This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20 -- Feast of Pope Saint Siverius

Order from Weird Coast T-shirts
If Eazy-E, Ice-T and Big Daddy Kane had been alive during the sixth century, they would have told you that Popin' Ain't Easy. 

Siverius seems to have been a victim of the St. Peter Principle, the rule that says priests tend to rise to their level of incompetence.  Certainly, Siverius was promoted way beyond his competence level and he paid dearly for it.

His dad was Pope Saint Hormisdas (August 6), who had a good nine-year run on Saint Peter's Chair.  There was no scandal about the Holy Father having a son -- he received holy orders after his wife died and his son was grown.  He rose quickly, served faithfully, and was by all accounts a capable pope.  But times were somewhat tumultuous; there were six popes in the fourteen years following his papacy, ending with the very brief pontificate of his son, Silverius.

Dover Plains, New York
The Byzantine Empire and the Ostrogothic kingdom were fighting for control of Italy at the time.  King Theodahad of the Ostrogoths used his clout to get Siverius elected pope, jumping over all the deacons in Rome as well as cardinals throughout the rest of Italy.  He probably figured that an inexperienced priest would be less likely to throw in with the Byzantines, or at least be easier to intimidate.

Don't give that key to the Goths
Belisarius, general of the Byzantines, showed up with an army about three months into Siverius' papacy.  The Pope wisely opened the gates of the City and welcomed the General, who promptly set up imperial administration there.  One of those quarrels over heterodoxy had driven a wedge between Rome and Constantinople: the Patriarch Anthimus had been deposed by Silverius' predecessor for adhering to the Monophysite heresy.  Empress Theodora sheltered Anthimus and plotted to get his job back for him.  So when a deacon named Vigilius showed up in Constantinople to smooth over relations, she worked to turn him.

Vigilius, now an agent of the Empress, followed Belisarius back to Rome.  He told the General that the Pope was secretly conspiring to hand the City over to the Goths.  Belisarius dismissed the report, but Vigilius trotted out witnesses.  I'm not the official judge of Eighth Commandment violations (or Ninth, depending on your version),  but even I can see that these folks have a long stay in Purgatory.

Should have stayed in Patara
Belisarius summoned Silverius, stripped him of his official robes, handed him a monk's robe, and sent him into exile in Patara.  Vigilius was then elected pope, a job he would hold for the next eighteen years.  A wiser, more experienced man than Silverius might have reconciled himself to bee-keeping or grape-crushing.  Humility is a virtue, and all that.  But I imagine it is hard to sleep in a monastic cell once you've slept in the papal apartment.  The Bishop of Patara petitioned Emperor Justinian for a fair trial.  The Emperor ordered an investigation into Vigilius' forgery and perjury.  Silverius got on a boat headed for Rome, but he never got there.  

Many unkind things been written about Justinian and Theodora.  This incident, if accurately told, supports the general view of them.  Without Justinian's knowledge, Theodora dispatched a ship to intercept Silverius' boat.  He was taken immediately to the island of Palmarola (in the Pontine Islands, near Ponza) and held in captivity until he starved to death. 

The festival of San Silverio is held on Ponza every year.  If you can't make it this year, perhaps you can attend the festival in Dover Plains, NY (near Poughkeepsie) on Sunday, June 24.  There will be a marching band, raffles, games, and food.  And Big Daddy Kane might even come by to perform "Popin' Ain't Easy." 

No comments:

Post a Comment