St Silvester was elected Pope in the year 314. It was one year after the Emperor Constantine passed the Edict of Milan, which ended three centuries of bloody persecution of the Church and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
During Silveter's long pontificate of 20-plus years, the first “list of Roman martyrs” was compiled, a Roman school of liturgical chant was established and the Kyrie Eleison was inserted into the Mass.
But most important of all, it was during Pope Silvester’s reign that the Emperor Constantine moved his capital from Rome to Constantinople and gifted his Palace of the Lateran to the Pope. The Lateran basilica was now established as the church of Rome and the Lateran Palace became the Pope’s official residence. This continued for almost a thousand years.
The most important event of Pope Silvester’s reign was the first ecumenical council of Nicea near Constantinople, called in 325 to combat the heresy of Arius. Some 320 bishops attended, mostly from the Eastern Empire, the Arian heresy was denounced. Thus the Nicene Creed was formulated and it remains a profession of faith that is still proclaimed in our churches today.
And in many countries, “Silvester Night” is observed on this last day of the year. It's a time of gift-giving and greetings, a custom which long preceded the practice of Christmas gifts.
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