Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Pope Clement I

A Roman of Jewish descent who was thought to be a follower of St. Paul at Philippi (although perhaps related to the emperor Domitian, which some have asserted explains why he avoided persecution during Domitian's reign), Clement succeeded Anacletus to become the 4th pontiff, reigning from 88 to 97 A.D. His feast is traditionally celebrated today.

He is best known for a stern letter he wrote to a group of young clerics in the Church at Corinth, admonishing them and reminding them to follow the teachings of their elders in the Church; the letter was the Marbury v. Madison of the young Church, establishing in practice the unequivocal authority of the bishop of Rome.

His ferocious diligence on behalf of the Church inspired a legend in which thuggish Roman soldiers, ordered to arrest Clement when the wife of the constabulary prefect converted to Christianity, were blinded by God and instead dragged away a stone pillar, thinking they had captured Clement. Clement's aura of indestructibility provoked Domitian's successor, Nerva, to exile Clement to the Black Sea at Crimea in 97, where he joined 2,000 condemned Christians as a slave in the marble quarry. While Evaristus assumed his duties back in Rome, Clement shouldered the burden of the suffering of his fellow Christian slaves at Crimea.

Around 100, according to legend, when Clement was called upon by his captors to offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods, he refused, after which he was thrown into the Black Sea with an anchor around his neck. Although his relics were originally sealed in an underwater church, Saints Cyril and Methodius transported them to Rome in 869, where they were buried in a church consecrated to his memory.

As St. Clement, he is the patron saint of marble workers, and in paintings he is often represented as a pope with an anchor at his side.

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