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Pope and Martyr, first century

 Saint Clement I has the happy distinction of being the first of the successors of Saint Peter of whom anything definite is known. Saint Irenaeus and Saint Jerome both asserted that Clement was the third successor of Saint Peter and that he was the pontiff during the last ten years of the first century.

 According to some authorities, Clement was a Jew; according to others, he was of the household of Flavius Clemens, the consul, but most modern scholars agree that both of these suppositions are unlikely. A tradition dating from the fourth century says that he was martyred.

 Many writings have been attributed to him; the only authentic one is his Letter to the Corinthians. This was sent, about the year 96, to the Christians of Corinth, where sedition was occurring. The letter is admirable for its eloquence, dignity, and simplicity. Moreover, one can conclude from it that Clement was a Roman gentile, formed in the apostolic traditions, well-versed in the Old Testament but familiar also with Hellenistic culture and literature. He loved his fatherland and admired the order and discipline of the Roman way. A spirit of tranquility and gentleness seems to be the dominant trait of his character, but his letter also portrays a significant sense of authority. He writes as one conscious of his right and duty to warn, guide, and require submission. So great was the respect for Saint Clement's letter that it was preserved, copied, translated into several languages, and sometimes bound with the apostolic letters of the New Testament.



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