Saint John I’s Story
Pope John I inherited the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ. Italy had been ruled for 30 years by an emperor who espoused the heresy, though he treated the empire’s Catholics with toleration. His policy changed at about the time the young John was elected pope.
When the eastern emperor began imposing severe measures on the Arians of his area, the western emperor forced John to head a delegation to the East to soften the measures against the heretics. Little is known of the manner or outcome of the negotiations—designed to secure continued toleration of Catholics in the West.
On his way home, John was imprisoned at Ravenna because the emperor had begun to suspect that John’s friendship with his eastern rival might lead to a conspiracy against his throne. Shortly after his imprisonment, John died, apparently from the treatment he received in prison.
John’s body was transported to Rome and he was buried in the Basilica of St. Peter.
We cannot choose the issues for which we have to suffer and perhaps die. John I suffered because of a power-conscious emperor. Jesus suffered because of the suspicions of those who were threatened by his freedom, openness, and powerlessness. “If you find that the world hates you, know it has hated me before you” (John 15:18).