Pope St. Damasus I

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St. Damasus I was the 37th pope of the Catholic Church and Bishop of Rome A.D. 366–384. He succeeded Liberius (A.D. 352–356). His successor was St. Siricius (A.D. 384–399).


He was born in Spain, and later was admitted to the clergy and became deacon in the church of his father, who was a priest. The 1st of October A.D. 366, during a period of upheaval in the Church, in a bitterly contested election, he was elected Pope and Bishop of Rome and immediately afterward was faced with an antipope, Ursinus, who was elected by an opposing minority. Their continued violent opposition was put down with great cruelty by Emperor Valentinian, and Ursinus was exiled. Damasus strictly enforced Emperor Valentinian's edict of 370 which forbade gifts by widows and orphans to bishops. Damasus was a biblical scholar, and he published the canon of Holy Scripture, specifying the authentic books of the Bible as decreed by a council of Rome in 374, and was the patron of St. Jerome, who for a time served as his secretary. He authorized the singing of the psalms by alternate choirs (Ambrosian Rite) instituted by St. Ambrose, and introduced the use of the Hebrew term "alleliua". In 378, Damasus' still active opponents charged him with the scandal of incontinence. He was cleared by a Roman synod of bishops. In 380, during Damasus' pontificate, Emperor Theodosius the Great in the East and Emperor Gratian in the West decreed Christianity to be the religion of the Roman Empire. He was a vigorous opponent of Arianism, and sent legates to the General Council of Constantinople in 381, which accepted the validity of papal teaching, again condemned Arianism, and denounced the teaching of Macedonius who had been declaring that the Holy Spirit is not divine. Damasus had the sacred scriptures translated from Hebrew. He was the one who requested Jerome to begin his biblical commentaries and his translation of the Bible, which became known as the Vulgate. He restored the catacombs, shrines and tombs of the martyrs, which he adorned with sacred verses, and encouraged devotional pilgimmages to them. By his prudent rule, Damasus enhanced the prestige of the papacy, and he proclaimed the church of Rome, as having been founded and established for Christ by St. Peter, supreme among the churches. This was rejected by eastern bishops under the leadership of the Patriarch of Constantinople whose successors continued to guide the Eastern Orthodox churches, and who generally acknowledge the Bishop of Rome as the Patriarch of the West. Pope Damasus I died on the 11th of December A.D. 384, which is observed in the liturgy and the Divine Office of the Catholic Church as an optional memorial.

The Canon of St. Damasus

When Constantine first made Christianity a legal religion in the Roman Empire in the early 300s, he called together leading Christians from the East and West parts of the empire to iron out the principles of Christianity, including cementing the canon. The entire canonical text was identified by Pope Damasus I and the Synod of Rome (382),[1] and set forth the first-ever listing of all 27 books of the New Testament together, with 46 books of the Old Testament, a canon of 73 books of the Bible, which quickly gained acceptance. Subsequent councils such as the Council of Hippo (393) and the Third Council of Carthage (397), dealt with minor questions of authenticity, affirming the canon of Damasus and the Synod of Rome which remained unchanged in the Christian Church for 1200 years.

See also

Biblical Canon

Holy See

Orthodox Church

Gregorian chant

Pontifex Maximus


  1. Major Church Pronouncements on the Bible
    Decree of Council of Rome (AD 382) on the Biblical Canon, by Dr Taylor Marshall
    BlogSpot. Beggars All: Reformation & Apologetics. Pope Damasus and the Canon of Scripture (Part One) (beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com) See also (Part Two) Both offer clear explanations and clarifications by one Protestant apologist of the rationale for the firm Protestant position that the decision by Pope Damasus and the Synod of Rome in 382 on the canon of the books of the Bible is invalid (includes discussions).


Damasus I. Dictionary of Saints, by John Delaney. Doubleday and Company, Inc. Garden City, New York. 1980 John J. Delaney. Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 79-7783. page 171-2 ISBN 0-385-13594-7.

The Divine Office: The Liturgy of the Hours According to the Roman Rite, Vol. 1, Copyright © 1970, 1973, 1975, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc.. Copyright © 1975 by Catholic Book Publishing Co., N.Y.. page 1237. ISBN 9780899424095.

I SOMMI PONTEFICI ROMANI (THE ROMAN PONTIFFS) Pope Chart. Copyright 1963-2001 by Memmo Caporilli, Roma. Exclusively distributed in North, Central, and South America by Pope Chart Company Department A, P.O. Box 19489, Johnston, Rhode Island, 02919-0489 tel. 561-638-3224 http://www.popechart.com

External links

The Great Heresies list of heresies committed by Catholics