Spirituality for Today – February 2009 – Volume 13, Issue 7

The 30th Pope

Saint Marcellus

An illustration of Pope Saint MarcellinusPope Saint Marcellinus

Pope St.Marcellus I (306-309) – Historians may speculate about the number of fowl roaming the streets of Rome in the early fourth century, but this pope unquestionably considered a fair number of his people to be "chicken." Pope Marcellus quickly revealed himself to be a stern judge of the lapsi - those who recanted their faith in Christ during the persecution of the Church by the emperor Diocletian. The toll on the Church in Rome was so disruptive that there was a delay of some years before the new pope could be chosen.

The issue of the reconciliation of those who lapsed from the faith under the pressure of persecution was a daunting one for this pope, previous popes, and popes to follow. One could understand that those who stood fast and suffered for their faith might feel some reticence in regard to the re-admission into full communion with the Church of those who did not. Even so, Pope Marcellus exacted penances from the lapsed that were so extreme that near riot ensued. The situation reached the point that the emperor Maxentius felt compelled to banish the pope so that calm may be restored.

Pope Marcellus I was buried in the cemetery of Saint Priscilla.

Habemus papam!