Today is the Feast Day of St. John I, Pope and Martyr.
Here’s what you need to know...
John was elected Pope following the death of Pope Hormisdas in 523.
Pope John stepped into a papacy that what wrought with tension caused by an Arian heresy still alive and well.
Italy, during the time of Pope John I’s reign was under the rule of King Theodoric, an Arian -
believed the heresy that Christ was a created being rather than the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
The Eastern Church fell under the rule of the Catholic Byzantine Emporer Justin I who adamantly opposed the Arian heresy.
Pope John I was left in the middle between the two rulers trying to facilitate peace, while also attempting to uphold Orthodoxy.
No easy task.
In 523, against his will, King Theodric sent Pope John to Constantinople to negotiate with Justin who had recently declared a decree against the Arians - confiscating their churches, excluding them from returning to public offices, and converting many back to Catholicism.
Being the first Pope to ever visit Constantinople, Pope John was received with great celebration. Justin agreed to most of Theodric’s requests with the exception of allowing heretics to retain their place in the Catholic hierarchy as deacons, priests, or bishops.
This infuriated Theodric and upon John’s return to Italy, suspicious of conspiracy between Pope John and Justin, he had him arrested and imprisoned.
Weary from the travel, the malnourishment and mistreatment in the jail, Pope John died shorty after.
Pope St. John I is often seen in art as looking through the bars of a prison.
St. John I, Pope and Martyr, ora pro nobis!