Popes in a Year
#72 - Pope John IV
Pope from December 24, 640 - October 12, 642 A.D.
Died: October 12, 642 A.D.
Give me the scoop on John IV.
John was a Dalmatian by birth, born in the region bordering the Mediterranean Sea in modern-day Croatia. No word on whether he had a spotted pet as a child.
John was serving as an archdeacon in Rome at the time of his election. After a four-month vacancy following Severinus’ death, John IV gave the Church an early Christmas present, taking office on December 24, 640. His early days as pope focused on his native land, which had been under siege by the Slavs of late. True to his call to care for the flock, John sent Martin, an abbot, to the region with ransom money to free captives, and also to collect relics of Dalmatian saints there. He had an oratory built in their honor next to the Lateran Basilica, which still stands today. John IV died October 12, 642 and was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.
What was he known for?
The best-known act of John IV’s short pontificate was his unequivocal denouncement of the heresy of Monothelitism. You’ll remember, this was the heresy that got Pope Honorius I in deep doo-doo, not by an endorsement but instead by his muddling of key distinctions regarding Christ’s divine and human wills. The heresy itself claimed that Christ had but one will, and was endorsed at the time by the emperor, Heraclius.
At a council convened by John IV, he minced precisely zero words in condemning the heresy and wagged a papal finger at Heraclius for promoting it. Surprisingly, the emperor recanted his belief in the faulty teaching with no resistance. To boot, John IV did Honorius a posthumous solid by apologizing on his behalf, and clarifying that Honorius merely meant to condemn the belief that Christ had two
The date of John IV’s death, October 12, happened to be the same one on which Pope Honorius I died, just four years prior.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In 641, the only full year of John IV’s papacy, the Byzantine Empire went through four emperors. Heraclius died of dropsy in February after reigning for three decades. His son, Constantine III died four months later -- probably a victim of poison -- and was succeeded by Heraclius’ other son, Heraklonas. Finally, after the Byzantine Senate turned against him, Heraklonas was mutilated and exiled, vacating the throne to be filled by his nephew, Constans II, who was then just 10 years old.
Coming tomorrow....Pope Theodore I
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope John IV -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Tuesday, April 11 at 2:00AM