18 May 2010

Pope Saint John I

18 MAY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the feast day (optional memorial) of an early Pope and martyr, John I.

Saint John was, while still an archdeacon, elected the Bishop of Rome in A.D. 523 at, what for that time, was an advanced age. Hailing from Siena in the Italian region of Tuscany, the Holy Father was born in about A.D. 470, and was noted to be frail at the time of his election.

After election as the Pope, the Arian king Theodoric the Great sent the Holy Father with a delegation of senators to Constantinople to secure a moderation of the Emperor Justin's decree (A.D. 523) against the Arians, threatening the Holy Father that retribution would be swift if he was not successful. Tradition tells that the Emperor prostrated himself before the Holy Father when he first met him, and had himself crowned by Saint John. However, after failing to persuade a moderation in the Arian decree (which he attempted by an appeal to gentleness and discretion), Saint John returned to Ravenna (Theodoric's capital), where he was arrested under suspicion of having conspired with Emperor Justin.

After his imprisonment, the Holy Father suffered from neglect and maltreatment and died while still in prison. After his death on 18 May 526, the Holy Father's body was transported to Rome and buried beneath Saint Peter's Basilica.

Pope Saint John I, pray for us!

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