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Pope Boniface V : biography

- 625

Pope Boniface V ( ; died 25 October 625) was the head of the Catholic Church from 23 December 619 to his death in 625. He did much for the Christianising of England and enacted the decree by which churches became places of refuge for criminals.

Boniface V was a Neapolitan who succeeded Pope Adeodatus I after a vacancy of more than a year. Before his consecration, Italy was disturbed by the rebellion of the eunuch Eleutherius, Exarch of Ravenna. The patrician pretender advanced towards Rome, but before he could reach the city, he was slain by his own troops.

The Liber Pontificalis records that Boniface made certain enactments relative to the rights of sanctuary, and that he ordered the ecclesiastical notaries to obey the laws of the empire on the subject of wills. He also prescribed that acolytes should not presume to translate the relics of martyrs and that, in the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, they should not take the place of deacons in administering baptism. Boniface completed and consecrated the cemetery of Saint Nicomedes on the Via Nomentana. In the Liber Pontificalis, Boniface is described as "the mildest of men", whose chief distinction was his great love for the clergy.

The Venerable Bede writes of the pope's affectionate concern for the English Church. The "letters of exhortation" which he is said to have addressed to Mellitus, Archbishop of Canterbury, and to Justus, Bishop of Rochester, are no longer extant, but certain other letters of his have been preserved. One is written to Justus after he had succeeded Mellitus as Archbishop of Canterbury in 624, conferring the pallium upon him and directing him to "ordain bishops as occasion should require." According to Bede, Pope Boniface also sent letters to King Edwin of Northumbria in 625 urging him to embrace the Christian faith, and to the Christian Princess Æthelburg of Kent, Edwin's spouse, exhorting her to use her best endeavours for the conversion of her consort (Bede, H.E., II, vii, viii, x, xi).

He was buried in St. Peter's Basilica on 25 October 625.

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