John became pope in 523 at a time when the Arian heresy was still troubling the Church. To stamp out this heresy, Justin, the emperor of Constantinople, began to oppress the Arians. In 526, the Arian king Theodoric urged Pope John I to restrain Emperor Justin.
The pope was able to moderate Justin’s zeal. But Theodoric was angry with the pope, whom he unjustly suspected of favoring the political power of Rome. When the pope returned from Constantinople, he was arrested and imprisoned. Deprived of necessities, he died soon after. We honor John I as a pope and a martyr.
The Church has had a long, unbroken line of popes. Direct the class to look up the list of the popes and answer these questions:
How many popes has the Church had? (Francis is number 266.)
How many popes are honored with the title of saint, blessed, or venerable? (85)
Who was the first pope? (Saint Peter) Who is pope today? (Pope Francis, who is the first Jesuit pope.)
Which pope reigned the longest? (Saint Peter)
Which three names have been chosen most frequently by popes? (John, 23 popes; Gregory, 16 popes; Benedict, 16 popes)
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: Pope John I by Artaud de Montor, Alexis Francois, 1911. Public Domain via Wikimedia.