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  • Writer's pictureGrace Episcopal Church

Pope by Avian Election

One of my favorite topics is what is formally called “Hagiography” – writings about the lives of the saints. It fascinates me to hear the weird and wonderful ways God has worked in and among his people through the centuries! One of those unusual and unexpected histories is that of Pope Fabian.

Fabian never had papal aspirations. In fact, he wasn’t even ordained before being chosen as the pope! In the year 236AD, Fabian was a layperson visiting Rome from another part of Italy when he joined the crowds assembled for the election of a new pope. Suddenly, a dove flew over the crowd and landed on his head. The crowd saw this as a sign from God and began crying out, “He is worthy! He is worthy!” Even though Fabian was a stranger and not even a candidate, he was elected unanimously!

While our modern minds might doubt that the dove was actually a sign from God, Fabian’s legacy would argue otherwise. In spite of his unorthodox election, Pope Fabian is remembered as one of the best popes of the early Church. He made wise administrative decisions, founded several churches in France, chose fourteen scholars to record the martyrs’ lives, and was himself martyred in the persecution under Emperor Decius. The Episcopal Church remembers him on January 20th every year.

By Rev. Caroline Osborne

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Donald Hooper
Donald Hooper
Apr 01, 2020

I have always been fascinated by royalty and the Papacy. I had learned at one time that a Pope did not necessarily need to be a priest or even a clerical person. But I did not know that one was actually elected. Thank you posting that. Interesting to learn that.

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