Feast Day : January 10
Agatho was born in Sicily, probably in Palermo. He had been married for 20 years and had become financially successful when he decided to join the Benedictine monastery of St. Hermes in Palermo. He is thought to be the Agatho whom Pope St. Gregory I (Gregory the Great, r. 590–604) authorized to join the monastery if his wife became a nun. In that case, he would have been more than 100 years old when he was elected bishop of Rome to succeed Pope Dounus (r. 676–678) on June 27, 678. Agatho was renowned for his affability and charity. His life experience also made him an unusually good business man, and he maintained the Vatican’s accounting books himself, contrary to custom. Shortly after Agatho’s election, Wilfrid, bishop of York, who had been dismissed from his see, appealed to Agatho, who ordered him reinstated. He also dispatched an envoy to teach the Britons about chanting and to report to him on the state of the English Church. However, the signal event of Agatho’s pontificate was the Sixth Ecumenical Council, held in Constantinople in 680. Although he was unable to attend, he sent emissaries who read a letter from him condemning Monothelitism, a heresy that held that Christ possessed a single, divine nature rather than a double, divine and human, nature. Monothelitism had at one time divided the Eastern and Western Church, but the council accepted Agatho’s definitions, Patriarch George of Constantinople proclaiming: “Peter has spoken by Agatho.” By the time the council’s decrees reached Rome, however, Agatho had died. He died during a plague on January 10, 681, and was buried in St. Peter’s at the Vatican. The many miracles thereafter received through his intercession led to his being called Thaumaturgus (Wonderworker). He is venerated in the Greek Orthodox as well as the Roman Catholic Church. His memory is celebrated especially at York, England, and Palermo, Italy. In art, Agatho is shown wearing a tiara and holding a long cross.