Forgive and reconcile

How often should I forgive?
Matthew 18: 21

Today the Catholic Church remembers Pope Saint Pontian and the antipope Saint Hippolytus, both of whom died in 235 on the penal island of Sardinia during one of the Roman persecutions.

It is perhaps fitting that today’s Gospel is about forgiveness, something closely connected with today’s saints.

Hippolytus was a Greek priest and brilliant theologian who came to Rome. When Saint Callistus was elected pope in 217, Hippolytus was not happy. Callistus was a former slave and a mere cemetery-keeper. In addition, Callistus was not as severe with sinners as Hippolytus thought he should be, accusing him of forgiving sinners all too easily. As a result his followers elected Hippolytus as pope, making him the first anti-pope in history.

Hippolytus kept up his position as anti-pope during the papal reigns of Callistus’ successors, Urban I and Pontian. He was upset by their lax approach to forgiving sinners and their lack of sufficient zeal in combatting heresy. Hippolytus was quite a rigorist, believing that the validity of the sacraments depended on the sanctity of the ministers.

Both Pope Pontian and anti-pope Hippolytus were arrested in 235 and sent to the Sardinian salt mines. Pontian resigned his office as pope, bishop of Rome, and, according to some reports, Hippolytus dropped his claim to the papacy.

Supposedly they were reconciled with each other and died on Sardinia as the result of the harsh treatment they endured there.

Perhaps these two saints offer us a lesson for the divisions in the church  -rejecting the rigorist approach and always seeking and giving forgiveness.

If a pope and an anti-pope can be reconciled, what might happen for us and for the Church as a whole?

If a pope and an anti-pope can be reconciled, what might happen for us and for the Church as a whole?

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