Pope John III (561-74)
Who was Pope John III?
Pope John III was of a distinguished family, being the son of one Anastasius who bore the title of illustris. The year of his birth is not recorded, but he was consecrated pope seemingly on 17 July, 561. Owing to the necessity of waiting for imperial confirmation of his election, an interval of five months elapsed between the death of Pelagius I and the consecration just noted. Although John reigned nearly thirteen years very little is known of his pontificate.
It fell during the stormy times of the Lombard invasion, and practically all the records of his reign have perished. He would seem, however, to have been a magnanimous pontiff, zealous for the welfare of the people. An inscription still to be seen in the fifteenth century testified that "in the midst of straits he knew how to be bountiful, and feared not to be crushed amidst a crumbling world". Two most unworthy bishops, Salonius of Embrun and Sagittarius of Gap, had been condemned in a synod at Lyons (c. 567).
They succeeded, however, in persuading Guntram, King of Burgundy, that they had been condemned unjustly, and appealed to the pope. Influenced by the king's letters, John decided that they must be restored to their sees. It is to be regretted that the papal mandate was put into effect. The most important of the acts of this pope were those connected with the great general, Narses. Unfortunately the "Liber Pontificalis" is enigmatic regarding them. By feminine intrigue at the court of Constantinople, a charge of treason was trumped up against the general, and, in consequence, the only man capable of resisting the barbarians was recalled.
It is quite possible that Narses may then have invited the Lombards to fall upon Italy; but it is perhaps more probable that, hearing of his recall, they invaded the country. Knowing that Narses was the hope of Italy, John followed him to Naples, and implored him not to go to Constantinople. The general hearkened to the voice of the pope, and returned with him to Rome (571). But seemingly the court party in the city was too strong for Narses and the pope. John retired to the catacomb of Prætextatus, where he remained for many months.
He even held ordinations there. On the death of Narses (c. 572), John returned to the Lateran Palace. His sojourn in the catacombs gave him a great interest in them. He put them in repair, and ordered that the necessaries for Mass should be sent to them from the Lateran. John died 13 July, 574, and was buried in St. Peter's.
- Catholic Encyclopedia