John VIII of Rome

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Pope John VIII of Rome was the pope of the Church of Rome from 872 to 882. He is considered to be one of the ablest of the popes of the ninth century. Pope John, however, was confronted by intrigues among his political enemies throughout his pontificate.


John was a Roman, son of Gundus. Little else in known of his youth until he appeared as an archdeacon of the church in Rome in 853. After the death of Pope Adrian II, John was elected to succeed to the papal throne on December 14, 872 over the opposition of Formosus, the cardinal bishop of Porto.

An early issue that confronted John was the displeasure of the German rulers and bishops with the missionary efforts of Ss. Cyril and Methodius among the Slavs of Moravia who had the permission of John's predecessor Pope Adrian II to use the Slavonic language in their mission. The Germans had imprisoned Methodius in their attempt to further their designs on subjecting the Moravians to their control, both politically and ecclesiastically. Upon hearing of his imprisonment, John ordered Methodius' release, although he prohibited him the use of Slavonic in deference to the Germans. Called by John to come to Rome, Methodius convinced John of his orthodoxy and was sent back to Moravia with renewed permission to use the Slavonic language in church. By his actions, John hoped to increase his influence among the Bulgarians, which in the end they rejected.

During his pontificate, John, under the protection of the French king Louis II, strove to defend the Roman state and church against the raiding Saracens. After Louis' death in 875, his successor Charles the Bald, who was given the imperial crown by John, became too occupied in France to provide effective aid to Rome. As a result, John was forced to come to terms with the Saracens, finding it necessary to give annual tribute to keep the them out of the Roman state.

John was also confronted with adversaries on the home front as well as the rivalries for the imperial crown. After fending off Lambert, duke of Spoleto, John presided at a council at Troyes in 876 that excommunicated supporters of Carloman of the West Franks, including Bp. Formosus of Porto. In 879, John agreed to the restoration of Patriarch Photius to the see of Constantinople.

Pope John VIII was murdered on December 16, 882, apparently by members of his household, the first pope of Rome to be assassinated.

Succession box:
John VIII of Rome
Preceded by:
Adrian II
Pope of Rome
Succeeded by:
Marinus I
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