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St. Boniface

Papal Supremacy, Apostolic See, Papal Authority, Chief of the Apostles, Prince of the Apostles, Validating a Council, Universal Jurisdiction, St. Peter

“I, Boniface, by the grace of God bishop, promise to you, blessed Peter, chief of the Apostles, and to your vicar, the blessed Pope Gregory, and to his successors., in the name of the indivisible Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and on thy most sacred body, that I will uphold the faith and purity of holy Catholic teaching and will persevere in the unity of the same faith in which beyond a doubt the whole salvation of a Christian lies. I will not agree to anything which is opposed to the unity of the Universal Church, no matter who may try to persuade me, but in all things I will show, as I have said, complete loyalty to you and to the welfare of your Church on which, in the person of your vicar and his successors, the power to bind and loose has been conferred.

“Should it come to my notice that some bishops deviate from the teaching of the Fathers I win have no part or lot with them, but as far as in me lies I will correct them, or, if that is impossible, I will report the matter to the Holy See. And if (which God forbid) I should be led astray into any course of action contrary to this my oath, under whatsoever pretext, may I be found guilty at the last judgment and suffer the punishment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira, who dared to defraud you by making a false declaration of their goods.

“This text of my oath, I, Boniface, a lowly bishop, have written with my own hand and placed over thy sacred body. I have taken this oath, as prescribed, in the presence of God, my Witness and my judge: I pledge myself to keep it.” (Oath taken by St. Boniface [A.D. 30 November 722]).

“To our beloved lord Zacharias, who bears the insignia of the supreme pontificate, Boniface, a servant of the servants of God.

“We confess, Father and Lord, that after we had learned through messengers that your predecessor Gregory, of holy memory, had departed this life, nothing gave us greater comfort and happiness than the knowledge that God had appointed Your Holiness to enforce the canonical decrees and govern the Apostolic See. Kneeling at your feet, we earnestly beg that, as we have been devoted servants and humble disciples to your predecessors in the See of Peter, we may likewise be counted obedient servants, under canon law, of Your Holiness.

“It is our firm resolution to preserve the Catholic faith and the unity of the Church of Rome, and I shall continue to urge as many hearers and disciples as God shall grant me on this mission to render obedience to the Apostolic See.”

“We must also inform you, Holy Father, that owing to the conversion of the German people we have consecrated three bishops and divided the province into three dioceses. We humbly desire you to confirm and establish as bishoprics, both by your authority and in writing, the three towns or cities in which they were consecrated. We have established one episcopal see in Wurzburg, another in Buraburg and a third in Erfurt, formerly a city of barbarous heathens. These three places we urgently beg you to uphold and confirm by a charter embodying the authority of the Holy See, so that, God willing, there may be in Germany three episcopal sees founded and established by St. Peter's word and the Apostolic See's command, which neither present nor future generations will presume to change in defiance of the authority of the Apostolic See.

“Be it known to you also, Holy Father, that Carloman, Emperor of the Franks, summoned me to his presence and desired me to convoke a synod in that part of the Frankish kingdom which is under his jurisdiction. He promised me that he would reform and re-establish ecclesiastical discipline.- which for the past sixty or seventy years has been completely disregarded and despised. If he is truly willing, under divine inspiration, to put his plan into execution, I should like to have the advice and the instructions of the Apostolic See. According to their elders, the Franks have not held a council for more than eighty years; they have had no archbishop nor have they established or restored in any place the canon law of the Church. The episcopal sees, which are in the cities, have been given, for the most part, into the possession of avaricious laymen or exploited by adulterous and unworthy clerics for worldly uses. If I am to undertake this task at your bidding and on the invitation of the Emperor I must have at once, with the appropriate ecclesiastical sanctions, both the command and the decision of the Apostolic See.

“Should I discover among these men certain deacons, as they are called, who have spent their lives since childhood in debauchery, adultery and every kind of uncleanness " who have received the diaconate with this reputation, and who even now, when they have four or five or even more concubines in their beds at night, are brazen enough to call themselves deacons and read out the Gospel: who enter the priesthood, continue in the same career of vice and declare that they have the right to exercise the priestly functions of making intercession for the people and offering Mass, and who, to make matters worse, are promoted, despite their reputations, to higher offices and are eventually nominated and consecrated bishops, may I in such cases have a written and authoritative statement regarding the procedure to be followed, so that they may be convicted as criminals and condemned by apostolic authority? Among them are bishops who deny the charges of fornication and adultery but who, nevertheless, are shiftless drunkards, addicted to the chase, who march armed into battle and shed with their own hands the blood of Christians and heathens alike. Since I am recognised as the servant and legate of the Apostolic See, my decisions here and your decisions in Rome ought to be in complete agreement when I send messengers to receive your judgment.

“In another matter, also, I must crave your advice and permission. Your predecessor of holy memory bade me, in your presence and hearing, to appoint a certain priest as my successor to rule this diocese after my death. If this be the will of God, I concur. But now I have my doubts whether it is feasible, for in the meantime a brother of that priest has murdered the duke's uncle, and at the moment I see no possibility of settling the quarrel.

“I beg you, therefore, to give me your authority to act on the advice of my colleagues regarding the choice of a successor, so that in common we may do what is most advantageous for God, the Church and the safeguard of the faith. May I have your permission to act in this matter as God shall inspire me, for without defying the wishes of the duke the former choice seems impossible…

“… Frankish bishops and priests, whose reputation as adulterers and fornicators was notorious, whose children, born during their episcopate or priesthood, are living witnesses to their guilt, now declare on their return from Rome that the Roman Pontiff has granted them full permission to exercise their offices in the Church. Our answer to them is that we have never heard of the Apostolic See giving judgment contrary to the canonical decrees.” (St. Boniface to Pope Zacharias, On His Accession to the Papapcy [A.D. 742].

“We should like you to know and give thanks to God that when we safely reached the threshold of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, the Apostolic Pontiff welcomed us with joy and gave a satisfactory reply to the matters for which we came. He counselled and commanded us to return once more to you and to persevere in the work we have undertaken.

“At the moment we are waiting for the opening of a council of bishops, but we do not know when the Apostolic Pontiff will order it to sit. As soon as it is over, we shall hasten back to you, if God so wills and our health is spared. In this knowledge wait our coming with fraternal love and in the unity of faith, bearing one another's burdens. So doing, you will fulfil the law of Christ and renew your joy.” (Letter to his followers about his reception by the St. Pope Gregory III [A.D. 738).

“We decided in our synod that we will maintain the Catholic faith and unity and our subjection to the Roman Church as long as we live: that we will be loyal subjects of St. Peter and his vicar; that we will hold a synod every year; that our metropolitan bishops shall ask for their palliums from that see; and that in all things we shall obey the orders of St. Peter according to the canons, so that we may be numbered among the flock entrusted to his care. To these declarations we have all agreed and subscribed, and we have forwarded them to the shrine of St. Peter, prince of the Apostles. The Roman clergy and Pontiff have gratefully accepted them” (Letter to Archbishop Cuthbert of Canterbury [A.D. 747]).

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