John II, Pope
JOHN II, POPE
Pontificate: Dec. 31, 532 to May 8, 535. The death of Pope boniface ii was followed by a vacancy in the papacy of two months, during which attempts were made by all aspirants to bribe their way into the papacy. When the elderly Roman priest Mercurius was finally elected, he took the name of John II. He considered it inappropriate to keep Mercury, the name of a pagan deity, and thus became the first pope to change his name. He obtained from the Gothic king Athalaric confirmation of the decree of the Roman Senate banning simony in papal elections. This is the last known senatus consultum of that body and had been enacted a few years earlier. The king ordered it to be engraved on marble and set up in the atrium of St. Peter's. He added a provision that if a disputed election had to be referred for arbitration to Ravenna, the Roman clergy and the people were to be fined 3, 000 solidi, and the amount would be given to the poor.
In a dogmatic decree defining the faith of Chalcedon, published in 533 after a religious conference in Constantinople, the emperor justinian i incorporated the theopaschite formula favored by the Scythian monks, which he had already inserted in the profession of faith found at the beginning of his great code (528). The "sleepless" monks of Constantinople (Acoemeti), the chief opponents among the orthodox to use the formula, felt themselves threatened by the emperor's acts and appealed to the pope. Justinian dispatched his edict to the pope, the Senate, and the Roman people, requesting that the pope approve the formula and condemn the recalcitrant monks, even though Pope Hosmisdas had rejected the formula.
John II attempted to persuade the monks to abandon their opposition, but when this failed, he excommunicated them as Nestorians (March 24, 534). He wrote to the emperor informing him of the fact, and sanctioned use of the formula. The emperor's letter to the pope, Reddentes honorem (June 6, 533), was incorporated in the Code of Justinian together with the pope's reply. It contained remarkably deferential language with respect to the Apostolic See, acknowledged as "the head of all the Churches." The emperor was anxious to inform them of "all that concerns the state of the Church." He referred to "the authority of your see, " which he claimed that he was eager to increase, and he praised Rome as the center of unity and criterion of orthodoxy. These comments were not incompatible with the looser view of the Roman primacy entertained at Byzantium and generally in the East, as subsequent events demonstrated. John II was in correspondence with St. caesarius of arles regarding Bp. Contumeliosus of Riez in Provence, who was accused of various crimes. The pope ordered him to be confined in a monastery. Pope John was buried in the portico of St. Peter's. Four of his letters are extant.
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