Spirituality for Today – January 2011 – Volume 15, Issue 6

The 53rd Pope
Saint John I

An image of Saint John ISaint John I the 53rd Pope

Pope St. John (523-526)
The struggle with Arianism colored much of Pope John's short reign. The Arians believed that Jesus was the highest creation of God, but not the Son of God. This heresy plagued the early centuries of the Church and was a serious threat. Pope John I would find himself in an odd and precarious place regarding this heresy.

In the East, the devout Catholic Emperor Justin I considered it as his mission to thwart the Arian presence in his empire. He began a persecution against the Arians that upset Theodoric, the Gothic, King of Italy and an Arian. The heresy was widespread among the Goths. In a particularly brazen act of disrespect, Theodoric summoned the pope and sent him with a delegation including bishops and a number of Roman senators to Constantinople to demand that Justin cease his actions against the Arians. Needless to say, this placed the pope in an awkward position.

In a most impressive statement of the regard held for the pope, the emperor, clergy, and the people of Constantinople regaled the pope with a highly enthusiastic reception. Indeed, there was no doubt that the people regarded him as the rightful successor of Peter. This delighted the pope.

Pope John negotiated some politically based mitigation of the suppression of the Arians, but not all that Theodoric wanted. On his return to Revenna (the city of the imperial residence), Theodoric was outraged at the popes inadequate performance of his mission. The elderly and ill pope was held in Revenna and soon died there. There are some who claim that the pope was badly treated.

Pope John I was buried within Saint Peter's Basilica.

Habemus papam