Conon - Old And Failing

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Mosaic of CononAfter John's death, trouble brewed in Rome. The army pushed forward, as their candidate for the papacy, Peter the archpriest, while the clergy favored the priest Theodore. Matters looked bad for a while. The army held the gates of the Lateran Basilica, and there was danger of a double election. Fortunately, however, after some negotiations, clergy and army agreed on a compromise candidate, the excellent priest Conon. A strikingly venerable old gentleman, Conon was just the man to pacify the spirit of faction. He was very old, he was kind, he enjoyed an excellent reputation.

Conon was the son of a soldier. He had been educated in Sicily but had come to Rome and had been ordained priest there. He enjoyed excellent relations with the new Emperor Justinian II. There was no indication of the trouble this unworthy son of a great father was to give. Conon received a letter from the Emperor which informed the Pope that the original acts of the Sixth Ecumenical Council had been recovered and that the Emperor, after making all high ecclesiastical, civil, and military officials sign them, had taken measures for their preservation. The Emperor also showed his good will toward the papacy by lowering some of the taxes on the patrimony.

Pope Conon seems to have been influenced by schemers, for he appointed as manager of the Sicilian estates of the patrimony a character named Constantine. Apparently this was against the advice of the Roman counselors of the pope. It would have been well had Conon taken his counselors' advice. Constantine by his extortions soon had the Sicilian papal estates in an uproar. The governor had to intervene and clap Constantine into prison.

More consoling were the Pope's dealings with the great Irish missionary St. Killian. Ireland at this time was at the peak of its prestige as a country of saints and scholars. Irish monks swarmed over Europe, bringing Christ to thousands. A group of these pilgrims for Christ led by Sts. Killian and Colman had visited Wurzburg on the Main River in Franconia. Much taken by the beauty of the countryside and the fine character of the Germans, St. Killian determined to go to Rome to see Pope John and secure from him an apostolic commission to preach the gospel to the Germans. When the zealous Gaels reached Rome, John was dead; but Conon received them most kindly. He ordained Killian bishop and sent him to preach Christ to his beloved Germans.

Conon, very old when elected, was soon so sick he could hardly go through with the usual ordinations. He died in September 687 and was buried in St. Peter's.

Excerpted from "Popes Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.

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