Sabinian - Little Known Or Loved

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Very little is known of Sabinian's early life except that he was born in the town of Blera not far from Viterbo in Tuscany, and that his father's name was Bonus.

In 593 Sabinian was in the Pope's service, for in that year Gregory the Great sent him as an apocrisarius (ambassador) to the imperial court. In Constantinople Sabinian had to deal with the ambition of the patriarch with the Lenten name, John the Faster. John may have fasted from food, but he had a taste for titles. He liked to call himself "Ecumenical Bishop," i.e., universal bishop. Since this high-sounding title seemed to imply a claim to universal jurisdiction in the Church, Pope Gregory, of course, could not allow it, and there was some spirited correspondence between Rome and Constantinople. Sabinian seems to have had trouble handling John the Faster and probably welcomed being recalled in 597. The next thing known about him is his election to succeed Gregory as Pope in 604 Sabinian's pontificate was as difficult as it was short. The Lombards once more took the warpath though fortunately the exarch Smaragdus was able to buy them off before too much damage was done. But what the Lombards spared, the forces of nature destroyed. The winter of 604-605 was extremely severe. Frost devastated the Italian vineyards, and following the frost came swarms of mice, and following the voracious rodents came a disease called rust which played havoc with the corn crop. Sabinian had his hands full trying to play Joseph's role by collecting wheat, first to provide against the menace of a Lombard siege, then to sell to the famine-stricken people.

Sabinian consecrated twenty-six bishops and gave gifts to St. Peter's. Outside of this we know nothing for certain except that he died in February 606 and was buried on the Vatican.

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

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