53. Pope St. John I 523-526

John I

The Churches of east and west were reunited under Pope Hormisdas and all was right in the Christian world. Nope. Hold on. Justin,the eastern Emperor of Constantinople,was all in on his support for reunification and that meant striking out at all heretics that posed a danger to his beloved Church. To him that meant Arian Christians. Arians believed Jesus is not one with God,but created by God,basically a demigod,a separate being. Their beliefs undermine all that the Church is built on. Justin took their houses,took their Churches,and forced them to convert to Catholicism. This was a big problem because the Goth King Theodoric of Italy happened to be Arian and was very concerned with the goings on in Constantinople. Theodoric sent Pope John I to Constantinople to straighten out Justin,or else Theodoric might start his own persecutions,this time of Catholics in Italy. The Pope was warmly received in Constantinople with parties and parades and gifts,and he in turn succeeded in talking Justin down from going after Arians too harshly. Justin had one thing he wouldn’t back down on and that was that those who converted from Arianism to Catholicism were not allowed to convert back. Ok,close enough,crisis solved,(for the most part). Pope John made his way back to Rome,and on the way stopped back in Ravenna to tell the King of his success. Big mistake. King Theodoric heard of how crazy Constantinople was over the Pope,and the King got it in his head that the Pope and Justin were now best of friends and were now plotting against him and all Arians! The paranoid King arrested the elderly Pope John and threw him into a prison cell where the Pope was neglected and eventually starved to death.His body was eventually brought back to Rome and buried in St.Peter’s.
The age of the Martyrs of the early Church was long over,but the Pope was still vulnerable to the whims of vengeful Kings and Godless Emperors. This specter of danger from world leaders,and the world in general,would hang over the Popes as late as the 20th century. This specter of danger hangs over the heads of all Christians in all parts of the world at all times. As G.K.Chesterton says “Jesus promised his disciples three things—that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.”

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