The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

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6th Century
(514-604)

Numerical summary of the names of the cardinals who appear in the documents of the pontificates of the 13 popes of this century.

This summary is taken from the essay of a general list of cardinals published in Annuaire Pontifical Catholique which for centuries VI to X relies almost completely on the works of Alfonso Chacón (or Alphonsus Ciaconio) Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificum Romanorum: et S.R.E. Cardinalium ab initio nascentis Ecclesiæ usque ad Clementem IX P. O. M. and Francesco Cristofori Cronotassi dei cardinali de Santa Romana Chiesa: nelle loro sedi suburbicarie titoli presbiterali e diaconie dal secolo V all'anno del signore MDCCCLXXXVIII; compilata sui manoscritti originali ed autentici esistenti nella biblioteca e negli archivi vaticani e su molteplici altre fonti storiche edite ed inedite antiche e moderne. The popes of these centuries have been listed according to the Annuario Pontificio per l'anno 1999.

St. Hormisdas (514-523) - 4 cardinals
St. John I (523-526) - 1 cardinal
St. Felix IV (III) (526-530) - 5 cardinals
Boniface II (530-532) - 1 cardinal
John II (533-535) - No new names
St. Agapitus (535-536) - 1 cardinal
St. Silverius (536-537) - 1 cardinal
Vigilius (537-555) - 8 cardinals
Pelagius I (556-561) - 4 cardinals
John III (561-574) - No new names
Benedict I (575-579) - 1 cardinal
Pelagius II (579-590) - 4 cardinals
St. Gregory I, the Great (590-604) - 43 cardinals
Total - 73 cardinals

Source: Annuaire Pontifical Catholique. XXIX (1926), p. 161.

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A pope nominates his successor, St. Felix IV (526-530), Boniface II (530-532) and Vigilius (537-555).

As his death approached, Felix IV gathered his supporters among the clergy and senate around his sickbed and delivered them a "precept" nominating his archdeacon Boniface as his successor; he even handed him his pallium (on condition that he returned it if he recovered). He had the precept published in Rome and sent to the court at Ravenna. The majority of the senate reacted against this strictly unconstitutional action by forbidding any discussion of a pope's successor during his lifetime, or any acceptance of a nomination under the pain of exile and confiscation of property.

The mass of the clergy were in agreement, and on Felix's death the deacon Dioscorus was elected by a large majority in the Lateran basilica. The minority belonging to the pro-Gothic faction withdrew to an adjacent hall and elected Boniface. The resulting schism, however, was short-lived, for Dioscorus died (October 14) after twenty-two days, and the clergy backing him, now leaderless, after initial hesitation acknowledged Boniface as pope.

Like Felix, however, he was resolved to secure a pro-Gothic successor. So in 531, at a synod in St. Peter's, having taken appropriate powers, he proposed a constitution nominating the deacon Vigilius as the next pope, and obliged the clergy to subscribe it with an oath. In view of the indignation this created, and probably also of objections from the court at Ravenna, he soon retreated and at a subsequent synod, in the presence of the senate, confessed that he had exceeded his rights, revoked his nomination and burned the signed document before the tomb of the Apostle.

Vigilius was eventually elected pope but only in 537 after three other popes (John II, St. Agapitus I and St. Silverius) had occupied the chair of St. Peter after the death of Boniface II.

Source: Kelly, J.N.D. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1986, pp. 56-57, 60; Wood, Diana. "The pope's right to elect his successor: The criterion of sovereignty?" The Church and sovereignty c.590-1918: essays in honour of Michael Wilks. Edited by Diana Wood. Oxford, OX, UK; Cambridge, Mass., USA: Published for the Ecclesiastical History Society by B. Blackwell, 1991. (Studies in church history. Subsidia ; 9), pp. 233-244.

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Royal decree on papal elections, Athalaric (526-534), Ostrogothic king of Italy, and Pope John II (533-535).

In spite of the decree of the Roman senate declaring null and void all promises or contracts made to obtain votes for the papal election, corruption in the electoral process had been widespread. The funds of the Church and even the sacred vases had been squandered to influence the election. A defenseur of the Roman Church had exposed this lamentable situation to the regent Amalsonte. Shortly after his installation, the new pope received a royal decree that confirmed the edict from the Senate against the electoral corruption and added new dispositions and especially penal sanctions. Furthermore, to prevent double ordinations and schisms, it stipulated that every time that a similar situation occurred in Rome, the court will pass judgement and that 3,000 solidi from church funds will be distributed among the poors. ... The disposition of the Senate and the royal decree were engraved in marble tablets and placed in the atrium of St. Peter's basilica.

Source: Duchesne, Louis. "La succession du pape Filix IV", Mélanges de archiologie et d'histoire, III (1883), pp. 260-262.

It is significant that, after his installation (John II's), Athalaric, the Ostrogothic king of Italy (526-34), confirmed and extended a decree of the senate, published under Boniface II (530), which prohibited on pain of severe penalties improper practices in papal elections, and ordered that, inscribed on marble, it should be posted in St. Peter's for all to see. He added strict limits to the sums that could be expended at elections or, in the case of disputed elections referred to the court, on procuring the necessary documents from royal officials.

Source: Source: Kelly, J.N.D. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 58.

Byzantine emperors and papal elections

After the defeat of the Ostrogothic king in Italy (552), the Byzantine emperors claimed for themselves the right of placet in the papal elections that the former ones had unjustly appropriated. Given the distance between the court of Byzantium and Rome and the intrigues going on in the imperial palace, this presented serious problems to the papacy, among them the long vacancies of the chair of St. Peter. The last pope to request the imperial placet was St. Gregory III in 731.

Source: Ortolan, T. "Election des papes". Dictionnaire de thiologie catholique, contenant l'exposi des doctrines de la thiologie catholique, leurs preuves et leur histoire. Paris: Letouzey et Ani, 1903-1950 [i.e. 1899-1950], column 2296.

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Roman synod of July 5, 595, St. Gregory I the Great (590-604).

The documents issued by this synod were signed by 23 bishops and 24 titular priests. This list is the second catalog of the titular churches of Rome all of them under the denomination of a saint.

Source: Armellini, Mariano. Le chiese di Roma dal secolo IV al XIX. Nuova edizione con aggiunte inedite dell'autore, appendici critiche e documentarie e numerose illustrazioni a cura di Carlo Cecchelli della R. Università di Roma, e una nota biografica scrita da Pietro Tacchi Venturi, S.J. 2 vols. Roma: Edizioni R.O.R.E. di Nicola Ruffolo, 1942, pp. 105-106; Josi, Enrico. "Titoli della Chiesa Romana", Enciclopedia Cattolica. 12 vols. Città del Vaticano: Ente per l'Enciclopedia Cattolica e per il Libro Cattolico, 1949-1954, vol. XII, column 153.

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