Pope John IV was a native of Zadar, Dalmatia. This city is on the opposite side of the Adriatic Sea from Venice, but further south, giving the city a mild climate. With a beautiful coastline and harbor, it was a blessing and a curse in history. War and vacillating allegiances have rocked this area throughout time. John was pope during one of these times.
Born in about 587 AD, he was the son Venantius, a skilled professional orator/lawyer. Thus, the family was probably of the higher social class. Although John was not originally from Rome, he became a member of the Curia. He was appointed an archdeacon of the Church in 636, and a Cardinal the same year. His election, following the death of Severinus, was followed fairly closely by the imperial confirmation and he was ordained bishop of Rome December 24, 640. The speed at which that took place implies that the exarch of Ravenna had probably taken over the responsibility of papal confirmations.
As soon as he was elected, John and some other bishops took up the challenge of dealing with the clergy of Ireland and Scotland. The problem was the dating of Easter. Ireland and Scotland were not keeping to the established norms. In addition, the two countries were told to be on their guard regarding the Pelagian heresy, which was raging around the British Isles at the time. This taught that Divine grace is not necessary to achieve salvation.
The ongoing problem with Monothelism was finally laid to rest by Pope John. He condemned the heresy. Then Emperor Heraclius disowned the few year old publication, Echthesis. John explained to Constantine III, the son of and co-emperor with Heraclius. John explained to him that Honorius, who was seen as having agreed with monothelism, actually only said that Jesus had two wills, in agreement with one another, not that he had only a divine will, which was the teaching of this heresy. As a matter of fact, in 641, John convoked a synod condemning monothelism once and for all.
There was trouble in Dalmatia. The Slavs had invaded and destroyed many of the churches. John sent the Abbot Martin with great amounts of money to redeem captives and to redeem as many relics as possible. This abbot was later Pope Martin I. He was able to recover many of the saints’ relics and transport them to Rome. John had an oratory built at the Lateran to honor and store the relics. It can still be seen. Mosaics show John holding in his hands a model of the oratory.
Emperor Heraclius invited a Croat, Porgas, to be duke of Dalmatia. When Porgas got there, he realized that the country needed Christian teachers. So he wrote a message to the emperor asking for the same. The emperor, in turn, wrote to Pope John requesting help. This is one of the last acts of the emperor. It is assumed that John sent teachers, as requested.
Less than two years after his consecration, on October 12, 642, Pope John IV died. He is buried at St. Peter’s Basilica.