Feast Day : September 4 (formerly October 25)
Nothing is known about the early life of Boniface, son of the presbyter Jocandus. He was ordained a priest by Pope St. Damasus I (366–384) and served as Pope St.Innocent I’s (r. 401–417) representative in Constantinople. On December 29, 418, he succeeded St.Zosimus in the Chair of St. Peter, but not without incident. Immediately after the obsequies for Zosimus on December 27, a faction of the Roman clergy consisting mainly of deacons seized the Lateran basilica and elected Archdeacon Eulalius as pope. When the higher clergy—who were opposed to Eulalius—tried to enter the basilica, they were met with violence. The following day they convened in the Church of Theodora and elected the aged Boniface instead. Both Boniface and Eulalius were consecrated on December 29, Boniface in the basilica of St. Marcellus. Each then proceeded to act as pope, throwing the Church into schism, and dividing the city of Rome. The trouble persisted for 15 weeks until Emperor Honorius at Ravenna finally pronounced in favor of Boniface, on April 3, 418. When Boniface fell critically ill early in 420, Eulalius and his backers tried again. They failed to receive support, however, and upon his recovery in July, Boniface appealed to Honorius to make some provision against a renewal of the schism following his death. In response, Honorius enacted a law stipulating that, in contested papal elections, neither claimant should be recognized, and a new election should be held. Boniface’s pontificate was marked by great zeal and activity in upholding the jurisdiction of the universal Church. He continued the papal opposition to Pelagianism, a heresy that denied original sin, supporting St. Augustine in his pronouncements against it. He was able to persuade Emperor Theodosius II to return the ecclesiastical provinces of Illyricum to Western control, over the claims of the patriarch of Constantinople. He was successful also in settling the issue regarding appeals to Rome within the African church. Although African bishops persisted in their disagreements with the Holy See, they promised to obey the rulings, thus recognizing the pope’s role as guardian of the Church’s discipline. Boniface renewed legislation of Pope St. Soter (r.166–175) that prohibited women from touching the sacred linens or ministering at the burning incense. He enforced laws forbidding slaves to become clerics. Boniface died in Rome on September 4, 422. He was buried in the Catacomb of St. Maximus on the Via Salaria, near the tomb of St. Felicitas (Felicity), whom he revered and in whose honor he had erected an oratory.