Pope St. Agapetus was the 57th pope and is acknowledged as a Catholic saint and an Eastern Christian saint. Though his papacy lasted just short of a year, he served the role under some of its most trying times. This article will address these exciting facts and more about Pope St. Agapetus.
A Stand For Order
Not much is known about Pope St. Agapetus before he was pope. It is clear that he was a deacon in Rome by around 502. Sometime before 535, he was promoted to the archdeacon. His 535 election to the pope was amidst turmoil and political strife, leading to his first act.
Pope St. Agapetus first sought to set the record straight in the eyes of the clergy. Prior to Pope John II, his predecessor, a contentious situation rose between Antipope Dioscorus and Pope Boniface II. Both claimed to be the rightfully elected pope. Pope Boniface II said that he had the blessing of the previous Pope Felix II, and that Antipope Dioscorus only had political sway. Though the Eastern Empire accepted Dioscorus as Pope, he would die just three weeks later. In the end, Pope Boniface II took the office. Here’s where the history involves Pope Agapetus.
According to records, clergy members were forced to condemn Dioscorus in writing by Pope Boniface II. Once in office, Pope St. Agapetus burned the document in front of the clergy and had all accounts of Pope Boniface II’s use of force recorded.
A War to Come
During his short papacy, the Byzantine Empire, under the helm of General Belisarius looked to invade Italy. It was the Ostrogothic King Theodahad who informed Pope St. Agapetus of this. Following his advice, Pope St. Agapetus and five bishops left in winter to meet with the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. They made it to Constantinople in February of 536. Unfortunately, Emperor Justinian I claimed things were too far in motion to stop, and so did not call off the impending invasion.
Religious Political Moves
Seeing the situation more as a religious issue, than a political problem, Pope St. Agapetus saught out the Byzantine Patriarch Anthimus I. Things quickly unraveled into a heated debate of faith and power. The clergy with Pope St. Agapetus questioned Anthimus I’s faith, demanding a written confession of faith and that he step down as patriarch. When Anthimus refused, Pope St. Agapetus further and more vigorously questioned him. To this, Emperor Justinian I said he would banish the pope if need be.
Instead of backing down, Pope St. Agapetus consecrated Mennas, Anthimus’ successor. This move must have worked, as Emperor Justinian, I replied with his written profession of faith.
His Last Four Letters
The strongly worded, eloquent Pope St. Agapetus has four surviving letters written near the time of his death. Two of these are communicating with Emperor Justinian I. In these, they discuss the emperor’s faith and the components of the Church. In one of them, Pope St. Agapetus vehemently refuses to adopt the Orders of the Arians. The other two are to bishops in Africa, one specifically to Bishop Repartus of Carthage.
Quick Facts About Pope St. Agapetus
- He was born in Rome, Italy within the Kingdom of Odoacer circa 490.
- No other name that Agapetus is attributed to him.
- He died in office on April 22, 536 at the approximate age of 46.
- His death arose due to a complicating illness. He is buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.
- At the age of 45, he became pope on May 13, 535.
- After ten months, his papacy ended with his death on April 22, 536.
- He was preceded by Pope John II, who served the office for over two years.
- Also serving under a year was his successor, Pope St. Silverius.
Interesting Facts About Pope St. Agapetus
- His Catholic feast days are April 22 and September 20.
- His Eastern Christian feast day is April 17.
- He co-founded his monastery at Vivarium with Cassiodorus.
- He took back North Africa from the Vandals, confirming the Council of Carthage.