January 10th - St. Agatho, Pope (RM)
Born in Sicily (Palermo?); died January 10, 681. Saint Agatho had been
married for 20 years and become financially successful when he decided to
enter Saint Hermes Monastery in Palermo. (He may be the Agatho referred to
in the letter from Saint Gregory the Great authorizing the abbot to accept
him if his wife entered a convent. If this were so, he would have been a
very old man when he ascended to the Chair of Peter.)
Agatho, an amiable man, succeeded Donus as pope on June 27, 678. It appears
that he was also efficient in business matters because he maintained the
accounting records in his own hand, contrary to custom.
In the dispute discussed in yesterday's notice on Saint Berhtwald, in 679,
Agatho heard the grievance of Bishop Saint Wilfrid of York against Bishop
Saint Theodore of Canterbury. This is the first known appeal of an English
bishop to Rome occasioned by Theodore's action as metropolitan to divide the
see of York into four and depose Wilfrid. Seeking a compromise, Agatho
decided that the see would remain divided but that Wilfrid should appoint
the bishops to the three new sees. It seems that this was not the final
decision in the matter.
The most important event of Agatho's pontificate was the Council of
Constantinople (November 680 to September 681), to which Agatho sent legates
with a letter that condemned the Monothelite heresy (Christ had only one
will) and expounded traditional Catholic belief of two wills in Christ-one
divine, one human. Most bishops at the council, led by Patriarch George of
Constantinople, accepted, saying, "Peter has spoken by Agatho." The
Monothelite heresy was condemned and Constantinople was reunited to Rome. By
the time the decrees of the sixth general council had reached Rome, Agatho
had died (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).
In art Pope Saint Agatho wears a tiara and holds a long cross. He is
venerated at York, England, and Palermo, Italy (Roeder).