You may remember I wrote a post on Pope-Emeritus Benedict as being a possible "martyr pope", well today we celebrate the feast of the last official martyr pope of the Church (so far): Pope St Martin I, who died in captivity in 655. He was imprisoned by the Emperor Constans II because he tried to implement the Lateran Council of 649. The Council was convened by the Pope and the Emperor was not impressed since he thought he was the only one entitled to call Church Councils.
The Council was called to discuss the heresy of Monothelitism (which maintains that Christ has only one will), a heresy that Constans not only held, but decreed that it could not be discussed at all. However Pope Martin and a number of theologians, chief among them St Maximus the Confessor, realised that the Church had to deal with the issue and reiterate the Church's orthodox teaching. The Church teaches that Christ has two wills: a divine will and a human will, and while both are in complete harmony, they are still separate. The Council upheld the teaching and the emperor was not happy.
In response to the Pope's actions and the Council, he had Martin kidnapped and imprisoned in Constantinople. For three months the pope endured dreadful conditions as he awaited his trial. At the trial he was not allowed a defence, he was found guilty of treason and sent back to prison. After another three months he was exiled to the Crimea where he died as a result of ill treatment and neglect on the 16th September 655.
People wonder why the Pope has his own country, the Vatican City State, and is not subject to any ruler or government: so he can teach the Gospel and lead the Church without interference. It is not about kingly pomp and Church nationalism: it is about being free to proclaim the truth.
May Pope St Martin watch over the Holy Father as he carries out his Petrine ministry.