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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Pope St. Clement I of Rome

On Nov. 23, the Church celebrates the feast of Pope St. Clement I, fourth bishop of Rome. The Catholic Encyclopedia has a good entry about him. Most of the writings attributed to him are in dispute, but the epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians is not only widely held to be authentic, it was being read in Corinth during the liturgy as late as AD 170. It was also proposed to include it in the canon of the New Testament when that was being decided in the 4th century. Not necessarily a strong candidate, but it was considered to be authentically written by Pope St. Clement and quite orthodox. Written late in the first century, it found favorable use in many churches outside of Corinth as well.

Here is an English translation of the epistle by Charles H. Hoole in 1885. Note that there are other translations as well. It's a good read because it shows signs of early developments in the doctrine of the Trinity, Apostolic succession and the structure of the Church. I found an amusing summary or abstract of the epistle someplace which said that the church in Corinth hadn't changed much since St. Paul's day. How so? Schisms, infidelity to orthodoxy, the sort of things that probably gave St. Paul and Pope St. Clement a "this-stiff-necked-people" sort of headache.

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