The first Anglo-Saxon to appeal to Rome, St. Wilfrid was born in 634 and
was the son of a thane of Northumbria. Educated at Lindisfarne, Wilfrid
hated Celtic ritual and travelled to Canterbury to learn Roman usage. He
undertook, with St. Benedict Biscop, a pilgrimage to Rome in 653. During
this trip, Wilfrid was tonsured at Lyons and spent three years preaching
among the Gauls. After his return to England, he became the abbot of Ripon
and may have introduced Benedictine rule there. Wilfrid argued the case
for Roman rites at the Synod of Whitby in 664. So great was his dislike of
the Celtic church that he was consecrated bishop of York by the Franks to
avoid having any bishop who followed the Celtic rite consecrate him. In
666, Wilfrid came back to England to claim the see of York and discovered
that St. Chad was serving as the bishop of York. Wilfrid returned to Ripon
for three years, and in 669,
St. Theodore of Canterbury put him in charge
Theodore later divided York into three sees, and Wilfrid went to Rome to
protest the action and be confirmed as bishop as the rightful bishop of
all of York. He spent a year preaching in Frisia, before he went back to
England to announce that he had won his appeal. Wilfrid was imprisoned on
his return and exiled to Suffolk, where he preached among the pagans.
Reconciled with Theodore in 686, Wilfrid returned to York but left five
years later after a dispute with King Aldfrith.
In 703, Wilfrid again travelled to Rome to appeal a synod's decision that
he should resign the see of York. Pope Agatho supported Wilfrid, who
resigned in favor of St. John of Beverly and became bishop of Hexham.
Wilfrid died six years later.
Karen Rae Keck
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