November 2006 - Volume 11, Issue 4

The Third Pope – Saint Anacletus


A painting of Saint AnacletusSaint Anacletus, Cletus, or Anencletus (76-88). During these early years, the chronological and biological information regarding the popes often was the result an inexact process. All three names, Anacletus, Cletus, and Anencletus, are used by various commentators. The list of the Papacy used here is that of Saint Irenaeus and, of course, the official Vatican list. Under the shortened name of Cletus, he is mentioned in Eucharistic Prayer I.

It is possible that Anacletus was a Greek. If this is so, it is also possible that he was the son of a slave. Slavery was a common reality throughout the Roman Empire and, indeed, the known world. While our image of a slave might be that of an individual held in cruel bondage, but many slaves of prominent Roman families held highly responsible and very important positions in the households. These slaves may have had professional backgrounds or possessed prized skills. The family of Anacletus may very well have been among them.

Given the situation of the early Church, little is known about the reign of Pope Anacletus. There is some evidence suggesting that Pope Anacletus was engaged in the structuring of the Church in Rome into numerous parishes.

The reign of Pope Anacletus coincided was that the Emperor Domitian. Tradition holds that Anacletus was a martyr, but there is no strong evidence of the event extant.

Habemus papam