Spirituality for Today – January 2016 – Volume 20, Issue 6

The 113th Pope
Stephen VI

An image of Pope Stephen IV, the 113th PopePope Stephen VI, the 113th Pope

Pope Stephen VI (896–897) – The very short reign of this pope was not occasioned by age, sickness or accident, but was caused by his being deposed, imprisoned, and strangled. Pope Stephen was the author of the infamous Cadaver Synod. This ludicrous trail of the exhumed body of Pope Formosus (number 111) was based on loathing and perhaps political conniving. Enemies of Pope Formosus wanted to declare his ascent to the papacy as invalid because he left the diocese of which he was the bishop to come to Rome to become pope. The Council of Nicaea decreed that a bishop is not allowed to leave his own diocese to assume another post. If Formosus's actions as pope were declared invalid – including Stephen's appointment as bishop of his diocese, – then Stephen would not have violated the ruling of the Council of Nicaea. Poor Pope Formosus was found guilty and his corpse was cast into the Tiber. The clergy ordained by Pope Formosus were declared to be invalidly ordained.

These actions of Pope Stephen caused an uproar that led to his disposition and arrest. Finally, Pope Stephen was strangled to death and then buried in the Basilica of Saint Peter.

Habemus papam