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Pope Symmachus

Symmachus was pope from 498 to 514. He was born on Sardinia, the son of Fortunatus. He was baptized in Rome, where he became archdeacon of the Church under Pope Anastasius II. Symmachus was elected Pope on November 22, 498. The archpriest of Saint Praxedes, Laurence, was elected pope by a dissenting faction with Byzantine leanings. Laurence was supported by Emperor Anastasius, but the Gothic King Theodoric the Great ruled against him and in favor of Symmachus.

In 501, Senator Festus accused Symmachus of various crimes, but the pope refused to appear before the king to answer the charges, asserting that the secular ruler had no jurisdiction over him. A synod called by Theodoric exonerated Symmachus, but Theodoric installed Laurence in the Lateran as pope. The schism continued for four years until Theodoric withdrew his support of Laurence. At a synod held at Rome on March 1, 499, Symmachus bestowed on Laurence the Diocese of Nocera in Campania. The synod also ordained that any cleric who sought to gain votes for a successor to the papacy during the lifetime of the pope, or who called conferences and held consultations for that purpose, should be deposed.

This did not satisfy Laurence, Festus, or others of the Byzantine party, and many other accusations were made against Symmachus, all of which he refused to acknowledge, on the grounds that no secular court had jurisdiction over him. Eventually, Theodoric, deciding that the adherents of Laurence were too pro-Byzantium, had him removed from Rome, and opposition to Symmachus eventually was stilled.

The pope contributed large sums for the support of the Catholic bishops of Africa who were persecuted by the rulers of the Arian Vandals. He also aided the inhabitants of upper Italy who suffered from the invasions of barbarians.

preceded by Pope Anastasius II (496-498)
succeeded by Pope Hormisdas (514-523)

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