Papal reconciliation

If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
Matthew 18:15

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the holiness of two opponents – Pope Pontian and anti-pope Hippolytus. According to tradition, both died, reconciled, as martyrs, exiled on the island of Sardinia.

Hippolytus was somewhat of a rigorist; he opposed the popes who reconciled those who abjured their faith in the face of persecution and he proposed that the validity of sacraments depended on the holiness of those who administered them. He also seems to have been a bit haughty, opposing the earlier election of Callistus as bishop of Rome, since Callistus was a former slave and cemetary keeper.

But, exiled to Sardinia, these two opponents died, probably as a result of harsh treatment they had received before they got there and the harsh conditions of the Sardinian salt mines.

In the witness of their blood for Christ, they were reconciled.

As John Shea writes, as excerpted today in Give Us This Day,

Heaven’s agenda is for two disciples on earth, previously alienated, to come together in agreement. This is how heaven comes to earth. If the two involved pray for that, the heavenly power of the Father’s love will energize them in order to bring it about.

This is what seems to have happened between Pontian and Hippolytus. It can happen even today, in a church which at times seems pulled apart into factions.

What it needs is honesty and prayer and, above all, a commitment to witness to what is essential – the Love of God.

Let us pray today for all divisions – in the church, in the world, in families – so that the Love of God and our witness of love for all may open the way for reconciliation.


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