December 2006 - Volume 11, Issue 5

The Fourth Pope – Saint Clement I


A painting of Saint Clement IPope Saint Clement I, (88-97). Happily, with the reign of Clement I, there are many documented facts to go along with the traditional beliefs regarding his life. Aspects of his life are particularly timely in the face of the current interest in biblical, extra-biblical, and apocryphal literature. A letter known as I Clement is a work arguably authored by the fourth pope around the year 96. This epistle is regarded as the most significant piece of Christian literature other than the New Testament. In fact there were some communities that treated I Clement as scripture.

I Clement was sent from the Church of Rome to the Church of Corinth. Clement felt compelled to interject corrective instruction to the Corinthian church. The tone of the letter's closing is the first indication yet known of the primacy of Rome. There have been other literary works attributed to Clement that are not authentic.

Pope Clement was the first of the Apostolic Fathers – chiefly listed as Saint Clement of Rome, Saint Ignatius of Antioch, and Saint Polycarp of Smyrna. These men were given the title of Apostolic Father because they knew – personally – one or more of the Apostles. The fourth pope is believed to be the Clement that Saint Paul mentions as a companion.

The Church of San Clemente in Rome is believed to have been built on the site of the home of Saint Clement. Pope Paschal II built the church on the basic structure of an earlier church found underneath it. The church is considered to be a beautiful representation of the basilicas of early Rome.

Clement I may have been a martyr. In like manner to the other earliest popes, Pope Clement I is mentioned in Eucharistic Prayer I of the Mass.

Photo of a red bow and ribbon