Denver, Colo., Nov 20, 2011 / 06:08 am America/Denver (CNA).
On Nov. 23 Roman Catholics remember the fourth Pope, St. Clement I, a disciple of the apostles who inherited the authority of St. Peter in the first century. Eastern Catholics celebrate his feast on Nov. 25.
The details of Clement's life, before his conversion and even afterward, are largely unknown. Some aspects of his writings have led scholars to believe that the fourth Pope either came from a Jewish background, or had converted to Judaism earlier in life before entering the Catholic Church.
Tradition suggests that Clement was the son of a Roman named Faustinus, and that he joined the Church in Rome during its early years through the preaching of Saint Peter or Saint Paul. He went on to share in the missionary journeys of the apostles, and may even have assisted the first Pope in running the Church on a local level.
After the deaths of St. Peter's first two successors, the canonized Popes Linus and Cletus, Clement took up St. Peter's position of primacy in the Church around the year 90. One of his most important tasks, during nearly 10 years as Pope, was to resolve serious problems in the Church of Corinth, which St. Paul had also struggled to discipline.
Clement's own letter to the Corinthians, though not part of the biblical canon, offers an important look at the role of authority and charity in the early Church. Its introduction suggests that Pope Clement composed it while his own local Church faced persecution from the Roman Emperor Domitian.