Friday, 20 June 2008

Feast of Pope St Silverius

Today is the feast day of St Silverius, who died of starvation in exile, probably in late 537, the victim of murky Byzantine politics in the form of the monophysite Empress Theodora, wife of Justinian.

Pope Silverius' predecessor, Agapetus, had stood up to Justinian, and deposed the monophysite Patriarch of Constantinople. On his death however Theodora demanded that the new Pope, Silverius, reinstate him. St Silverius refused, and with the connivance of the deacon Vigilius who had accepted a large bribe from Theodora, Pope Silverius was captured by Belisarius and imprisoned. The exact date of his death is unknown.

The postscript to the story is a positive one: Vigilius, on becoming Pope with the aid of Eastern help, seems to have repented of his previous behaviour and, despite previous promises made to Theodora, refused to endorse monophysitism.

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