He was a Sicilian by birth (the son of a man named Paulus), and succeeded Agatho. Though elected pope a few days after the death of St. Agatho (January 10, 681), he was not consecrated till after the lapse of a year and seven months (August 17, 682).. Leo was known as an eloquent preacher who was interested in music, and noted for his charity to the poor.
Elected shortly after the death of Agatho, Leo was not consecrated for over a year and a half. The reason may have been due to negotiations regarding imperial control of papal elections.
These negotiations were undertaken by Leo's predecessor, St. Agatho, and were between the Holy See and Emperor Constantine IV, and concerned the relations of the Byzantine Court to papal elections. Constantine had already promised Agatho to abolish or reduce the tax that the popes had had to pay to the imperial treasury on their consecration over the course of about a century.
Leo's short-lived pontificate did not allow him to accomplish much, but his two accomplishments were of major importance: he confirmed of the acts of the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680-1). This council had been held in Constantinople against the Monothelite controversy, and had been presided over by the legates of Pope Agatho. After Leo had notified the emperor that the decrees of the council had been confirmed, he made them known to the nations of the West. In letters written to the king, the bishops, and the nobles of Spain he explained what the council had effected, and he called upon the bishops to subscribe to its decrees.
During this council, Pope Honorius I was anathematised for his views in the Monothelite controversy as a favourer of heresy. However, Leo took great pains to make it clear that in condemning Honorius, he did so not because Honorius taught heresy, but because he was not active enough in opposing it. In accordance with the papal mandate, a synod was held at Toledo (684) in which the Council of Constantinople was accepted.
Regarding the decision of the council, Leo wrote once and again in approbation of the decision of the council and in condemnation of Honorius, whom he regarded as one who profana proditione immaculatem fidem subvertare conatus est (roughly, "one who 'by betrayal has tried to overthrow the immaculate faith'"). In their bearing upon the question of papal infallibility these words have caused considerable attention and controversy, and prominence is given to the circumstance that in the Greek text of the letter to the emperor which the phrase occurs, the milder expression subverti permisit ("allowed to be overthrown...") is used for subvertare conatus est.
At this time Leo put an end to the attempts of the Ravenna archbishops to get away from the control of the Bishop of Rome. Emperor Constantine revoked the decree of his father Constans in favour of Ravenna. The pope sweetened the deal for the Ravenna bishops by abolishing the tax it had been customary for them to pay when they received the pallium.
Also, in apparent response to Lombard raids, Leo transferred the relics of a number of martyrs from the catacombs to churches inside the walls of the city. He also dedicated two churches, St. Paul's and Sts. Sebastian and George.
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