He succeeded his brother Benedict VIII, both being members of the powerful house of Tusculum. When elected pope he was an unordained layman. Therefore, he was ordained a bishop in order to enable him to ascend the papal chair, having previously been a consul and senator.
He displayed his freedom from ecclesiastical prejudices, if also his utter ignorance of ecclesiastical history, by agreeing, on the payment of a large bribe to grant to the Patriarch of Constantinople the title of an ecumenical bishop, but the general indignation which the proposal excited throughout the church compelled him almost immediately to withdraw from his agreement.
John died in the full possession of his dignities. His nephew Benedict IX was found as a successor, though a boy of only twelve years of age.
Pope Benedict VIII
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Pope Benedict IX