Anacletus: A Pope of the 1st Century AD

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Pope Anacletus, Bearded but with short, almost nonexistent, hair

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Anacletus was the third bishop of Rome making him the third pope although that title was not in use at the time. He followed Linus and reigned from c. 79 to c. 92. He was succeeded by Pope Clement I, known for his letter to the Corinthians. He was also known as Cletus and he is listed that way in the Roman Martyrology and in the Roman Canon of the Mass.

Cletus is Greek for “one who has been called” and Anacletus is Greek for “one who has been called back.” It is also possible that it came from the Greek anencletus which means unimpeachable or blameless.

The name Anacletus was commonly used for slaves which has led some historians to doubt his existence. However, his existence, and his papacy, were well documented in the writings of Irenaeus and Eusebius. Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430) and Optatus (d. 4th century), Bishop of Milevis, also make reference to him although they put his papacy after Clement I. He is also found in the Liber pontificalis, the Book of the Popes, which was written in the 12th century and updated in the 15th century.

Anacletus was born in Rome. During his papacy he divided Rome into twenty-five parishes with each parish headed by a priest. One of the few surviving documents about him mentions that he ordained priests but does not specify how many.

Anacletus had a thing about hair. He forbade priests in the West from growing beards. Despite this, almost all of the images of him which exist show him sporting facial hair. He also didn’t think it was a good idea that priests take particularly good care of their hair, either. However they were not allowed to let it grow long.

Anacletus died a martyr’s death during Domitian’s persecution and was buried next to Linus. His feast day is April 26th.

Text © 2017 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.


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    • Actually the church saved more lives during the Inquisition than were killed. Political leaders were using charges of heresy to get rid of political enemies. The church stepped in to prevent that. In 1822, when the Spanish Inquisition came to an end, the people rioted because they were afraid that they could no longer get a fair trial.

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