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CONSTANTINE

708 - 715 AD

Constantine, like Sisinnius, was a Syrian. He was a mild, amiable man.

Felix, archbishop of Ravenna, refused to sign their customary act of submission to the Pope. Terrible punishment followed swiftly, not from the good-natured Pope, but from the grim Justinian. The Emperor ordered Ravenna to be sacked because some of its citizens had taken part in the rebellion of 695. Archbishop Felix had his eyes torn out, and he was driven into exile. After the murder of Justinian in 711, Felix was allowed to return. He then submitted to the Pope.

Consolation came from England when Coenred, king of Mercia, abdicated and entered a Roman monastery. Even more impressive was it when Offa, the beautiful young prince of Essex, left throne and wealth to serve Christ in the monastic habit.

Constantine received an invitation from Justinian II to visit him at Constantinople to settle the question of the Quinisext or Trullan Council decrees. The Pope, with visions of eyeless bishops and tortured victims, might well have trembled at this invitation, but if he did fear, he was most agreeably surprised. The Emperor received him with the highest honor. The people of Constantinople joyously greeted the Pope at the seventh milestone. Justinian received Holy Communion from the Pope and promised to renew all the privileges of the Church. Then Constantine and the Emperor went into consultation on the vexed problem of Justinian's pet project, the Quinisext Council. Constantine seems to have done what John VII feared to do, to have approved whatsoever in the canons of this council did not oppose, faith, morals, or the decrees of the Roman Church. Justinian appears to have been satisfied with this. At any rate, Pope Constantine returned safely, complete with eyes, on October 24, 711.

The Pope soon learned that Justinian had been murdered. He had reason to regret the loss of the slit-nosed one, for the next emperor, Philippicus, was a Monothelite. He decided to wipe out the Sixth Ecumenical Council and make the One-Will heresy the official religion of the empire. A council of Eastern bishops obediently went into heresy at the imperial nod. They repudiated the Sixth Ecumenical Council and adopted the Monothelite heresy. The Pope's answer was to have a series of pictures painted in the portico of St. Peter's showing the six ecumenical councils. The Romans refused to place the heretic Emperor's name or image on their coins. Imperial troops carried the answer of Philippicus and blood flowed. The Pope, however, quieted the struggle and his patience was rewarded. It was the usurper's turn to be deposed and have his eyes put out. Anastasius II who took the throne was orthodox, and the Monothelite heresy at last sinks into a memory.

Constantine died and was buried in St. Peter's on April 9, 715.


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