Leo to the council at Ephesus called Latrocinium (449), and is especially mentioned in the Acts of the council as having protested against the deposition of Flavian. After the council, Flavian having died from the violent treatment he had undergone, Hilarius, fearing with reason the like usage, escaped from Ephesus and travelled by by-roads to Italy. A letter from Hilarius, addressed after his return to the empress Pulcheria, gives an account of these transactions (Baron. ad ann. 449, and Act. Concil. Chalced.). His short pontificate is chiefly memorable for his assertion of the authority of the see of Rome in Gaul and Spain. His predecessor Leo, during his struggle with St. Hilary of Arles for supremacy in Gaul, had obtained from Valentinian III. a famous rescript (445) confirming such supremacy to the fullest extent both in Gaul and elsewhere [[[../../L/Leo I., the Great|Leo]]]; and to such extent it was accordingly claimed by Hilarius. Soon after his accession he wrote (Jan. 25, 462) to Leontius, bp. of Arles and exarch of the provinces of Narbonensian Gaul, announcing the event and referring to the deference due to the Roman see. In the same year he wrote a second letter to Leontius, who had deferentially congratulated the pope on his accession, and had begged him to continue the favour shewn to the see of Arles against opponents of its jurisdiction. The pope, in his reply, commends his correspondent's deference to St. Peter and desires that the discipline of the Roman church should prevail in all churches. Rusticus, metropolitan of Narbonne, had nominated his archdeacon Hermes as his successor, but had failed to obtain Leo's approval. On the death of Rusticus, Hermes had been accepted by the clergy and people of Narbonne as their metropolitan bishop. On this, Frederic, king of the West Goths, an Arian, wrote to acquaint the pope with the "wicked usurpation" and "execrable presumption" of Hermes. Accordingly Hilarius wrote a third letter to Leontius, in which he adopts the language of Frederic, and requires Leontius to send to Rome a statement of the affair, signed by himself and other bishops (Hil. Ep. vii. Labbe). The matter was now brought before a synod at Rome (462), and Hermes was declared degraded from the rank of metropolitan, but allowed to retain his see. Hilarius notified this decision in a letter dated Dec. 3, 462, to the bishops of the provinces of Vienne, Lyons, Narbonensis prima and secunda, and the Pennine Alps, which letter also contained regulations for the discipline of the church in Gaul (Hil. Ep. viii. Labbe). In 463 Hilarius again interposed in the affairs of the church in Gaul; and on this occasion not only Leontius of Arles but also Mamertus, metropolitan of Vienne, fell under his displeasure. The city Diae Vocontiorum (Die in Dauphine) had been assigned by pope Leo to the jurisdiction of Arles; but Mamertus had, notwithstanding, ordained a bp. of that see. Hilarius, again deriving his information from an Arian prince, Gundriac the Burgundian king, wrote a severe letter to Leontius, censuring him for not having apprized the holy see, and charging him to investigate the matter in a synod and then send to Rome a synodal letter giving a true account of it. Mamertus seems to have continued to assert his claim to jurisdiction in spite of the pope; for in Feb. 464 we find two more letters from Hilarius, a general one to the Gallican bishops, and another to various bishops addressed by name, in the former of which he accuses Mamertus of presumption and prevarication, threatens to deprive him of his metropolitan rank and disallows the bishops whom he had ordained till confirmed by Leontius. The second letter is noteworthy in that the pope rests his claim to supremacy over Gaul on imperial as well as ecclesiastical law; alluding probably to the rescript of Valentinian III. "He [i.e. Mamertus] could not abrogate any portion of the right appointed to our brother Leontius by my predecessor of holy memory; since it has been decreed by the law of Christian princes that whatsoever the prelate of the apostolic see may, on his own judgment, have pronounced to churches and their rulers . . . is to be tenaciously observed; nor can those things ever be upset which shall be supported by both ecclesiastical and royal injunction" (Hil. Epp. ix. x. xi. Labbe). Baronius finds it needful to account for St. Leo and St. Hilarius having so bitterly inveighed against St. Hilary and St. Mamertus by saying that popes may be deceived on matters of fact, and, under the prepossession of false accusations, persecute the innocent (Baron. ad ann. 464).
In 465 Hilary exercised over the Spanish church the authority already brought to bear on that of Gaul, but this time on appeal. Two questions came before him. First, Silvanus, bp. of Calchorra, had been guilty of offences against the canons; and his metropolitan, Ascanius of Tarragona, had in 464 sent a synodal letter on the subject to the pope, requesting directions (Inter Hilar. Epp., Ep. ii. Labbe). Secondly, Nundinarius, bp. of Barcelona, had nominated his successor, and after his death the nomination was confirmed by the metropolitan Ascanius and his suffragans. But they wrote to the pope desiring his concurrence and acknowledging the primacy of St. Peter's see. Both these letters were considered in a synod at Rome. On the second case it was decided that Irenaeus, the nominated bishop, should quit the see of Barcelona and return to his former one, while the Spanish bishops were ordered to condone the uncanonical acts of Silvanus (Hil. Epp. i. ii. iii. and Concil. Rom. xlviii. Labbe).
In 467 the new emperor Anthemius was induced by one Philotheus a Macedonian heretic whom he had brought with him, to issue a general edict of toleration for heretics. This was, however, revoked before coming into effect, and pope Gelasius (Ep. ad Episc. Dardan.) says that this was due to Hilarius having in the church of St. Peter remonstrated with the emperor and induced him to promise on oath that he would allow no schismatical assemblies in Rome. In the same year Hilarius died. He appears in the Roman Calendar as a saint and confessor. In remembrance of his deliverance at Ephesus from the trials that procured him the title of confessor, he built, after he became pope, in the baptistery of Constantine near the Lateran, two chapels dedicated to St. John Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, to the latter of whom he attributed his deliverance. The chapel to the Evangelist bore the inscription, "Liberatori suo Johanni Evangelistae, Hilarus famulus Christi" (Bolland. citing Caesar Rasponus).
The extant writings of Hilarius are his letters referred to above. Anastasius Bibliothecarius mentions his decreta sent to various parts, confirming the synods of Nice, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, condemning Eutyches, Nestorius, and all heretics, and confirming the domination and primacy of the holy Catholic and apostolic see (Concil. Rom. u.s.; Thiel. Epp. Pontiff. Rom. i.).