Pope Vigilius

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Pope Vigilius (died June 7, 555) reigned as pope from 537 to 555, the first pope of the Byzantine Papacy.


Early life

He belonged to a distinguished Roman family; his father Johannes is identified as a consul in the Liber pontificalis,[1] having received that title from the emperor. Reparatus, a brother of Vigilius, was a senator.[2]

Vigilius entered the service of the Roman Church and was ordained a deacon in 531, in which year the Roman clergy agreed to a decree empowering the pope to determine the succession to the Papal See (something theologians now consider impossible/invalid).[3] Vigilius was chosen by Pope Boniface II as his successor, and presented to the clergy assembled in St. Peter's Basilica. The opposition to such a procedure led Boniface in the following year to withdraw his designation of a successor and to burn the decree respecting it.


The second successor of Boniface, Pope Agapetus I (535–536), appointed Vigilius papal representative (apocrisiary) at Constantinople; Vigilius thus came to the Eastern capital. Empress Theodora sought to win him as a confederate, to revenge the deposition of the Monophysite Patriarch Anthimus I of Constantinople by Agapetus and also to gain aid for her efforts in behalf of the Monophysites. Vigilius is said to have agreed to the plans of the intriguing empress who promised him the Papal See and a large sum of money (700 pounds of gold).

Selection as pope

After Agapetus's death on April 22, 536, Vigilius returned to Rome equipped with letters from the imperial Court and with money. Meanwhile Pope Silverius had been made pope through the influence of the King of the Goths. Soon after this the Byzantine commander Belisarius garrisoned the city of Rome, which was, however, besieged again by the Goths. Vigilius gave Belisarius the letters from the Court of Constantinople, which recommended Vigilius himself for the Papal See. False accusations now led Belisarius to depose Silverius. Owing to the pressure exerted by the Byzantine commander, Vigilius was elected pope in place of Silverius and was consecrated and enthroned on March 29, 537.

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