88. Pope Constantine 708-715


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.


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.

81. Pope St.Benedict II 684-685

Benedict II

Pope Benedict II was the quintessential local boy made good. A native Roman,Benedict II had been a part of The Church since he was young,starting as a altar server and basically moving up from there. Before Benedict,whenever a new Pope was elected,confirmation had to be approved by the emperor in Constantinople. This was a very time consuming process that sometimes could take up to a year before a newly elected Pope could actually begin his Papacy. Benedict asked the emperor to do away with this custom and the emperor actually agreed! This apparently lazy and easy going emperor simply delegated this job to his exarch in Ravenna(sorta a governor of Rome),but this was just a technicality so now the election and confirmation of Popes would be in the clergy’s hands for once. In time the Popes would again have to get approval from various emperors or kings until Pope Pius X would put an end to it once and for all in 1903. Pope Benedict II would have a short time in office,but one of the cool things he did had to do with herectical eastern monothelites who were sent to Rome for punishment(whatever that might be). Benedict showed much mercy on them and simply arranged for their proper education in the orthodox theology.

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


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.

76. Pope St.Vitalian 657-672


It had been pretty rough going for the last several Popes. Monothelitism was the major conflict between the western and eastern Churches. This was the belief that Jesus only had a Divine nature and this was in opposition to the belief in Rome that Jesus had both a human and a Divine nature. Emperor Constans II of Constantinople favored monothelitism and made frequent attempts to bend Rome to his way of thinking,including the exile and murder of Pope Martin I. Pope Vitalian tread lightly with the emperor but always held firm to the truth. He even hosted Constans in Rome and watched as the emperor helped himself to several statues and other valuable artifacts making a complete nuisance of himself. Contans moved on to other parts of Italy and sometime during his non-goodwill tour,he was murdered in his bathtub. Oh well. That’s a shame. Without the immediate threat of Contans or monothelitism to worry about,Pope Vitalian had a fairly routine Papacy. He is most famous for being the first Pope to introduce organ music into the Mass. Whether or not this is accurate is up for debate as the organ wasn’t in widespread use in Church until around the 12th century. At the very least Pope Vitalian may have introduced it in just a few Churches to test the liturgical waters. Post Reformation,music in Church has been a bone of contention between the different Protestant denominations but the Catholic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy has this to say,”In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things.”

75. Pope St.Eugene I 654-657

pope eugene

Eugene I was a Holy,kind and charitable man. On the surface he appeared to be kind of a pushover,which is the kind of Pope the emperor wanted in office. Emperor Constans II desperately wanted his view of monothelitism to be accepted by Rome. Monothelitism was the belief that Jesus only had one nature,a Divine one,instead of Church belief that Jesus had both human and Divine natures. The previous Pope,Martin I,had little patience with the emperor and had declared him and his beliefs as heresy. For his trouble,Constans had Pope Martin arrested,exiled,and tortured to death. Before he was Pope,Eugene had never publicly objected to monothelitism so the emperor thought he would just appoint him to the Papacy and clear the way to get what he wanted. Boy was he wrong. Sweet natured Eugene took office and immediately rejected compromise of any kind on the definition of the nature of Jesus. In no way was it even up for debate,so don’t even bother he basically said. The emperor and his lackeys,including the patriarch of the eastern Church,were furious…..FURIOUS(all caps)! Constantinople threatened to roast Eugene like they had roasted Martin,and Constans II was bound and determined to do it……until…..here come the Muslims to save the day(….record scratch…). Invading Muslim armies in the east immediately took precedent over any matters of the nature of Jesus. Contans II took to battle,putting a pin in the issue for a later date and Pope Eugene I was left to happily resume his Papal duties with one less thing to worry about. I based his look on Eugene Levy. It would probably work better with glasses but I don’t know what people used for glasses back then and I’m too lazy to Google.

74. Pope St.Martin I 649-653

Pope Martin

Defiant Pope Saint Martin I was our last Pope to be martyred for the Church. Monothelitism(spell checked)was the current issue threatening the unity of the Western and Eastern Churches. Monothelitism was the belief that Jesus had both human and Divine natures,but only one Divine will,as opposed to the Catholic belief that Jesus had both human and Divine wills. It was all the rage in Constantinople,with the various emperors and Church patriarchs constantly petitioning the Pope for acceptance or at least a compromise to their beliefs. This issue had been going back and forth for nearly 50 years and the Church simply was not going to give an inch no matter how much the emperors of Constantinople wanted them to. Martin was elected just as a Council was forming to formally condemn monothelitism as a heresy and condemn it he did. First off,he did not wait for the emperor to confirm him as the new Pope(which was the practice back then,sometimes taking up to a year for a confirmation),so that was strike one for Martin. Strikes two,three,four…..all the strikes came against him when he officially declared the heresy,then declared that emperor Constans was a heretic and officially demanded that the heretic emperor and his heretic church fall in line with Rome. Like yesterday. The emperor was less than enthused. He first tried to have the Pope killed,but once the assassin came to town and saw how popular the Pope was,and how right he was,he changed sides and ran off to fight Muslims. So much for that plot. The emperor then had the Pope arrested and dragged back to Constantinople to be put on trial for treason. Martin was found guilty,publicly beaten,and then exiled for life to the island of Crimea where he was tortured and slowly starved to death. He never once wavered. He never once backed off his position on the nature and will of Jesus. He is in a way,a living embodiment of all that is great about the Catholic Church. She does not waver. She as a Church,is not,as Ronald Knox says,”…..free to catch the wind of the moment and sink their nets where the fishing seems best.”

73. Pope Theodore I 642-649


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…..