Election of Pope Damasus I for a Controversy-Filled Regin Hot

Election of Pope Damasus I for a Controversy-Filled Regin

Pope Damasus I

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Religious History

Damasus I is elected pope and a controversy-filled reign begins almost immediately: supporters of Damasus who used to support Felix (who will become Antipope Felix II) attack and kill rivals of Damasus who are loyal to Ursicinus (who will become Antipope Ursicinus).

This produces a riot big enough to kill over 100 people, and Emperor Valentinian I has to step in to put it down. Later, Damasus will be accused of murder and adultery; once again the emperor will have to step in to rescue him.

Damasus will work hard to increase the power of the papacy. While he himself benefits greatly from political support, he realizes that reliance upon such support isn't enough.

He will also have to defend his claims to power against similar claims from churches in the East, arguing that although the apostles came from the East, their martyrdom in Rome gave that city a superior claim over them — and over inherited spiritual power.

These efforts pay off when, on February 28, 380, Emperor Theodosius decrees that everyone is required to follow the religious rules laid down by "the Apostle Peter to the Romans, and now followed by Bishop Damasus and Peter of Alexandria."

Pope Damasus I will also launch a program of converting women in Rome for the purpose of having them, in turn, converting their husbands. His efforts will seem successful because Christianity becomes fashionable during his reign, although his charm with the women are likely why he has to deal with accusations of adultery.

In 376 Damasus makes Jerome of Dalmatia his secretary and then has him begin work on a new, authoritative translation of the Old and New Testaments. This helps make Latin the principle language of the Church for centuries to come.

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