In 416, Bishop Innocent I of Rome sent a colleague in Gubbio what was to become one of the most important set of liturgical instructions in early Christendom. Innocent composed his remarks on, inter alia, penitential discipline and prescribed gestures during the administration of the Sacraments to deter other bishops and their priests from improvising. He claimed that bishops of Rome, as successors of St. Peter, had the responsibility to authenticate ritual observances and achieve uniformity in Italy and elsewhere. Churches could not be left to alter or surrender valued practices because presiding priests or bishops thought them superfluous or ill-suited to local tastes. Bishops of Rome, then and later known as popes, imposed order; their leadership should be as the apostle Peter’s was (Cabié 1973). Even before Innocent’s pontificate ended with his death in 417, he learned that he was expected to lead and, as the sacred text said, ‘feed’ flocks of Christians (John 21: 17) wherever they pastured. So when crises jarred church officials or lay patrons remote from Rome and concerted action there seemed either impossible or inadequate to resolve them, the locals often appealed to Rome. And when in one church or region a doctrine seemed odd or discipline shabby in another, popes’ opinions were summoned.
Copyright © 2012 The Author(s). This article first appeared in Leadership 8, no. 3 (August 25, 2012): 245-56. doi:10.1177/1742715012441178.
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Kaufman, Peter Iver. "Humility, Civility, and Vitality: Papal Leadership at the Turn of the Seventh Century." Leadership 8, no. 3 (August 25, 2012): 245-56. doi:10.1177/1742715012441178.