John IX, Pope

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Pontificate: December 897 or January 898 to JanuaryApril 900. John, a Roman who was a Benedictine monk and was ordained priest by Pope formosus, was elected pope despite strong opposition from a rival candidate, Sergius, bishop of Caere (later Pope sergius iii), who was a leader of the party opposed to Pope Formosus. John enjoyed the support of Emperor lambert of spo leto in this disputed election. As pope, John's chief concern was to continue the effort begun by his predecessor, Pope theodore, aimed at ending the strife that had dominated Rome since the trial of Pope Formosus in 897. The issues causing that strife were addressed in two councils held at Rome and at Ravenna in 898; Lambert of Spoleto, who had been crowned emperor by Formosus, lent his support to this effort. The acts of the council that had tried Formosus' corpse were nullified. Provisions were made for pardoning all those who had acted against Formosus except Sergius and his close followers, who were deposed and excommunicated. All of Formosus' acts, including his ordinations, were declared valid with the exception of his coronation of Arnulf of Germany as emperor; however, his coronation of Lambert was validated. The prohibition of transfer of bishops from one see to another was confirmed. In an effort to regularize papal elections the provisions of the Constituto Romana of 824 agreed upon between Pope eugenius ii and Emperor Lothair I were reaffirmed. This agreement provided that the pope was to be elected by cardinal bishops and clergy meeting in the presence of the Senate and the people, but required that the consecration of a newly elected pope must be held in the presence of an imperial legate. Also reconfirmed were the provisions of the Constituto Romana defining the rights and responsibilities of both pope and emperor in the governance of the Papal State in terms that guaranteed the territorial integrity and limited autonomy of the Papal State while reserving to the emperor the right to intervene in the internal affairs of the Papal State in the interests of keeping order. In effect, in order to gain an effective protector for the Papal State, John IX was willing to turn back the clock by accepting an arrangement that many of his predecessors had resisted.

John's concerns reached beyond affairs in the Papal State and Italy. His legates played a decisive role in a council in Constantinople in 899 that worked out solutions to the final, unsettled issues involved in the longstanding quarrel centering on Patriarch photius. It also allowed a reconciliation not only between Rome and Constantinople but among the factions in the East that emerged from the Photian affair. In an effort to repair the damage done to the missionary establishment of Methodius in Moravia by rival German clergymen seeking to dominate that land, John IX responded favorably to a request from the Moravian ruler to create an independent church organization for Moravia. He was called upon to adjudicate a disputed episcopal election in the West Frankish kingdom.

But these actions paled in the face of the crisis emerging in Italy. John's hope of having found a reliable protector disappeared suddenly with the death of Lambert in 898. Italy suffered increasing chaos involving several factors: rivalry of powerful princes, especially Berengar of Friuli and Louis of Provence, for the kingship of Italy and the imperial title; Magyar invasions of the north; Greek and Saracen incursions in the south; the efforts of local potentates unrestrained by any higher authority to carve out private lordships. Soon after the death of John IX partisan strife again took center stage, creating an opportunity for a Roman official, Theophylactus, and his family to seize control of the papal office and the Papal State.

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[r. e. sullivan]

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John IX, Pope

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