Hippolytus, Pontian, Pope and AntiPope


Just like Popes, anti-Popes come and go, sometimes even during their own lifetimes. Hippolytus is one such figure: The history is somewhat obscure, but he was a priest of Rome of rather rigorous views, who thought the hierarchy too lenient on repentant sinner – particularly apostates and adulterers, actually granting them absolution! Apparently, some sins merited hell unconditionally and irrevocably; but it seems he did not have the same scruple about schismatics, for Hippolytus sometime around 230 had himself elected ‘Pope’ against the true Pontiff, Pontian, whom we also celebrate today.

The schism continued until the persecution of Maximinus Thrax in 235, when both the Pope and the anti-Pope were sent to the Sardinian mines – a slow and torturous death sentence. While there, Hippolytus, humbled and contrite, was reconciled to the Church by Pontian – who had since resigned his office – and both died martyrs for the Church.

Hippolytus, a voluminous writer on a vast variety of theological and Scriptural topics, is claimed as the source of the second, and shortest, of the three ‘Eucharistic prayers’ composed in a rather hurried manner in the wake of the Second Vatican Council for the missal of the Novus Ordo. I’m not sure what Hippolytus himself would think of that – from what evidence we have, all priests back then and until 1969 said the ‘Roman canon’, now known as the First Eucharistic prayer.

Anon, liturgical matters aside, for now, perseverance and hope are signified here, not despairing of any soul, for, like Hippolytus,  we may be given the grace to see the truth in an instant, even if we have to walk across broken rock in a distant mine to get there.