Theodore I - The Gathering Storm

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Theodore, a Greek from Jerusalem, was elected to succeed John IV. He was consecrated on November 24, 642. He proved to be a father to the poor and a zealous caretaker of the churches in Rome.

Once more the story of a pope's life is taken up with the One Will heresy. Once more a supreme pontiff has to cope with an imperial meddler. Theodore did not shirk the difficulties he faced. He fought continually to bring back all to Christian unity. And he was kept busy. Letters poured in from Cyprus and from Africa to ask the Pope's protection against heresy. At Constantinople the patriarch Pyrrhus had been deposed and replaced by Paul. The Pope insisted that Pyrrhus should have a fair trial.

A great consolation was afforded Pope Theodore when the Abbot Maximus, a hard-working champion of the Catholic faith, brought to Rome none other than the deposed patriarch of Constantinople, Pyrrhus. In 645 Pyrrhus recanted his errors before the Pope, but later he seems to have relapsed.

Meanwhile a new storm had been gathering in the palaces of Constantinople. The patriarch Paul, though enraged at Pope Theodore's insistence on a fair trial for Pyrrhus, was no fanatical Monothelite. Like many Byzantine statesmen of the period, he wanted to restore a sense of union and solidarity in the shaken empire. Together with the energetic but unfeeling Emperor Constans II the Patriarch concocted a new formula, the Type of constans. This Type pretended to teach no doctrine, whether orthodox or heretical; it merely forbade any more discussion on the whole matter of the will of Christ. Christian teachers could not allow the Emperor to stop their mouths on a question of faith, and so the stage was set for a tragedy in which Constans played the villain and the pope the hero, but it was not to be Pope Theodore. Theodore's reply to the Type was to declare the patriarch Paul deposed, an act which caused violent repercussions in Constantinople. Theodore died in May 649. His successor was to feel the full force of the imperial wrath.

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

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