[St. Pachomius Library]

St. Leo I, Pope of Rome, called the Great

One of the three popes to be called "the great," St. Leo I was born c. 400 and ruled as pope from 440 to 461. Little is known of his early life. He was active in the church as a deacon under Popes Celestine I and Sixtus II. As pope, he actively opposed heresies, including Manicheaism, Pelagianism, and Nestorianism. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 confirmed his Tomos as the orthodox expression of the incarnation of Christ and of the union of Jesus' two natures.

In 452 or 453, Leo traveled to Florence to persuade Atilla the Hun to give up his invasion of Italy. Leo was successful. Some scholars say that Atilla desisted before Leo's imperial bearing; other scholars say that Leo bought the safety of Rome. He was not as successful in his dealings with Gaiseric the Vandal, who sacked Rome in 455 but was less destructive because of Leo.

Leo is also known for his insistence that St. Peter alone of the apostles had been given unique power and that Peter's primacy gives equally unique power and primacy to the pope above all other bishops.

Karen Rae Keck


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