Pope Sixtus II or Pope Saint Sixtus II (a corruption of Greek Ξυστος, Xystus, "polished") was Pope from August 30, 257 to August 6, 258. He died as a martyr during the persecution by Emperor Valerian.
According to the Liber Pontificalis, he was Greek by birth; however this is uncertain and disputed by modern western historians arguing that the authors of Liber Pontificalis confused him with that of the contemporary author Xystus who was Greek student of Pythagoreanism. He restored the relations with the African and Eastern Orthodox churches which had been broken off by his predecessor on the question of heretical baptism (see Novatianism).
In the persecutions under Emperor Valerian I in 258, numerous bishops, priests, and deacons were put to death. Pope Sixtus II was one of the first victims of this persecution, being beheaded on August 6. He was martyred along with six deacons—Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, Stephanus, Felicissimus and Agapitus .
He is thought to be the author of the pseudo-Cyprianic writing Ad Novatianum, though this view has not found general acceptance. Another composition written at Rome, between 253 and 258, is generally agreed to be his.
It is this Sixtus who is referred to by name in the Roman Canon of the Mass. He and his companion-martyrs are commemorated with an optional memorial on August 7.
The following inscription honoring was placed on his tomb in the catacomb of Callixtus by Pope Damasus I:
At the time when the sword pierced the bowels of the Mother, I, buried here, taught as Pastor the Word of God; when suddenly the soldiers rushed in and dragged me from the chair. The faithful offered their necks to the sword, but as soon as the Pastor saw the ones who wished to rob him of the palm (of martyrdom) he was the first to offer himself and his own head, not tolerating that the (pagan) frenzy should harm the others. Christ, who gives recompense, made manifest the Pastor's merit, preserving unharmed the flock.
Footnotes and references
Peter · Linus · Anacletus · Clement I · Evaristus · Alexander I · Sixtus I · Telesphorus · Hyginus · Pius I · Anicetus · Soter · Eleuterus · Victor I · Zephyrinus · Callixtus I · Urban I · Pontian · Anterus · Fabian · Cornelius · Lucius I · Stephen I · Sixtus II · Dionysius · Felix I · Eutychian · Caius · Marcellinus · Marcellus I · Eusebius · Miltiades · Sylvester I · Mark · Julius I · Liberius · Damasus I · Siricius · Anastasius I
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