Saint of the Day ~ May 18

SAINT JOHN I (?-526), pope and martyr

Today, the Church honors Saint John I, a successor of Saint Peter and bishop of Rome, who, during his papacy, inherited the Arian heresy which denied the Divinity of Christ, and who also was martyred for refusing to surrender himself to the lies and corruptions of this heresy.

Born in Tuscany in central Italy, presumably during the latter part of the fifth century, very little is known of Saint John’s early years. He served the Church as an archdeacon for several years before being elected as pope on August 13, 523.

Italy had been ruled for 30 years by King Theodoric who adopted and strongly espoused the Arian heresy. The same year that John I ascended to the papacy, Emperor Justin from Constantinople issued a severe decree against the Arians, compelling them, among other things, to surrender to the Catholics the churches which they occupied.

King Theodoric, incensed at the decree and keenly resenting the measures directed against his co-religionists, sent Pope John as head of a delegation to Constantinople in the year 525 to soften the emperor’s demands in hopes of reversing the edict. Pope John went to Constantinople, but it was not to comply with the king’s directives, for he could not accept the heresy which was corrupting the faith of many Christians in the West.

Instead, the success that Pope John achieved was completely contrary to the wishes of Theodoric. What resulted was the reception which Pope John received as the successor of Peter by the emperor and the bishops of the East, who affirmed their communion with him and his primacy as bishop of Rome. What was also notable was the fact that Pope John presided over the Easter Liturgy in Constantinople on April 19, 526. It was even noted that Emperor Justin prostrated himself at the pope’s feet.

When Pope John returned to Rome, Theodoric was furious with the outcome of the mission and had the pope imprisoned in Ravenna, Italy, where he died on May 18, 526 of thirst, starvation and ill treatment.

His body was taken to Rome where he now lies buried in the Basilica of Saint Peter.

We commemorate his feastday on May 18.

(From,,, and



(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint John I)

“God our Father, Rewarder of all who believe, hear our prayers as we celebrate the martyrdom of Pope John. Help us to follow him in loyalty to the faith.

“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

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