Lanternarius Press

POPE AGAPETUS, WHAT TEN MONTHS CAN DO

Pope Agapetus was born in Rome, what date, we do not have. His father was Giordanus, a Roman priest who was killed during the riots that followed the consecration of Pope Symmachus (498-514).

Before discussing Agapetus, however, you may like to see some interesting coincidences which possibly show that back then, the papacy was "all in the family". Pope Felix (483-492) was a great grandfather to Pope Gregory (590-604). Pope Gregory's father was named Giordanus, who was a Regionarius in the Roman Church. Since names tend to repeat in families, there is a possibility that these five men may have been related.

Agapetus has been labeled the "last survivor of the Symmachean old guard." He was orddained a deacon as early as 502, during the Laurentian schism. He was an archdeacon at the time he was consecrated pope, May 13, 535. Some say that his first official act was to burn, in the assembly of the clergy, the anathema which Pope Boniface II had pronounced against Dioscurus, his nemesis, on the false charge of simony. This document was to be in the Vatican archives, but he wanted it gone.

Vatican history has been in tandem with civil history for most of the Church's life. During the past hundred or so years, the Goths had ruled Italy. First Theodoric, then Athalaric, under the regency of his mother, Amalsuntha. When Athalaric died the year before, Amalsuntha ruled alone, then asked her cousin, Theodahad, to join the throne. This did not bode well for the queen, who was immediately thrown in prison and, shortly, assassinated. To make matters worse, the queen had already written to Byzantinian Emperor Justinian and his wife, Theodosia, suggesting that she move to Constantinople. When she was assassinated, Justinian saw this as a time to take back Italy. In consequence, he sent his general, Bellisurius, orders to invade the peninsula once he had secured Sicily.

Theodahad, sole king of Italy, at this point, begged Pope Agapetus to form a large embassy and go talk to Justinian. Obviously a man of prompt action, Agapetus, put up the sacred vessels of the church against the expenses of the trip and brought a large group with him, leaving in mid-winter and arriving in February of 536. Unfortunately, Justinian would not listen to him.

Agapetus turned the trip into an ecclesiastical trip when he found out that the seat of the Byzantinian patriarchate was filled by a monophysite. The empress, not particularly orthodox, had compelled Justinian to illegally seat her favorite, Anthimas I, rather than let him stay at his assigned episcopal see. No sooner had the pope arrived in Constantinople than several of the clergy charged Anthimas with intrusion and heresy. Agapetus ordered Anthimas to write a profession of faith and to return to his appointed See of Trebizond. The illegal patriarch refused, so Agapetus deposed him. Justinian, having gotten his nose out of joint, threatened to banish Agapetus. The pope's speech to the Emperor ended with "[you]...terrify me not".

Then, Agapetus personally consecrated the successor to the patriarchate, Mennas. Justinian, after some thought, gave Agapetus an extremely well worded, purely orthodox confession of faith. Agapetus accepted it and praised its content.

Within weeks, Agapetus took ill and died April 22, 536, having served that august office for only ten months. He was put in a lead casket and taken back to Rome for burial at St. Peter's.

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