Popes in a Year
#29 - Pope St. Marcellinus
Pope from 296-304 A.D.
Died: 304 A.D.
Give me the scoop on Marcellinus.
St. Marcellinus was Roman by birth, though we’re unsure the year in which he was born. His reign coincided with the beginning of the most brutal persecution the Church has ever seen. The emperor Diocletian was initially sympathetic to Christianity, given that his wife was a Christian. But a forceful encouragement by his colleague, Galerius, caused Diocletian to reconsider, ushering in a period where churches were seized or demolished, sacred vessels were surrendered, and death was the punishment for any who refused to sacrifice to the gods. Apparently, bad things happen when you don’t listen to your wife. Just ask Pontius Pilate.
The persecution was in its second year when Marcellinus died, though it’s unclear whether or not he died a martyr. His feast day is April 26.
What was he known for?
Sadly, St. Marcellinus is known best for being accused of heresy. Thankfully, though, the “sources” were forgeries and falsehoods written at the hands of (presumably) some frustrated heretics who were mad they didn’t get their way. The Donatists, a sect that thought the validity of a sacrament depended on how holy the minister was, accused St. Marcellinus and his three successors around 400 A.D. of having offered incense to the Roman gods and given up their sacred books.
We know that the letter-writer, Petilianus, is full of baloney, because if a pope had renounced his faith, it would most definitely have been recorded by a contemporary author (like Eusebius, who wrote about Church History just a couple decades later). The fact that every other author was silent and made no mention of popes behaving badly is sufficient evidence to believe the renunciation never happened.
During Marcellinus’ reign, Armenia became the first Christian nation after its ruler, Tiridates III, made Christianity the state religion. In fact, the Mother Church of Armenia, the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, is thought to be the oldest cathedral in the world, being traditionally dated to 303 A.D., the year before Marcellinus died.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
Around the year 300, the magnetic compass was invented in China.
Coming tomorrow....Pope St. Marcellus I
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope St. Marcellinus -
Pope Marcellinus -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Thursday, February 9 at 2:00AM