62. Pope Benedict I 575-579

Benedict I

Pope Benedict was elected to the Papacy immediately after Pope John III passed away but he couldn’t take the office for nearly a year. Newly elected Popes needed to be approved by the emperor of Constantinople. However,his messengers had trouble getting the emperor’s blessing back to Rome due to the problem of getting around the invading Lombards. The Lombards had taken over much of Italy but they didn’t have the resources to take the Roman defenses so they dug in and began a siege. The attempt to starve the Romans out from their walls was devastating,and the elderly Pope Benedict soon succumbed to illness brought on by the famine that ravaged the city. There would eventually be sixteen Pope Benedicts,but most of these men would actually be named for Saint Benedict of Nursia,(480-543),who founded the Benedictine monastic movement. The first Pope Benedict is mostly lost to history. He is buried in St.Peter’s basilica.

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61. Pope John III 561-574

John III

Born to a wealthy and prominent Roman senator,Pope John III would become another in a succession of unpopular Pontiffs. Shortly after John entered the office of the Papacy,the emperor of Constantinople,Justinian,passed away. In his place was his nephew Justin II,who soon began pulling Constantinople’s troops out of Rome,which they had occupied for several years. This act left Rome wide open for a Lombard invasion. The Lombards were a Germanic people who had already invaded and taken over much of Italy. They brought death,destruction and a strong belief in arianism,which is a heresy that denies the divinity of Christ. So yeah,these guys were bad news for Rome and for Catholicism. The current governor of Rome was of no help in this crisis so Pope John III set off to try to catch the departing Constantinople army led by General Narses,and beg them to return to Rome to act as a deterrent to the prowling Lombards. General Narses agreed and returned to Rome. Problem solved. Not so fast. The Roman people HATED General Narses. HATED HIM! Hate wasn’t a strong enough word,and now our Pope has brought this awful man back to them?? Great,so now they HATED the Pope too. The Pope has managed to keep Rome and the Catholic faith safe for the moment,but the Romans resent him(ungrateful!),and chase him out of Rome,where he has to take up residence in the Catacombs of Callixtus two miles outside of town. He continued his Papal duties from there until his death on July 13 574. Poor guy had to live underground. Like a Fraggle. Nobody ever said being the Pope is easy.

60. Pope Pelagius I 556-561

Pelagius

Born to a wealthy and noble Roman family,Pope Pelagius was the second of the Popes handpicked by the emperor of Constantinople. The previous Pope had been slowly tortured by emperor Justinian into accepting heretical positions. The new Pope decided to go along in order to get along. Pelagius himself did not believe in these heretical ideas and the Christians of Rome were not made to change their beliefs. Pelagius agreed to support Justinian in order to bring about peace and maybe get Justinian’s troops out of Rome. Rome had been the battleground for both the soldiers of Constantinople and of the Goth King of Italy. As a result,it was devastated by the fighting,which left many people homeless in the aftermath of the destruction. Pelagius hoped his compromise could help bring about peace to Rome,but instead it alienated him from the Romans,who thought he had sold out,and it alienated him from northern Italy and Gaul(present day France),who thought he was the puppet of Constantinople’s emperor. No matter. Pope Pelagius put his head down and went to work. Pelagius did his best to generate future revenue for the Church,root out abuses in the clergy and used his OWN vast fortune to build homes and clothe and feed the poor in Rome and various other lands. Pope Pelagius was known as the “Father of the poor and of his country”. He is buried in St.Peter’s basilica.
I tried to get fancy with this Pope’s picture and I inadvertently made it look like he’s made out of chocolate. D’oh! Oh well,just in time for Easter I guess…….

59. Pope Vigilius 537-555

vigilus

Pope Vigilius was not a great Pope. He lied,schemed and swindled his way to the Papacy,and he may have even had a hand in the death of the previous Pope,Silverius. Like I said. Not a great Pope. Vigilius was the first of the Byzantine Popes,basically that means Popes nudged into office under the influence of Constantinople Emperors. The main controversy of his Papacy was the various heresies of the day and the different push and pulls of the kings or emperors trying to assert their beliefs by force. Eastern emperor Justinian condemned writings known as “The Three Chapters”,which denounced one set of heresies while it supported another. Justinian demanded that the Pope approve this condemnation of these writings,and it was a “damned if you,damned if you don’t” situation that Vigilius was forced to take part in. To his credit,he refused. He couldn’t condemn these documents,because it would show validation to another heresy that The Church did not approve of. Vigilius was a weasel,but he was a devout weasel. Justinian lost patience with him eventually and had his goons seize the Pope in the middle of Mass. He was forcibly brought to Constantinople and made to sweat it out until he agreed to the emperor’s demands. Vigilius was kept in custody for nearly a decade,which explains his long Papacy when the average Pontiff term at this time was just a few years. He was stubborn at first,declaring that “You may keep me in captivity, but the blessed Apostle Peter will never be your captive.” Defiant words,but eventually he was worn down and he regrettably submitted to the emperor’s demands. Pope Vigilius was finally released,but unfortunately died in Sicily on his way back to Rome.