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Lives of the Saints:

How They Changed the World

Saint John I (d. 526)

Saint John I (d. 526)

Patron saint of hospitals, the sick, nurses, firefighters, alcoholics, and booksellers.

Feast day: May 18




Saint John I was elected Pope at a time when Italy’s ruler, Theodoric the Goth, supported the Arian heresy. However, Theodoric tolerated Catholics during his reign. Theodoric underwent a change though, becoming suspicious of everyone and visualizing plots to seize his throne. One of the reasons why Theodoric imagined these conspiracies was that Byzantine Emperor Justin I enacted a harsh edict against heretics. At first, Theodoric planned to go to war against Justin, but he decided instead to send a party of five bishops and four senators to improve the treatment of Arians. John reluctantly accepted the position of leader of this delegation party, and he persuaded Emperor Justin to soften his punishment of Arians to avoid the harsh treatment of Catholics in Italy. When the delegation party did not arrive back in Italy on time, Theodoric began to believe that John and Justin had gotten too friendly and were plotting against him. When John returned from his mission, he was incarcerated on Theodoric’s orders and soon died from the treatment he received. (Image in public domain-70)