North Africa: Three Little-Known African Popes

Nairobi — There were three African Popes who came from a region of North Africa where the people were predominately Negro and are still Negroid today. Although there are no authentic portraits of these popes, there are drawings and references in the Catholic Encyclopedia as to their being of African background. The names of the three African Popes are: Victor (189-203 A.D.), Gelasius (492-496 A.D.), and Melchiades or Miltiades (311-314 A.D.). All are saints.

Pope St. Victor

African by birth. He condemned and excommunicated Theodore of Byzantium who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. In a council held in Rome in 196, he fixed the Feast of Easter for the Sunday after the 14th day of the moon of March. He suffered martyrdom under Servus. He was the Church's 14th Pope.

Pope St. Gelasius

St. Gelasius was born in Africa and reigned as Pope from 492 to 496. He decreed the Canon of Scripture with which the Tridentine Canon agrees. His theory on the relations between the Church and the state are explained in the Gelasian Letter to the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius. Gelasius was active in rooting out the last vestiges of paganism in Rome.

Pope St. Miltiades or Pope St. Melchiades

St. Miltiades was one of the Church's Black Popes. He was born in Africa, but died in Rome in January, 314. Little is known of Miltiades except that during his reign as pope, the Emperor Constant decreed toleration for Christianity. The classical era of persecution came to an end and the Church had to meet more subtle trails. St. Augustine praised St. Miltiades as a man of moderation and peace. His feast day is December 10th.

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