JOHN III, called Catelinus, son of Anastasius, a noble Roman, was created pontiff on the 18th of July, 560. He allowed the appeal of Sagittarius, Bishop of Embrun, and of Salonius, Bishop of Gap, deposed from their bishoprics by the second Council of Lyons, and restored them to their dignity.
John confirmed the fifth general council, of which he showed himself the zealous defender. It is said that, on an occasion of his notice being directed to some crying usurpations upon the legitimate possessors of ecclesiastical property, he determined to put an end to those spoliations, and that he ordered that every usurper of such property should be mulcted in four times the value.
He finished the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles, which his predecessor, Pelagius I, had commenced as stated above and he consecrated it on the feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, erecting it into a cardinalate, or parochial district. In that church he had several historical subjects represented, partly in colors and partly in mosaic.
Pope John enlarged and repaired the cemeteries of the martyrs, and ordered that, for the sacrifice of the Mass celebrated in the catacombs, the Church of Saint John of Lateran should furnish the bread, the wine, and the lights.
In two ordinations, in the month of December, John created sixty-one bishops, thirty priests, and thirteen deacons. He governed the Church twelve years, eleven months, and twenty-six days. He died on the 13th of July, 573, after having seen, in the ninth year of his pontificate (A.D. 568), the commencement of the reign of the Lombards in Italy.
These Lombards, or Longobards, were thus called on account of their long beards, which they never shaved, and were a people of the Scandinavian peninsula, whom Narses, Justinian's general in Italy, having become a traitor to his sovereign, called in to sustain his revolt.
The first king of the Lombards, Alboin, established his capital at Pavia. Then the emperors of the East were compelled to govern what remained to them in the peninsula by captains, and to confide Ravenna to officers called exarchs. That state of things continued a hundred and eighty-four years.
John was buried at the Vatican. The Holy See remained vacant ten months and twenty days, for the reason already mentioned, and in consequence of the troubles which the Lombards instigated throughout Italy.
BENEDICT I A.D. 574-578
BENEDICT, or Bonosus, was a Roman, the son of Boniface; he was recognized as pope on the 3d of June, 574, and consoled Rome, afflicted by those two great scourges, famine and the Lombards. It was he who discovered Gregory (known as Gregory the Great) in a monastery, and made him a cardinal-deacon. After the example of his predecessors, Benedict confirmed the fifth general council. In one ordination, in the month of December, he created twenty bishops, fifteen priests, and three deacons. He governed the Church four years, one month, and twenty-eight days; died on the 3oth of July, 578, and was interred at the Vatican. The Holy See remained vacant four months.
PELAGIUS II A.D. 578-590
PELAGIUS II, Roman, a Benedictine monk, the son of Vinigild, a Goth, was created pontiff on the 30th of November, 578. This time the consent of the emperor was not awaited, as Rome was closely besieged by the Lombards.
This misfortune secured the right which otherwise might have been withheld. Besieged Rome was not defended by the exarch, the imperial lieutenant in Italy, who could scarcely defend himself in Ravenna. The loss of a pontiff, too, would have been insupportable to Rome. However, amid the vicissitudes of war, Pelagius was consecrated, a man distinguished for wisdom, moderation, and virtue. The Lombards had pillaged the abbey of Monte Cassino, and the monks were obliged to take refuge in Rome. To arrest the incursions of the barbarians, the pope gave plenary powers to Gregory, his apocrisiarius, or political agent, at Constantinople, who was then at the commencement of his clerical career and who afterwards became renowned as Saint Gregory the Great.
Pelagius, learning that France was in a sufficiently peaceful condition, wrote to the Bishop of Auxerre a letter in which, in the name of the Holy See, he deplored the ill treatment inflicted upon so many sufferers by the Lombards. This communication was joyously received by an eminently Catholic people, and it subsequently made a powerful impression upon Charles Martel, Pepin, and Charlemagne. Pelagius II, in that letter, recalled the fact that the French monarchs were bound to defend with all their might the religion which had procured them so many triumphs.
The metropolis of Aquileia was disturbed by the enemies of the Roman faith. Pelagius permitted the archbishop-elect to transfer the metropolis to Grado. Unfortunately, in a council of the year 587, held by that same archbishop elect, and at which there were present eighteen bishops, his suffragans, those prelates, having become schismatic, swore never to admit the fifth general council. They acted thus under pretence of not causing prejudice to the Council of Chalcedon.
Pelagius, hoping to soften their obstinacy, announced by his legates, and by his letters, that the three chapters were justly condemned, and that the Council of Chalcedon had not been offended by that condemnation. But the zeal of the pontiff was useless; and the exarch, residing at Ravenna, was then called upon to labor to bring back those erring bishops to their duty.
In his time there appeared an extraordinary plague, as sudden as it was violent. The patient frequently died while in the act of sneezing or yawning. Pelagius himself died of it on the 8th of February, A.D. 590. This pope was the first who, in the diplomas of his chancery, marked the time by the indictions that Constantine the Great had instituted on the 24th of September, A.D. 312. They form, as is well known, a course of fifteen years; when those years are ended, the indiction recommences.
In two ordinations, in December, Pelagius created forty-eight bishops, twenty-two priests, and eight deacons. He governed the Church twelve years, two months, and ten days. Very liberal towards the poor, and especially towards the aged, he assembled so many of them in his palaces that they resembled hospitals. Pelagius was interred in the Vatican.The Holy See remained vacant six months and twenty-five days.