Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Papal Profile: Pope St Sixtus II
These actions displayed the wisdom and compassion of St Sixtus, but upcoming events would vividly illustrate his courage and devotion as well. In 253 AD Valerian became Emperor of Rome and soon instituted a massive persecution of Christians. Although praised for restoring some semblance of order in the east, Emperor Valerian fanatically believed that the erosion of Roman power was due to the anger of Rome's pagan gods over the presence of the Christians, who refused to worship their idols. The Emperor outlawed all liturgical worship and cut off access to the catacombs, where Christians were known to gather in times of danger. His record was so great that in the same year that Sixtus II became pope, Emperor Valerian was given the title, “Restorer of the World”. The Christian minority, however, certainly did not join in the praise as many were being put to death.
As the Mass continued, the people forgot the danger they were in as Christ filled their hearts and minds. Suddenly though, the outside world came crashing in. The door was forced open and Roman troops, carrying torches overhead, filed into the small chapel. With soldiers blocking the door, their commander called out, "Give me your leaders or we will kill you all." Pope Sixtus II stepped forward, and calmly said, "I am the Bishop of Rome, let the rest of these people go." Just as he had spoken, the four deacons who had been assisting him in the Mass came forward and said, "We are deacons, we are also guilty of worshipping the true God."