Today is the feast day of Saint Cletus and Saint Marcellinus. Orate pro nobis.
This second successor of St. Peter governed the Roman Church from about 76 to about 88. The “Liber Pontificalis” says that his father was Emelianus and that Cletus was a Roman by birth, and belonged to the quarter known as the Vicus Patrici. It also tells us that he ordained twenty-five priests, and was buried in Vaticano near the body of St. Peter. (1)
He sat twelve years, from 76 to 89. The canon of Roman mass, Bede, and other martyrologists style him a martyr. (2) He received the Crown of Martyrdom in 91 A.D., under the Emperor Domitian and was buried near The Prince of The Apostles. (3)
He was buried near St. Linus, on the Vatican, and his relics still remain in that church. (2)
The feast of St. Cletus falls, with that of St. Marcellinus, on 26 April; this date is already assigned to it in the first edition of the “Liber Pontificalis”. (See CLEMENT I, SAINT, POPE.) (1)
Pope Marcellinus ruled the Church of Rome for nine years and four months. By order of Emperors Diocletian and Maximian he was taken prisoner and brought forward to offer sacrifice to the idols. At first he refused and was threatened with various kinds of torture, and for fear of the threatened suffering he put down two grains of incense in sacrifice to the gods. This gave great joy to the infidels but caused the faithful immense sadness.
However, under a weak head, members rise up and make little of the threats of the princes, so the faithful came to the Pope and reproached him severely. He realized the gravity of his error and offered himself to be judged by a council of Bishops. The Bishops responded: “It is not possible for the Supreme Pontiff to be judged by anyone, but you yourself weigh your case in your own mind and pronounce your own judgment.” (4)
The Pope, repentant, lamented his fault and deposed himself, but the whole gathering immediately re-elected him. When the Emperors heard of this, they had him arrested again. He absolutely refused to offer sacrifice to the idols, so they sentenced him to be beheaded. Then the persecution was renewed with such a fury that in one month 17,000 Christians were put to death. (4)
He governed The Church from 293 A.D. to 304 A.D., during the terrible persecution of Diocletian, who caused him to be beheaded. (3)
Image: Saint Quentin sent on a mission by Pope Marcellinus, artist: Albéric Victor Duyver, circa 1893.
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff