In the midst of a somber Roman crowd, mourning the passing of Pope Saint Gregory II, stood a Syrian priest. Despite his sense of alienation among the grieving Romans, his mind was abuzz with thoughts. As a skilled preacher, he yearned to comfort them with Christ’s promise of resurrection. His scholarly mind pondered who would succeed Gregory II and the future direction of the Church. In his devout heart, he prayed for the departed Pope and for those around him, hoping they would find eternal peace in God’s embrace. Yet, in that moment, he was merely a face in the crowd.

But not to God, nor to those who recognized the revered holy man among them. In a twist of fate, during the funeral procession, he was singled out by the people. Swept up in their fervor, they implored him to become the next Bishop of Rome. Thus, without any action on his part, his life transformed dramatically.

Proclaimed Pope Gregory III, he soon faced a challenge from Emperor Leo II, who condemned the veneration of holy images as idolatry. Leo II sought to destroy these representations of Jesus, Mary, and the saints. Gregory III, however, did not stand idly by. He attempted to send a letter to Leo II, but the priest-messenger was too fearful to deliver it. Undeterred, Gregory convened a synod that staunchly opposed the destruction of these sacred images.

As Gregory III stood firm, Leo II resorted to physical force, sending ships to abduct Gregory and bring him to Constantinople. Despite pressure from many in Rome, Gregory remained resolute. Miraculously, a storm ravaged Leo’s fleet, thwarting his plans. The Emperor’s only gain was the seizure of some papal lands.

Through Gregory’s unwavering stand, the tradition of venerating holy images was preserved. It was a testament to his understanding of when to assert his position and when to let divine intervention take its course. Pope Saint Gregory III’s tenure, from 731 to 741, thus became a pivotal period in the history of the Church, marked by his resolve and faith.

Photo credit: Public Domain via picryl

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