Feast Day : April 22 (formerly September 20)
Agapetus was the son of a priest named Gordianus who was killed in riots during the reign of Pope St. Symmachus. He was archdeacon of the Roman clergy when he was elected to succeed Pope St. Felix IV in the Chair of St. Peter on May 13, 535. Agapetus confirmed decrees barring converts from Arianism from becoming priests, and requiring those already ordained to serve in lay capacities only. However, he is remembered primarily for a trip he took to Constantinople at the behest of Queen Amalasuntha of the Goths. The Byzantine Belisarius, having taken Sicily, was preparing to mount an offensive on Italy, and Amalasuntha hoped that a personal appeal from Agapetus would change the mind of Emperor Justinian. He arrived in Constantinople to discover that the new patriarch, Anthinus, was an adherent of the Monophysite heresy, then very strong in Byzantium. Anthinus had been appointed by Justinian at the advice of Queen Theodora. When Agapetus ordered Anthinus to make a written profession of his faith, he refused. Justinian at first threatened to banish the pope, but then, convinced of Anthinus’s heresy, he relented, and not only allowed Agapetus to dismiss Anthinus, but also permitted him (for the first time in the history of the Church) to consecrate his successor, Mennas. Agapatus was not able to dissuade Justinian from his designs on Italy, however. While still in Constantinople, he fell ill and died on April 22, 536. His relics were translated to Rome in a leaden coffin on September 20 and interred in St. Peter’s basilica in the Vatican. Like many other saints of the period, he owes his cultus to the devotion of Pope St. Gregory I (Gregory the Great, r. 590–604). He is venerated in both the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. His name appears in the Roman Martyrology.