The Catholic Church had a legacy of allowing Afrikans to become popes, but has not elected one since 496 A.D.
One of the hidden secrets in the field of religion are the existence of Afrikan popes. If one went to Catholic school, Sunday school or any other religious school, chances are the identification of Black figures in religious history were never mentioned. In the history of the Roman Catholic Church, there were three Afrikan Popes.
Pope Victor I, 186 A.D. to 197 A.D., was the fifteenth pope during the reign of Septimus Severus, another Afrikan, who was Emperor of Rome. He is best known for upholding Western Roman Christian traditions over those from the East. A prime example of this was his insistence that Easter always be held on a Sunday; previous to this decision, Easter might be held on any day of the week. He was also known for the release of imprisoned or enslaved Christians.
Pope Miltiades, 311 A.D to 314 A.D., led the church to final victory over the Roman Empire. Emperor Constantine presented the pope with the Lateran Palace, which became the papal residence and seat of Christian governance. He was made a saint upon his death because of his earlier suffering under the anti-Christian emperor Maximian.
Pope Gelasius, 492 A.D. to 496 A.D., who was canonized a saint, with his great concern for the welfare of the people of Rome, saved the city from the danger of famine.
He was important to the development of papal primacy, arguing that a pope’s spiritual power was superior to the authority of any king or emperor. Because it was perceived that the pope derived his authority directly from God, there can be no appeals for decisions reached by a pope. Thus, kings and emperors were subordinate to popes and had to submit to them in any decisions they made.
Defiance did exist in the example of with King Henry VIII, who wanted to divorce his wife for another woman, and eventually married six times. The pope would not allow this, excommunicating the king, who later, in his defiance, created the Church of England, which many refer to as the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church became heavily involved in the slave trade and slavery.
- Dr. Kwaku’s next class, Afrikan World Civilizations (Part II), conducted on Friday evenings, 7-9 p.m. at Kaos Studios in Leimert Park, will begin Feb. 22, 2008. www.drkwaku.com