08. Pope St Peter
13 October 64 A.D.
As the First Pope of the Universal Church, and incumbent leader of all Christians during the great persecution of the then Emperor Nero, Peter became the ire of the latter who despised Christians, blaming them for the Great Fire in Rome earlier. Nero ordered his arrest but Peter escaped, upon which he saw a vision of Jesus which inspired him to return and pay the cost of being a disciple; martyrdom. He was crucified upside down per his request, imitating the death of Christ. Peter was the first Pope to be killed, his remains were buried under the future site of St Peter’s Basilica and are kept in a small box today in Rome for veneration.
St Peter the Apostle, pray for us !
07. Pope St Clement I
It is said that St Clement worked a miracle to save his fellow workers at a quarry where he was sent to work after being banished from Rome. These people were suffering from dehydration. Upon praying the saint saw a lamb on a hill, he took a pickaxe and hit the ground where the lamb stood and water came gushing forth, this caused many locals were converted. This saint, as punishment by the guards, had an anchor tied around his neck and thrown into the Black Sea.
St Clement of Rome, pray for us !
06. Pope St Stephen I
2 August 257
St Stephen was of Roman birth and Greek ancestry. He served as Pope for only three years with lots of controversies within and outside the Church. Within the Church was the heated debate concerning rebaptism of lapsed Catholics. Outside the Church the former Christian, now enemy, Emperor Valerian, issued two edits of persecution against the Church. One day the Emperor’s guards walked in on St Stephen who was sitting on his Papal Throne celebrating Mass and beheaded him where he sat. As late as the 18th century, what was said to be the chair was preserved, still stained with blood.
St Stephen, pray for us !
05. Pope St Sixtus II
6 August 258
Shortly after the death of Pope Stephen, Sixtus was elected to take his place. At the time Valerian had made it a law that all Christians must participate the ceremonies honoring the Roman gods. Pope Sixtus was able to avoid this but a while later Valerian sent out another decree which condemned Priests, Bishops and Deacons to death. While giving a sermon, Sixtus was captured and beheaded by the emperor’s men.
04. Pope John VIII
16 December 882
This Pope believed to be one of the greatest in his times, was caught up in the middle of a political intrigue. There is speculation on what the motive was for his murder, but one evening, his relative came to his house and poisoned his drink. Upon seeing that the poison did not work quick enough, he returned and beat his head with a hammer.
03. Pope Stephen VI (Sometimes called Stephen VII)
This Pope is popular for putting the corpse of his predecessor, Pope Formosus, on trial (popularly known as the Cadaver Synod) for his crimes. Its charges were read out, and was defended by a deacon, after being found guilty was stripped of his papal garments, garbed in a lay-man’s outfit, deprived of three of his right fingers (the blessing fingers) and quickly buried. Later was exhumed and cast in the Tiber. All ordinations performed by Formosus were annulled. This action of Stephens culminated in his imprisonment and death by strangling.
02. Pope Benedict VI
Benedict was exiled at one time in his papacy and later managed to return. After about a year after his election to the papacy, he was captured and strangled to death by his enemies and the enemies of his predecessor John XIII.
01. Pope John XXI
18 August 1277
He was Pope for about eight months. Alongside his Petrine ministry, he was also a writer, physician. He wrote on different medical and philosophical subjects. This Pope met with a rather terrible accident which led to his death eight days later. After a new wing was added to his Palace in Viterbo, Italy, a section of the poorly constructed roof fell upon him while he was asleep.