Saint of the Day – 23 September – St Pope Linus (c 10 – c 76) Successor to St Peter – born c 10 in Volterra, Tuscany, Italy, Roman Empire and died c 76 in Rome, Italy, Roman Empire – his papacy lasted from c 67 to his death. Among those to have held the position of pope, Peter, Linus and Clement are specifically mentioned in the New Testament. Linus is mentioned in the closing greeting of the Second Epistle to Timothy as being with Paul in Rome near the end of Paul’s life.
The earliest witness to Linus’s status as bishop was Irenaeus (c 130-202), who in about the year 180 wrote, “The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate.” Linus is presented by St Jerome (343-420) as “the first after Peter to be in charge of the Roman Church” and by Eusebius as “the first to receive the episcopate of the church at Rome, after the martyrdom of Paul and Peter”. St John Chrysostom wrote, “This Linus, was second Bishop of the Church of Rome after Peter”, while the Liberian Catalogue presents Peter as the first Bishop of Rome and Linus as his successor in the same office.
The Liber Pontificalis (Latin for ‘pontifical book’ or Book of the Popes is a book of biographies of popes from Saint Peter until the 15th century), also presents a list that makes Linus the second in the line of bishops of Rome, after Peter, while also stating that Peter consecrated two bishops, Linus and Anacletus, for the priestly service of the community, devoting himself instead to prayer and preaching and that it was to Clement that he entrusted the Church as a whole, appointing him as his successor. Tertullian too wrote of Clement as the successor of Peter. Jerome classified Clement as “the fourth bishop of Rome after Peter” (i.e., fourth in a series that included Peter), adding that, “most of the Latins think that Clement was second after the apostle.”
The Apostolic Constitutions denote that Linus, who was consecrated by Paul, was the first bishop of Rome and was succeeded by Clement, who was ordained and consecrated by Peter. Cletus is considered Linus’s successor by Irenaeus and the others cited above, who present Linus either as the first bishop of Rome after Peter.
According to Liber Pontificalis, Linus issued a decree that women should cover their heads in church, created the first fifteen bishops and that he died a martyr and was buried on the Vatican Hill next to Peter. It gives the date of his death as 23 September, the date on which his feast is still celebrated. His name is included in the Roman Canon of the Mass.
With respect to Linus’s supposed decree requiring women to cover their heads, J.P. Kirsch commented in the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Without doubt this decree is apocryphal and copied by the author of the Liber Pontificalis from the first Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians (11:5) and arbitrarily attributed to the first successor of the Apostle in Rome. The statement made in the same source, that Linus suffered martyrdom, cannot be proved and is improbable. For between Nero and Domitian there is no mention of any persecution of the Roman Church and Irenaeus (1. c., III, iv, 3) from among the early Roman bishops designates only “Telesphorus as a glorious martyr.”
The Roman Martyrology does not list Linus as a martyr. The entry about him is as follows: “At Rome, commemoration of Saint Linus, Pope, who, according to Irenaeus, was the person to whom the blessed Apostles entrusted the episcopal care of the Church founded in the City and whom blessed Paul the Apostle mentions as associated with him.”