Saint John I, the Fifty-Third Pope (Successors of Peter – Part 53)

Saint John I, the Fifty-Third Pope (Successors of Peter – Part 53)

Emperor Justin the emperor of the Byzantium Empire reinstated many of the decrees issued against the heresy of Arianism and against Arian heresies shortly before Saint John was election as the fifty-third pontiff of the Holy Catholic Church. At the same time, the temples of the Aryan partisans were seized and they were expelled from public offices. The Emperor required them to renounce their Aryan heresy and embrace the Catholic faith in order to continue in their offices and retain the positions and privileges they enjoyed.

Most of the people who believed in the Arian heresy were of Gothic descent. Therefore, Emperor Justin's actions against the Arian heretics infuriated Theodoric, a Gothic and Arian king of Italy. An enraged King Theodoric summoned Pope John I to his residence in Ravenna and forced him to accompany his mission to Constantinople with a delegation of bishops and Roman senators.

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The task given to Pope John was to present to the emperor the means to withdraw the edicts issued by Emperor Justin against those who believed in Arianism and the order that the Arians should renounce their faith and accept the Catholic faith. At the time of his election as Pope, John I, who was old and sick, left for Constantinople under pressure from King Theodoric. Thus, Pope John I made history as the first Pope to visit the Oriental Region (Constantinople).

Pope John on his arrival in Constantinople in AD525 of October or November, was received with warmth by the people. Emperor Justin prostrated himself before Pope John just as if Peter had come directly to his royal audience. A few months later, at the Hagia Sophia Cathedral (situated in Modern Turkey today), a throne higher than the patriarch's was given during the Easter liturgy. He celebrated Holy Mass in the Latin Rite on Easter. The crown, which was usually worn by the Patriarch of Constantinople on Easter, was worn by the Pope on that day.

During Pope John's subsequent negotiations with the emperor, Justin agreed to two conditions of the emperor Theodoric. However, the emperor refused to accept Theodoric's offer that the Arian heretics did not need to renounce their Arian faith. Realizing that they could expect no further concessions from the Emperor, the Pope and the other bishops returned to Ravenna.

But on his return to Ravenna he had to face Theodoric's fury. As the emperor refused to accept his offer that the Arian heretics should not renounce their faith, King Theodoric was furious with the emperor and unwilling to accept the warm welcome Pope John received in Constantinople.

The king, doubting his loyalty to him, forced Pope John to stay in Ravenna until he told him. Worn out by the long and hard journey and old age, and that he would be severely punished by the king, Pope John collapsed and passed away immediately.

His death occurred on the 18th May AD526. Criticism arose that Pope John I's sudden death was caused by the brutal and ruthless treatment and starvation. When the bishops and believers heard the news of the Pope's death, they brought his physical body back to Rome. He was laid to eternal rest in the center of St. Peter's Basilica. Soon Pope John I began to be venerated as a martyr in the church. His tombstone bears the inscription as Christ's Scapegoat.
-edit&transl. SM

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