(born 970/975, Esztergom, Hung.—died Aug. 15, 1038, Esztergom; canonized 1083; feast day August 16) First king of Hungary (1000–38) and founder of the Hungarian state. The son of a Magyar chieftain, he was born a pagan but was later baptized as a Christian. After defeating his cousin to claim the throne, Stephen was crowned; his royal crown was a gift of Pope Sylvester II. His rule was peaceful except for an invasion by Conrad II (1030) and minor disputes with Poland and Bulgaria, and he organized Hungarian government and church administration on German models. He is the patron saint of Hungary.
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At the time, internal disputes racking the Church were as much a threat as the external persecutions: following the Decian persecution of 250-251, there was disagreement about how to treat those who had lapsed from the faith, and Stephen was urged by Faustinus, Bishop of Lyon, to take action against Marcian, Bishop of Arles, who denied penance and communion to the lapsed who repented, the position called Novatianism, after Novatian, later declared a heretic, who held for the strictest approach.
This led to controversy over whether to accept as a valid sacrament baptism by splinter Christian groups. Stephen held that converts from such groups did not need rebaptism, while Cyprian and certain bishops of the Roman province of Africa held rebaptism necessary for admission to the Eucharist. Stephen's view eventually won broad acceptance.
The "Depositio Episcoporum" of 354 speaks of Pope Stephen I as not a martyr. Probably because of a conflation with his successor Pope Sixtus II, who was one of the first victims of Valerian's 258 persecution, it has been said that, as he was sitting on his pontifical throne in the catacombs, celebrating Mass for his congregation the emperor's men came and beheaded him on August 2, 257. As late as the 18th century, the chair was preserved, still stained with blood. Although Emperor Valerian's original persecution in 257 did not order summary execution of bishops, it did not exactly forbid them.
St Stephen I's feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is celebrated on August 2. When the 1839 the new feast of St Alphonsus Mary de Liguori was assigned to 2 August, Saint Stephen I was mentioned only as a commemoration within the Mass of Saint Alphonsus. The revision of the calendar in 1969 removed the mention of Saint Stephen I from the General Roman Calendar, but, according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the 2 August Mass may now everywhere be that of Saint Stephen I, unless in some locality an obligatory celebration is assigned to that day, and some continue to use pre-1969 calendars that mention a commemoration of Saint Stephen I on that day.
Pope Saint Stephen I is the patron of Hvar.
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