There are only two Popes who have been given the epithet, ‘the Great’, one of whom we celebrate today.
Leo was born in Rome towards the end of the fourth century. He became Bishop of Rome in 440AD. It was a time of considerable crisis in both Church and state. Heretics were still disputing the true nature of Christ. Leo’s famous ‘Tome’ (an official letter) was acclaimed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 as the epitome of orthodox doctrine that Christ was both fully human and fully divine.
In the secular sphere the once mighty Roman Empire had all but collapsed. The barbarians in the shape of the Huns and Vandals were threatening to massacre the citizens of Rome. Leo managed to arbitrate and secure peace.
We have many of Leo’s letters. They are crystal clear explanations of the Church’s teaching about the mystery of the incarnation, the nature of the sacraments, and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.
Leo was energetic and vigorous: a man of intelligence and also a man of action. He died on 10th November 461AD.