This pope started a lot of bulls

By Tony Staley

The papal seal on documents dates to 7th century

Although most 21st century Catholics have never heard of Pope St. Deusdedit I (also known as Adeodatus), he is credited with originating something many have heard of — the papal bull — even if most don’t know why it’s called that.

This 7th century pope is said to have been the first to use bullae — Latin for “lead seals” — on documents. Thus, the “papal bull” as a term used to describe a wide range of documents from appointments of bishops to proclamations of holy years.

At any rate, a bulla or seal from his papacy still exists. The front shows the Good Shepherd among his sheep above the Greek letters for “alpha” and “omega”; the reverse is inscribed: Deusdedit Papæ.

The name Deodatus is Latin for “God Has Given” and Adeodatus means “Given by God.” Both are variants of the same name. Deusdedit, the son of Stephen, a subdeacon, was elected pope in fall 615.

St. Deusdedit

When: died 618 A.D.

Where: Rome

What: Pope

Feast: Nov. 8

Although the Benedictines often claim him as their own, there’s no solid proof. Indeed, there are indications otherwise. When Gregory the Great was pope (590-604), he appointed monks to administrative offices. His successor, Sabinian, reversed the practice and named secular priests to these posts. Boniface IV (608-615) restored Gregory’s policy.

Deusdedit not only replaced monks on his staff with clergy, he was the first pope since Gregory to ordain priests — 14 — in Rome. He also left money in his will for the secular clergy.

During his papacy, Deusdedit helped the needy, especially after an earthquake in 618 heavily damaged Rome. He worked untiringly when a plague some now think was elephantiasis left people unrecognizable. According to one legend, Deusdedit was so moved by compassion that he kissed one victim, instantly restoring him to health.

Another item from Deusdedit is a ritual book he used at an Easter Mass in 616 at St. Mary Major Basilica. The book shows that the Mass that day — while more elaborate — was quite similar to a Sunday Mass today.

Sources: “Catholic Encyclopedia”; cfpeople.org; “Dictionary of Saints”; saintpatrickdc.org; third-millennium-library.com; and wikipedia.org.