The Catholic Defender: St. Leo the Great


His work branched into four main areas, indicative of his notion of the pope’s total responsibility for the flock of Christ.


He worked at length to control the heresies of Pelagianism. At the foundation of the Pelagian error was the mistaken notion that we can perfect ourselves without God's grace and assistance. He continuously worked to oppose and root out numerous heresies which were threatening the Western Church. Among them were Pelagianism, which involved denying Original Sin and failing to understand the necessity of God's grace for salvation.


overemphasizing human freedom


Manichaeism- At the foundation of the Pelagian error was the mistaken notion that we can perfect ourselves without God's grace and assistance.


With apparent strong conviction of the importance of the Bishop of Rome in the Church, and of the Church as the ongoing sign of Christ’s presence in the world, Leo the Great displayed endless dedication as pope.


Leo is known as one of the best administrative popes of the ancient Church. His work branched into four main areas, indicative of his notion of the pope’s total responsibility for the flock of Christ.


A second major area of his concern was doctrinal controversy in the Church in the East, to which he responded with a classic letter setting down the Church’s teaching on the two natures of Christ. With strong faith, he also led the defense of Rome against barbarian attack, taking the role of peacemaker.

In these three areas, Leo’s work has been highly regarded. His growth to sainthood has its basis in the spiritual depth with which he approached the pastoral care of his people, which was the fourth focus of his work.


He is known for his spiritually profound sermons. An instrument of the call to holiness, well-versed in Scripture and ecclesiastical awareness, Leo had the ability to reach the everyday needs and interests of his people. One of his sermons is used in the Office of Readings on Christmas.


With apparent strong conviction of the importance of the Bishop of Rome in the Church, and of the Church as the ongoing sign of Christ’s presence in the world, Leo the Great displayed endless dedication as pope.


Leo is known as one of the best administrative popes of the ancient Church. His work branched into four main areas, indicative of his notion of the pope’s total responsibility for the flock of Christ.


A second major area of his concern was doctrinal controversy in the Church in the East, to which he responded with a classic letter setting down the Church’s teaching on the two natures of Christ. With strong faith, he also led the defense of Rome against barbarian attack, taking the role of peacemaker.


Leo is known as one of the best administrative popes of the ancient Church. His work branched into four main areas, indicative of his notion of the pope’s total responsibility for the flock of Christ.



It is said of Leo that his true significance rests in his doctrinal insistence on the mysteries of Christ and the Church and in the supernatural charisms of the spiritual life given to humanity in Christ and in his Body, the Church. Thus Leo held firmly that everything he did and said as pope for the administration of the Church represented Christ, the head of the Mystical Body, and Saint Peter, in whose place Leo acted.

Saint Leo the Great, also known as Pope Saint Leo I, was born into a Roman aristocratic family. His response to the call of the Lord transformed him into one of the greatest popes of Christian history. In fact, he was the first pope to be given the title "the Great." Details pertaining to Leo's place of birth are not known, but it is believed his ancestors come from Tuscany.


St. Leo the Great became a very well-known deacon of the Church by 431, serving the church under the pontificate of Pope Celestine I. Leo was widely respected for his love for the Lord, intelligence and persuasive nature. He was also gifted in bringing reconciliation between disputing groups of Christians.


Along with his dynamic faith and outstanding theological wisdom, Pope Leo I was also courageous. He led Rome's defense against Attila the Hun's barbarian invasion on Italy in 452, by taking on the role of peacemaker.

The Meeting between Leo the Great (painted as a portrait of Leo X) and Attila


Pope Sixtus III passed away while Leo was visiting Gaul at the request of Emperor Valentinian III. His task was to bring peace between one of Gaul's chief military commanders and the chief magistrate.


Leo was then unanimously elected as the next pope to succeed Pope Sixtus III in 440. His swift election reflected the respect he had garnered among the people from his service to the Lord and the affection the faithful had this pastoral and wise servant of the Lord. He worked tirelessly as “Peter’s successor,” guiding his fellow bishops as “equals in the episcopacy and infirmities.”


That is why he was often sent out to settle disputes, both secular and theological. Following the pontificate of Pope Celestine, the next Pope was Pope Sixtus III.


Pope Leo I was a great defender of the orthodox teaching of the Catholic Christian Church and protected the full deposit of faith. The whole Church is still indebted to him for this.


During this same period, some Eastern Christians began questioning the teaching of the Church concerning the relationship between Jesus' humanity and his divinity, and how to articulate this mystery of the Christian faith. he tirelessly fought to preserve the unity of the Church and its faith; and to ensure the safety of his people against invasions from armies which sought to destroy the Church and the Christian influence on culture which she brought to bear.

In response, Leo resolved the doctrinal controversy with a letter setting down the Church's official teaching on Jesus Christ as One Person with a human and a divine nature which could not be separated.


In response, Leo resolved the doctrinal controversy with a letter setting down the Church's official teaching on Jesus Christ as One Person with a human and a divine nature which could not be separated.


This profound and theologically astute letter reconciled the disputing parties. It preserved the core teaching concerning Jesus Christ. Finally, it affirmed the fullness of what occurred in the Incarnation, as well as its implications for all men and women who are baptized into Jesus Christ.


During his reign, he tirelessly fought to preserve the unity of the Church and its faith; and to ensure the safety of his people against invasions from armies which sought to destroy the Church and the Christian influence on culture which she brought to bear.


Pope St Leo focused heavily on the pastoral care of his people. He inspired and helped to foster charitable work in areas of Rome affected heavily by famine, refugees and poverty. To him, being a Christian was not only about embracing the fullness of the Gospel theologically but living it out in a world filled with hurt, suffering and needs.

Pope Leo I was renowned for his profoundly spiritual sermons. With his words, Leo could reach the everyday needs and interests of his people. It was his reputation as an "instrument of the call to holiness, well-versed in Scripture and ecclesiastical awareness" that helped him become one of the greatest popes in the history of the Church.


It is said of Leo that his true significance rests in his doctrinal insistence on the mysteries of Christ and the Church and in the supernatural charisms of the spiritual life given to humanity in Christ and in his Body, the Church. Thus Leo held firmly that everything he did and said as pope for the administration of the Church represented Christ, the head of the Mystical Body, and Saint Peter, in whose place Leo acted.


Pope Leo I's papacy has been described as one of the most important in the Church's history. Nearly 100 sermons and 150 letters of Leo I have been preserved; one of them is still, to this day, used in the Office of Readings on Christmas.

To this day, Leo's letter is heralded and praised, not only for bringing peace, but for preserving the fullness of Christian truth and doctrine.


It helped the whole Church enter more fully into the heart of the Gospel message of who Jesus is - and who we can become in Him, as we cooperate with grace.


Leo died on November 10, 461. He wished to be buried as close as possible to St. Peter's tomb.


His body was first laid in the entrance of St. Peter's basilica but was later moved inside the basilica in 688.


In 1754, Pope Benedict XIV proclaimed Leo I a Doctor of the Church. Pope Leo I faithfully and unequivocally held to the belief that everything he did and said as pope represented Jesus Christ, and St. Peter. He discharged his office, and vocation, with dynamic faith, great pastoral care and excellence. His feast day is celebrated on November 10.