88. Pope Constantine 708-715

constantine

The Quinisext Council of Constantinople was held in 692 and was called by the Eastern Church to enact new canon laws and tighten up some of the rules of the Church(and all of Christianity). The only problem was that nobody bothered to contact Rome or even ask her opinion in these matters. The various Popes between Sergius to Sisinnius had either boldly rejected,or just plain ignored any new laws from Constantinople,adding to the already tense relations between the sister Churches. Now it was new Pope Constantine’s turn to confront this ongoing argument. Emperor Justinian II had already blinded and cut out the tongue of an Archbishop he didn’t like so I’m sure Constantine gulped hard when he was summoned to Justinian’s court. The Pope was welcomed like a king into Constantinople and the emperor supposedly kissed his feet,but it was all for show. Justinian ordered the Pope to his city,not to impose the rules of the Quinisext Council,but to show the world that the great Bishop of Rome was at his beck and call. Pope Constantine still refused the new rules and went back to Rome in peace,but as soon as he arrived home it was reported that Justinian had been murdered and overthrown. The new emperor,Philippikos Bardanes,believed in monothelistism,the old heresy that Jesus only had one will,a divine one. Argh! This old thing again! This argument ate up all of Rome’s time for nearly 200 years! It was back now and had an army behind it that was now knocking on the Pope’s door. Constantine refused to submit and thankfully his Roman milita was able to repel the invading forces. This new emperor was in turn overthrown by yet another guy,but this guy,Anastasius II,rejected monothelistism(whew),and left the Pope alone for the remainder of his Papacy.
Pope Constantine was the last Pope to visit the Eastern Church in Constantinople until Pope Paul VI made a trip there in the 1960s,when it was now named Istanbul and the population was mostly Muslim. Constant fighting between the Churches and a formal schism around the year 1053 contributed to 1200 years between visits but every Pope since(except John Paul I)has made the trip,both to strengthen ties between west and east and to strengthen relations with those in the Muslim faith.

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87. Pope Sisinnius 708

sinus

Pope Sisinnius,besides having a hard to pronounce name,had the fifth shortest reign as Pope with just 21 days in office. A Syrian by birth,he was known as a man of strong Holy character,but he was terribly ill when he was chosen. Whether this was known to the clergy or not is unknown,but he was so overwhelmed with gout that he couldn’t even feed himself at times. The most that he accomplished as Pope was that he ordered portions of the walls of Rome be restored,but this work didn’t start until two Popes later. I didn’t have a lot of stuff to read about him so I learned about Gout instead. Gout causes redness and the swelling of joints. It’s been called “the disease of kings”,I guess because you have to have a pretty hearty diet of meat,beer and fish to cause it most of the time,not to mention being overweight. Coffee(?),Vitamin C and increased exercise can help to reduce the chances of Gout and this is officially the weirdest ending to any of my Popes so far.

85. Pope John VI 701-705

John VI

Pope John’s papacy started off stressful and never let up during his four year term. The new emperor of Constantinople,Tiberius III,sent his Exarch of Italy into Rome to “cause trouble for the Pontiff”(for some reason not specified). Native Italians,who were very protective of their Holy Father,went to provide military support for the Vatican and keep our Pope from harm. Pope John VI tried to keep the peace and mediated between the angry groups,desperate to keep any bloodshed from happening. While this was going on,the marauding Lombards seized on the disharmony in Italy and sensing weakness,started to attack the Italian countryside. Again,Pope John to the rescue. He sent priests into the Lombard camp and on the Pope’s authority they were able to both bribe and persuade the Lombards to retreat back to their regions. Pope John VI finished out his short reign by settling Church conflicts in England. Whew. So he basically spent all of his time keeping Italians from killing Italians,Lombards from killing Italians and English clergy from……throwing things at each other(I guess)

84. Pope St.Sergius I 687-701

sergius

It’s exciting to write about a Pope who had a direct influence on something we do during every single Mass. Pope Sergius introduced the beautiful Agnus Dei to the Mass. This song is sung when the priest breaks the consecrated bread during Mass before giving us our Holy Communion(Lamb of God,you take away the sins of the world…..)This is actually a thumbing of the Holy nose to the eastern Church. In 692 Emperor Justinian called a Quinisext Council in Constantinople to put into place new canon laws. The only hitch was that they neglected to invite Rome. 102 new canon laws were passed without any input from the western Church and Pope Sergius was none too pleased at his authority being undermined. The numerous new laws now forbid many western practices like priestly celibacy and many other things,but the big one that truly offended the Pope was the banning of referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God. The emperor ordered(ORDERED!)the Pope to sign off on these new laws but Sergius declared that he would “rather die than consent to erroneous novelties” and Rome,in relation to Constantinople,would not be “its captive in matters of religion”. Papal fighting words were just thrown down to the emperor and Justinian wasn’t going to take them lightly. Justinian sent his own personal bodyguard(a violent man named Zacharias)to Rome to bring the Pope back to Constantinople by force and make him sign off on these new laws. The Italian militia of Ravenna stepped in to defend the Pope and Zacharias nearly lost his life. The emperor wisely decided to back down(for now),and the already tense relations between the western and eastern Churches was now in the silent treatment stage of the fighting. Pope Sergius decided that if the eastern Church didn’t like us referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God then guess what……..WE’RE GOING TO SING ABOUT IT EVERY SINGLE TIME WE TAKE COMMUNION. Thus,we have the Agnus Dei. I love it.

83. Pope Conon 686-687

Conan

Pope Conon had the distinction of being the only Pope elected because he was incredibly handsome. The Pope at this time was basically in charge of the Roman army,so the soldiers now decided that they wanted a say as to who should occupy the throne of Peter. The clergy and the army went back and forth and could not come to an agreement,but then they all looked at Father Conon. He was simple,he was wise and he was Holy. He was also the son of a general. The clergy liked his holiness and the army liked the fact that he came from military blood. On top of all this is the fact that he was just an incredible presence to behold. Numerous sources talk up his appearance. This is all very weird,and it reminds me of the story of how the Continental Congress chose George Washington to lead them because he was the tallest man in the room and he looked incredible in his tailored uniform. So anyway,we have our new Pope,but there’s one thing they didn’t think through…….Pope Conon may have been the most handsome Pope ever,but he was also incredibly OLD. O-L-D old,like even old by Pope standards old. He barely lasted a year. His lasting legacy,other than his dashing good looks,was sending missionaries into Germany,at that time called Franconia. Oh if only he spelled his name with an A we could have been so close to having a Pope CONAN. Oh well,we do have a Pope Lando coming later so there’s that…..

82. Pope John V 685-686

John V

Syrian born Pope John V only ruled for a year but his contributions to the faith before becoming Pope were immeasurable. In 680 John was the leading Roman delegate at the Third Council of Constantinople. This council was called to finally put to rest the leading heresy of the day,monothelitism. This heresy believed that Jesus had only a Divine will,and not both human and Divine as the Church teaches. It was popular with various emperors and even some clergy of the eastern Church,but Rome had always held the line on the nature of Jesus for nearly two hundred years at this point(and seemingly forever when writing this blog).John and the other Roman delegate’s defense of the nature of Jesus finally helped put to rest this long standing debate and monothelitism was officially declared a heresy recognized by both west and east Churches. This work on behalf of the Catholic faith helped to elect him to the Papacy in 685. John mostly used his short time clearing up debates about the appointing of bishops and restoring older Churches. He was buried in St Peter’s basilica(the old one)and unfortunately his tomb was destroyed by an Arab invasion of Rome in 846.

80. Pope St.Leo II 682-683

Leo II

Pope Leo II was basically a rubber stamping Pope. The Third Council of Constantinople had been called to condemn the heresy known as Monothelitism. The emperor of Constantinople and the previous Pope,Agatho,had called the council to condemn Monothelitism and bring together the western and eastern Churches. Pope Agatho passed away just as the council concluded,so it was up to Pope Leo II to rubber stamp all of the council’s findings into law and put this conflict behind the Church…..and then he died. Whew. I don’t what was in the Roman water back then but we’re beginning a period of one-year-and-done Popes for a while. Poor guys. Pope Leo II was known for his love of music and his charity for the poor.

79. Pope St.Agatho 678-681

Agatho

Monothelitism was the teaching that Jesus had both human and Divine natures but only one Divine will. This is in opposition to the Catholic position that Jesus had both human and Divine wills. Monothelitism had been a thorn in the Church’s side for nearly two hundred years. The last one hundred years had seen it nearly cause a schism between the western and eastern Churches. Enough was enough. Constantinople emperor Constantine IV wanted Christian unity on the issue and wrote a letter to Rome asking for an olive branch. The letter was originally addressed to Pope Donus,] but with mail being what it was thirteen hundred years ago,he was dead by the time it reached him. The new Pope,Agatho,was sympathetic to the emperor and both now worked together to help bridge the two Churches. The Third Council of Constantinople was called and after months of debates and meetings,Monothelitism was finally officially condemned as heresy and all of its followers were condemned as well…….including earlier Pope Honorius. Although he never proclaimed it,he never objected to it,so this got him thrown under the heretical bus with the others. The Council had healed the schism and also confirmed that Rome would officially be home to the one true faith. This was incredible news and I’m sure Pope Agatho would’ve been overjoyed but he was dead by the time word got to him. Again with the slow mail service!!! Anyways,for his work in bringing the two Churches together,Pope Agatho is venerated as a Saint in both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths. His feast day is celebrated on January 10th.

73. Pope Theodore I 642-649

Theodore

Angry Pope Theodore I was the next in the line for Popes having to constantly battle the eastern Church over the nature of Jesus. Monothelitism is the belief that Jesus only had one will,a Divine one,as opposed to our Catholic belief that Jesus had both a human and Divine will. This back and forth between the western and eastern Churches over this had been going on for….(forever it seems since this is all I’ve written about on this blog for weeks now). Pope Theodore refused to recognize the new patriarch of Constantinople,Paul,because the previous guy(Pyrrhus)still believed in the Jesus of only one nature when he passed away,which Paul never corrected. Pope Theodore was still irritated because Pyrrhus had once come to Rome and denounced Monothelitism to the Pope’s face,then after leaving town flip-flopped back. This made the Pope so freaking mad that he supposedly wrote out the excommunication of Pyrrhus using consecrated wine on the tomb of St Peter as his desk. Supposedly(I doubt it was this dramatic but it’s still a cool image). On and on went the battle of wills between the two Churches over the nature of our Lord. The emperor of Constantinople was so sick of hearing about it that he jailed a Papal ambassador when the sensitive subject came up. Pope Theodore was sick of all of this too and called for the Lateran Council of 649 to condemn the issue and hopefully put it to rest once and for all. Unfortunately he passed away before the Council could meet and it would be the next Pope(Saint Martin I),who would bear the full brunt of this strife between the two Churches. This wouldn’t be settled for another 40 years after Theodore(six more weeks for me),so maybe by then I’ll learn to spell “Monothelitism” without the spellcheck correcting me.

72. Pope John IV 640-642

John IV

Pope John IV was a native of Dalmatia(Croatia)and was the Archdeacon of Rome when he was elected to the Papacy. He had a fairly drama-free two year run as Pope. He wrote many letters back and forth to England and Ireland trying to get them on the same page as to when Easter is officially celebrated. He also sent large sums of money back to Dalmatia to buy the freedom of Christians enslaved by pagans in the area. He also officially declared monothelitism a heresy. This was the belief that Jesus had two natures but only a divine will and it was the current fad belief of Constantinople. John IV not only declared it a heresy but tried to also apologize for Pope Honorius’ failure to declare it a heresy when he was the reigning Pontiff. It’s a light week for Popes so the one interesting thing from his Papacy was that his homeland of Dalmatia is where the Dalmatian dog originated. The first descriptions of the dog come from paintings from Croatia from the 1600s. These dogs apparently have a problem with their hearing and are prone to kidney stones and learning about these dogs from Wikipedia has officially derailed me from my topic…..