Pope Saint Agapetus was elected to the Papacy just days after the death of Pope John II. Agapetus was from a wealthy and prominent Roman family and was one of the most highly educated men to hold the office. One of his first acts as Pontiff was to create a library that featured Latin translations of works from Greek writers like Homer and Aristotle. His time in office was very short and was mostly consumed by keeping Italy from being invaded by Constantinople. Italian Queen Amalasuntha was murdered by her cousin Theodahad,who quickly assumed the throne. This in turn infuriated Eastern emperor Justin I who favored the now deceased Queen. A massive army was dispatched with Rome in their sights. King Theodahad wanted no part of this and begged the Pope to travel east and talk Justin down. Pope Agapetus wanted no part of this either and agreed to try to talk some sense into the angry Emperor. First he needed money for the journey and he actually pawned off some property of St.Peter’s for the ummm….gas money to make the long trip. Unfortunately,this would all turn out to be a waste of time because Justin could not be persuaded.
The trip was a success in a different way though,because while there,the Pope took offense at the leader of the Eastern Church,a heretical Monophysite named Anthimus. A Monophysite was a person who believed Jesus was ONLY of divine nature,which really misses the whole point of the whole deal. The Pope told Justin that if he wouldn’t call off his troops,he could at least throw out the heretic that was running his Churches. Justin instead threatened the Pope with banishment or worse. Pope Agapetus replied “With eager longing have I come to gaze upon the Most Christian Emperor Justinian. In his place I find a Diocletian, whose threats, however, terrify me not”. A Diocletian,by the way,refers to a past Roman Emperor that persecuted Christians. The fearless Pope stared down the barrel of torture and death and didn’t blink and Justin,with his Christianity challenged,was then persuaded that the heretic named Anthimus had to go. For this reason,Agapetus is not only celebrated as a Saint in the Roman Church,he is also recognized as a Saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The two sister Churches may not agree on a lot of things,but they both know a Holy man when they see one. Our Poor Pope,however,had worked himself to the point of extreme exhaustion,and passed away suddenly as Emperor Justin’s troops marched to Rome. Pope Agapetus’ feast day is celebrated on September 20th and he is buried in St.Peter’s basilica.