Honorius I

d.638. Pope from 625. A native of Campania in Italy, he was interested in the Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons, administered the financial affairs of the papacy wisely, but is chiefly remembered for his involvement in the Monothelite* controversy. Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople, wrote to Honorius seeking support for a formula that would reconcile the Monophysites. While confessing two natures in Christ, this formula attributed to Him “one theandric operation,” i.e., one mode of activity-that of the Divine Word. This had been strongly opposed by Sophronius of Jerusalem. In his reply, Honorius supported the forbidding of further discussion of either one or two operations, adding that such questions should be left to the grammarians. He went on to write, “Whence also we confess one will of the Lord Jesus Christ since plainly our nature was taken by the Godhead, and that nature sinless, as it was before the fall.” In a second letter, of which only fragments remain, he again repudiated as inexpedient the formula “two operations,” though he confessed two natures in Christ, “unmixed, undivided, unchanged,” operating what is characteristic of each.

He died in the year that the Ecthesis,* the charter of Monothelitism, was published, making use of his formula of “one will.” His successors condemned Monothelitism, and at the Council of Constantinople in 681 Honorius was formally anathematized with Sergius and Cyrus of Alexandria. This anathema has created difficulties for the supporters of papal infallibility, particularly in the Gallican controversies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and before the Vatican Council definition of 1870.

See J. Chapman, The Condemnation of Pope Honorius (1907).