Pope St. Leo the Great

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By Mel Mantanona

If one were to look at the lineage of popes to find who was the best man for the job, Pope St. Leo the Great would be one of the top choices for his fearless and unwavering efforts on reconciliation and the prevention of the spread of heresy on Christ’s divine and human natures.

His early life is not well-known, but it is believed that he was born some time in the 50th century and had ancestry origins in Tuscany. By his early 30s, he was well known as a deacon for being wise and intelligent. He was often a commissioned mediator between arguing parties in both secular and theological disputes. While away on mediating on diplomatic matters, Pope Sixtus III died and Leo was elected to become the next pope.

Much of his papacy was dedicated to battling heresy, including, but not limited to, Pelagianism (denial of original sin) and Manicheanism (gnostic belief that matter is evil). Arguments arose with the Eastern Christians regarding the relationship between Christ’s divine and human nature and Leo did what he did best—he intervened. He supported an ecumenical council gathering to help resolve the controversy and also taught on the matter. His teachings were then accepted as authoritative by the eastern bishops.

Leo confirmed that Christ’s divinity did not absorb or negate his humanity and that “the proper character of both natures was maintained and came together in a single person.” He continued to help settle disputes that prevented invasions and obtained safety for many people.

In 1754, Pope Benedict XIV declared him a doctor of the church. He is also revered in the Eastern church. He died on Nov. 10, 461 and his feast day is Nov. 10.

Information and photo from Catholic News Agency and franciscanmedia.org