St. Clement of Rome was the third successor of Peter the Apostle as bishop of Rome, and therefore, our fourth Pope. St. Irenaeus, himself a Father of the Early Church, tells us that Clement “saw the blessed Apostles and conversed with them, and had yet ringing in his ears the preaching of the Apostles and had their tradition before his eyes, and not he only for many were then surviving who had been taught by the Apostles “. Similarly Epiphanius tells us that Clement was a contemporary of Peter and Paul. His service as Bishop of Rome was probably from about 92-101 A.D. There is a tradition that he was ordained by St. Peter and acted as a kind of auxiliary bishop to Linus and Anacletus, his predecessors in the papal chair.
According to apocryphal acta dating to the 4th century at earliest, Clement was banished from Rome to the Chersonesus during the reign of the Emperor Trajan and was set to work in a stone quarry. Finding on his arrival that the prisoners were suffering from lack of water, he knelt down in prayer. Looking up, he saw a lamb on a hill, went to where the lamb had stood and struck the ground with his pickaxe, releasing a gushing stream of clear water. This miracle resulted in the conversion of large numbers of the local pagans and his fellow prisoners to Christianity.
About 110 A.D. Clement was sentenced to a martyr’s death in the arena by the Emperor Trajan. According to a fourth century story, Trajan had banished the pope to the Crimea in the southern Ukraine because of his success in evangelization, where he satisfied the thirst of two thousand Christian confessors by the clear water miracle. The people of the country were converted and seventy‑five churches built. A frustrated Trajan then ordered Clement to be thrown into the sea with an iron anchor. But he had an impact even after his martyrdom because the tide receded two miles every year, finally, revealing a divinely built shrine which contains the martyr’s bones.
Clement’s papal letter to the Corinthians was written about 80 A.D. in an effort to restore peace to the Church at Corinith, Greece which had broken into factions and was intent upon firing some of their presbyters. The epistle is written in Greek and frequently cites the Old Testament. The tone of Papal authority and the theme of Apostolic succession are evident in the letter. Here are some excerpts. Look for evidence of papal authority as you read them.
Letter to the Corinithians (ca. 80 A.D.)
“The Church of God which sojourns in Rome to the Church of God which sojourns in Corinth, to those who are called and sanctified by the will of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace from Almighty God be multiplied unto you through Jesus Christ.”
“Peter, through unjust envy, endured not one or two but many labours, and at last, having delivered his testimony, departed unto the place of glory due to him. Through envy Paul, too, showed by example the prize that is given to patience: seven times was he cast into chains; he was banished; he was stoned; having become a herald, both in the East and in the West, he obtained the noble renown due to his faith; and having preached righteousness to the whole world, and having come to the extremity of the West, and having borne witness before rulers, he departed at length out of the world, and went to the holy place, having become the greatest example of patience.”
“To these men, who walked in holiness, there was gathered a great multitude of the elect, who, having suffered, through envy, many insults and tortures, became a most excellent example among us. 6:2 Through envy women were persecuted, even the Danaides and Dircae, who, after enduring dreadful and unholy insults, attained to the sure course of the faith; and they who were weak in body received a noble reward. 6:3 Envy hath estranged the minds of wives from their husbands, and changed the saying of our father Adam: This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. 6:4 Envy and strife have overthrown mighty cities and rooted out great nations.”
“Owing to the sudden and repeated calamities and misfortunes which have befallen us [probably referring to the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., which produced a great fire in Rome] we must acknowledge that we are somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the matters in dispute among you, beloved; and especially that abominable and unholy sedition, alien and foreign to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-willed persons have enflamed to such madness, that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be loved by all men, has been greatly defamed.”
“Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect knowledge, they appoint those who have already been mentioned, and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry. As for these, then, who were appointed by them, or who afterwards appointed by other illustrious men with the consent of the whole Church, and who have ministered to the flock of Christ without blame, humbly, peaceably and with dignity, and who have for many years received the commendations of all, we consider it unjust that they be removed from the ministry. Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its Sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters [priests] who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release; for they have now no fear that any shall transfer them from the place appointed [by Almighty God]. For we see that in spite of their good service you have removed some from their ministry in which they served without blame.”
“If anyone disobey the things which have been said by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger. We, however, shall be innocent of this sin, and will pray with earnest entreaty and supplication that the Creator of all may keep unharmed the number of His elect, which have been counted up in the whole world, through His beloved child Jesus Christ, through whom He has called us from darkness to light, and from ignorance to the full knowledge of the glory of His name.”
“You will afford us joy and gladness if, being obedient to the things which we have written through the Holy Spirit, you will root out the wicked passion of jealousy, in accord with the plea for peace and concord which we have made in this letter.”