Popes in a Year
#73 - Pope Theodore I
Pope from November 24, 642 - May 14, 649 A.D.
Died: May 14, 649 A.D.
Give me the scoop on Theodore I.
Theodore’s father had been a bishop and was a native of Jerusalem, but Theodore himself was born Greek. The vacancy after John IV's was short, since papal elections were now confirmed by the Exarch (the emperor’s representative) in Ravenna instead of having to come all the way from Constantinople.
Theodore took office on November 24, 642, and immediately inherited a rather tenuous situation. John IV’s condemnation of Monothelitism (that Christ had only one will) had stirred up further trouble in the Byzantine capital, where the emperor was trying to both keep the surging Islamic army at bay and not alienate his already skeptical citizenry by trying to compromise. It’s safe to say this battle with heresy occupied Theodore’s entire papacy. He was a charitable pope, having given generously both to the poor and to further beautify churches in Rome. Theodore died May 14, 649 and was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica. He’s recognized as a saint in the Orthodox Church, where his feast is celebrated May 18.
What was he known for?
Theodore’s identifying actions involved spats with two patriarchs in Constantinople. When Pyrrhus, a Monothelite and sitting patriarch, was deposed and kicked out of the city for political reasons, Theodore wrote the emperor, Constans II, saying that the new patriarch, Paul, could not be formally recognized by Rome until Pyrrhus’ deposition was made legal. Not only that, but Theodore exhorted the emperor to renounce the Monothelite heresy, for which he got many atta-boys from his brother bishops in Cyprus, Palestine, and Africa.
Where it gets really juicy is when Pyrrhus first approached to the pope -- in 645 -- and recanted his heretical beliefs. Theodore was pleased to welcome Pyrrhus back into the fold, naturally. But not long after, when Theodore was near death, Pyrrhus suddenly changed course and relapsed into his old heresy. Filled with rage, Theodore not only excommunicated Pyrrhus in the presence of gathered clergy, he also charged down into the tomb of St. Peter,
dipped his pen in a consecrated chalice
, then signed the official “act of anathema.” Too far, Ted. It was said to be his only act of “untoward violence” in an otherwise peaceful reign.
Pope Theodore I worked with the great saint, Maximus the Confessor, in helping resolve disputes of faith in Africa during his papacy. Though the West was mostly orthodox, and the East “heavily infected with heresy,” Africa was still very much up for grabs in terms of orthodox belief. It was Maximus, a monk, who led the orthodox party, seeing much success, including the surprising (albeit short-lived) conversion of Pyrrhus, the former patriarch.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
The “Giant Wild Goose Pagoda,” (yes, that's its real name) a Buddhist temple in China, was first erected around the year 645. It’s
a sight to behold
, and still stands today in modified form.
Coming tomorrow....Pope St. Martin I
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope Theodore I -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Wednesday, April 12 at 2:00AM