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DEUSDEDIT, POPE DURING A TIME OF TROUBLES

[Imaginary portrait of Duesdedit—Chevalier Artaud de. Montor. Lives and Times of the Popes. New York: Catholic Publication Society of America, 1911.]


We do not know when Deusdedit was born but we know he had been a priest for forty years before he was consecrated as pope on this day, 19 October 615. He was at least a second-generation clergyman, because his father, Stephen, was a subdeacon in the Roman Catholic Church—that is, an assistant at High Mass, responsible to read the epistle during Eucharist.

As with several other early popes, we have little information about Deusdedit. A few decretals (papal decrees) are attributed to him, but are generally considered spurious. Nonetheless, he was significant. For one thing, Deusdedit pushed back against the policies of his recent predecessors, including Gregory the Great (died 604) and Boniface IV (died 615), who had favored monks. Deusdedit favored deacons and priests. For another, he resumed what proved to be a futile war against the Lombards. Third, he consecrated a number of priests for Rome: none had been consecrated in the eleven years following the death of Gregory the Great. And lastly, he is credited with introducing the use of bullae (leaden seals) on papal documents, from which we get the term “papal bull,” meaning any formal proclamation issued by a pope. One of his bullae still exists.

Both the Eastern and Western Churches declared Deusdedit a saint. This is because of his godly character and his kindness. His short reign occurred during violent upheavals in which mobs butchered government officials in Ravenna from where Italy was ruled. Naples also was in rebellion. The chaos of the era left many clergy in need. The pope did what he could to succor them while he lived and he also provided for them in his will, the first pope known to have done so. Furthermore, a violent earthquake struck Italy during Deusdedit’s pontificate followed by an outbreak of “leprosy” (likely scabies). Deusdedit labored to bring relief to the country’s suffering people.

Deusdedit died toward the end of 618. He is also known as Deodatus or Adeodatus I and is sometimes given the nickname “the earthquake pope.”

—Dan Graves

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