A Pope Dragged by an Iron Chain

A Commentary by Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira on Pope Saint Martin I who suffered one of the greatest public humiliations of the popes.   

Newsroom (18/02/2022 16:51, Gaudium PressThe Church of Byzantium, under pressure from Emperor Constant II, had fallen into a heresy, monothelite, that denies the existence of two natures – the human and the divine – in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Moved by his intense love for God and hatred of evil, St. Martin condemned this heresy. By order of the Emperor, he was arrested in an ambush and transported in a ship to Constantinople, suffering horribly during the journey.

Upon arrival in that city, he was bound and dragged to the court, where false witnesses testified against him, accusing him of being a traitor and a heretic. The judge then ordered the soldiers to tear off the Pope’s robes and remove his shoes.

Then they clothed him with a tunic open on both sides, grotesque and humiliating. They wrapped his neck with an iron ring, pulled him by a chain through the city to the prison, which was the same as that for common criminals. He shivered intensely under the cold air.

He remained in prison awaiting death, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Exiled to Crimea, among a barbaric and cruel people, his martyrdom increased day by day until God called him to Himself, in the year 655.

This pontiff left remarkably well-written letters, full of vigor and wisdom, as well as the answers he gave at the Byzantium tribunal. His style is noble and sublime, worthy of the majesty of the Apostolic See.

A Man of noble spirit

About this great Saint, Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira made comments summarize below.

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“We find in this account several aspects of this martyrdom that are instructive for us.

“In the first place, the high respectability of this Pontiff and the special form of torment to which he was subjected. Because he was a Saint, he had the highest regard for the dignity of the pontifical throne which he occupied, fully realizing that it was the highest office on earth.

“There is no dignity of king, nor of emperor, nor of any other that can even remotely compare to the dignity of Christ’s Vicar on earth, of him who is the successor of St. Peter, to whom Jesus Christ has given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, so that what he opens will be open and what he closes will remain closed.

“Moreover, St. Martin was a man of a noble spirit, very intelligent and cultured, in whose letters he expressed himself with nobility and elevation. Therefore, a person who was fond of all that is high, sublime, dignified.

“Well, he was subjected to one of the greatest humiliations that a Pope has been exposed to, since the beginning of the history of the Pontificate.  St. Peter, crucified upside down, was humiliated as much or more than he was. But few were the Popes who suffered such a terrible martyrdom as St. Martin.

Example of constancy and fortitude

“It is about a Roman Pontiff, who is known to be the Vicar of Christ, who is thrown into the hold of a ship of that time, goes down in the city of Constantinople, is dragged to the tribunal by Monothelite heretics, to be condemned; Then he is taken before a huge crowd, dressed ridiculously, an iron ring tied to a rope is put around his neck, and he led away as if he were an animal; and, as he is about to be killed, he is dragged barefoot on foot through the city to the other end, to be arrested among the common prisoners. Imagine the humiliation of a self-respecting man, suffering all this!

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“What’s more, it was freezing cold, he was already old and shivering. Naturally, they took his shivering as being out of fear, and many will have mocked him.

“You can see the cruelty of this Emperor Constantine and the Monothelite heretics who dragged him away. Then he was sent to the Crimea and there, subjected to hard labor, he died because of the weather, of age, but as a result of mistreatment. That is why the Church considers him a martyr.

“Until the end he did not give in and, faced with the interrogation of the emperor and the judge, he endured with haughtiness and knew how to tell the judge the truths that should be told. He is a noble example of constancy and fortitude.

They will be rejected by God’s justice

“On the other hand, we see the Roman Empire heading toward its end. There were still some centuries to go before the final end of the Roman Empire of the East, but this end was being prepared for from afar by manifest signs of decadence. This crime committed by the emperor in the presence of all the people is a symptom of this. […]

“For centuries this rivalry between Constantinople and Rome, the two greatest cities of Latin culture at that time, was increasing. When in the 15th century the Turks were besieging Constantinople, there was a character there who was even able to witness the fall of the city and managed to escape in time.

“In the letters that this character wrote, he put the following note: ‘The people of Constantinople, who were heretics, had broken with the Holy See, were terrified by that ferocious entry of the Turks, who made a carnage, reduced countless individuals to slaves, entered convents, destroyed everything.’

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 “And he made this comment: ‘If Constantinople were given the choice between saving the city by rejoining the Catholic Church, or continuing in heresy and being destroyed by the Turks, they would prefer heresy and death to rejoining the Catholic Church.

“That is, such a blind hatred of the truth that they only cared about adhering to heresy, and they preferred death with heresy to life, dignity and honor. We see from this how fanatical opponents of the Church can be, to the point of liking what represents their own destruction more than union with what integral truth means. […]

“Catholic Doctrine offers the global truth, which the enemies of the Church hate more than anything else, preferring any error to the total truth. So were the Monothelites, as well as the schismatics of Constantinople centuries later, and the modernists of the time of St. Pius X. Everything but the global truth. Result: they will be rejected by the justice of God.”

By Paulo Francisco Martos

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