Spirituality for Today – August 2008 – Volume 13, Issue 1

The Twenty-Fourth Pope

Saint Sixtus II

A photo of a painting of Saint Sixtus IIPope St. Sixtus II (257-258) – His misfortune was to be elected at a time when the once tolerant emperor Valerian changed his ways and began to put increased pressure on the Church to become engaged in participating in pagan religious activities. The Church's good fortune was that, in the words of St. Cyprian's biographer, Pope Sixtus was "a good and peace-loving priest."

The hot issue of the day was the defining of the policy of the Church regarding the lapsed Catholic's reconciliation with the Church. The question of the validity of the baptisms by heretics and schismatics and the need for rebaptism or just absolution was resolved by this "good and peace-loving priest." Credit also is to be given to Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, for his perseverance in dealing with the disputants over the problem. Basically, the Pope allowed local churches to handle the problem according to their own tendencies.

The emperor Valerian intensified his persecution of the Church by ordering the imposing new penalties on Catholics and commanding the execution of Church leaders. Pope Sixtus and a number of deacons were arrested and beheaded by Valerian's henchmen.

Pope Sixtus II was buried in the cemetery of Callistus on the Via Appia. He is mentioned in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I).

Habemus papam