Pope resigns!

Pontian was the 18th pope. He was destined to rule the Holy See for 5 years, and to be the first pope to quit his post for unnatural reasons - that is, other than dying.

230 AD. The year Pontain was elected bishop of Rome, emperor Alexander Severus restored the Colosseum, and Saint Cecilia was martyred in Trastevere. Although the current emperor was not unfriendly towards the new believers, other rulers were, and it was good times and bad times for the Christians.

Pontian was a citizen of Rome, the son of Calpurnius. The main problem during his reign was the division of Christianity, where the so-called antipope Hippolytus opposed the official view that the Church could grant forgiveness of sins committed after baptism. Another torublemaker was Origen, whose condemnation in Alexandria was approved at a Roman synod held by Pontian.

Pope Pontian is said to be have instituted the "Dominus vobiscum" (The Lord be with you) salutation in the liturgy of the Eucharist, and to have ordered that psalms be chanted. He also supposedly declared that confiteor should be recited before death.

Towards the end of Pontian's episcopate, a new emperor ascended to the Roman throne like an evil sun. Maximinus the Thracian persecuted Christians with great vigour, and had both Pontian and Hippolytus banished to the unhealthy salt mines of Sardinia. At some point, either before or after the banishment, the pontiff reached an agreement with Hippolytus, who rejoined the main church and ended the schism. Knowing that few survived the harsh life of the penal island, Pontain chose to resign so that a new pope could be elected in his place. He probably died shortly afterwards.

Pope Fabian had the remains of the Pope Pontian and Hippolytus brought back to Rome from Sardinia, and the martyred Pontian was buried in the papal crypt of the Catacomb of Callistus. His epitaph, rediscovered in 1909, reads: PONTIANOS, EPISK. MARTUR (Pontianus, Bishop, Martyr).

All the early bishops of Rome became saints, but Pontian is someone who really deserved it. His feast day is November 19 or August 13.

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The name of this pope is a subject of much confusion. He is called Pontian, Pontain and Pondan. Pontian is the one used in more official sources, such as the Catholic Encyclopedia, and is therefore the form used here. As for the other forms, Pontain is a place and personal name both in Italy and France. In Pontain in France, two children - Eugene and Joseph Barbadette - had a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1871.

South East Asia seems to be overflowing with all versions of the name. In Malaysia, at least, Pontian is a village, Pontain is both a place name and a surname, while Pondan is a frequently used word. The most interesting meaning of this word is transvestite.

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