Pope Martin I had been a lector and deacon in his youth. He was elected pope in 649 when a heresy called Monothelitism was causing confusion in the Church. This doctrine held that there was one nature in Christ—the divine nature—and that Christ had only one will. It therefore denied that Christ was like us in all things but sin and so denied our redemption. Because this group was slowly splitting the Eastern Empire, many eastern Catholics attempted to compromise. In an edict called the Typos, Emperor Constans II practically accepted the heretical doctrine by forbidding discussion of the matter. Pope Martin called a council at the Lateran. One hundred five bishops attended the council, which condemned Typos and published an explanation of the doctrine of the two natures in Christ. The council emphasized that the emperor had been misguided by his advisors.
The council angered the emperor, who had Martin arrested and taken on a long, difficult voyage from Rome to Constantinople. The pope was given little food, was forbidden for 47 days to wash, and was denied all help. When Martin arrived in Constantinople, he was insulted by the people and accused in an unjust trial, not for defending the faith but for being a traitor. Publicly, the emperor had Martin stripped of his episcopal robes, which were ripped from top to bottom. Then Martin was condemned to death. The Church elected a new pope. Martin, exiled and neglected, wrote that he prayed for the safety of the faithful in Rome and especially for their new pastor. The pope wrote to a friend that he had been abandoned by all, even by the Church in Rome. The verdict of death was changed when the repentant, dying patriarch of Constantinople interceded for Martin. Martin was then exiled to Crimea, where he died forgotten.
Have the students list the pope’s responsibilities and write essays on what they believe is his most important witness to Christ.
Martin I was the last pope venerated as a martyr. Discuss how Christians can be martyrs now.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: Pope Martin I by unknown artist, unknown date. Public Domain via Wikimedia.