Callistus I of Rome

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The hieromartyr Callistus I of Rome was the ruling bishop of the Church of Rome from 217 to 222. Although there is no record of his being martyred, he may have died a martyr and has been so recognized. His feast day is October 14.

Life

Callistus, Kallistos in Greek, had the misfortune of being known mainly through the writings of his most bitter enemies, Tertullian and Hippolytus. Of Greek origin, Callistus was born in Rome during the middle part of the second century. While he was born into the noble Domizii family, his early life was tumultuous and saw him imprisoned and exiled for common crimes.

According to Hippolytus, in his Philosophumena, Callistus was in the employ of the household of Carpophorus, a Christian, entrusted with running a bank with funds from fellow Christians. After losing these funds Callistus took flight but was captured and was consigned first, with slaves, to a hand mill and later to mines in Sardinia. Released while Victor was bishop of Rome, Callistus was sent to Antium, present day Anzio. When Zephyrius became bishop of Rome, Callistus was placed in charge of a cemetery that later took on his name as the Catacomb of St. Callistus. Callistus was able to gain great influence over Zephyrius and soon became archdeacon and then, on the death of Zephyrius, the ruling bishop of Rome.

Regardless of the veracity of many of the details in Hippolytus' narration of the life of Callistus, Callistus was valuable to Bp. Zephyrius as he guided the bishop through the formative theology of the day to what he saw as orthodox, as Zephyrius floundered through the many heretical beliefs that sprang up during that era.

The lives of Callistus and both his adversaries, Tertullian and Hippolytus, is shrouded in controversy as some of the policies of each have been termed heretical. Hippolytus and Tertullian were especially upset by Callistus' admitting to communion those who had done public penance for murder, adultery, and fornication, as well as by his alleged belief in Sabellianism, a charge from which he attempted to distance himself. Hippolytus was a follower of the Novation schism, from which he later reconciled with the Church, and was elected as an anti-pope by his supporters, while Tertullian became a supporter of Montanism.

He is believed to have died about the year 223, a time not noted for any persecutions. That he was a martyr, perhaps through a popular uprising, is legendary. He was buried in the cemetery of Calepodius on the Aurelian Way. The anniversary of his death is given by the "Depositio Martirum" (Callisti in viâ Aureliâ miliario III) and subsequent martyrologies as October 14, the day on which he is still commemorated. His relics were translated in the ninth century to Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Succession box:
Callistus I of Rome
Preceded by:
Zephyrius
Bishop of Rome
217-222
Succeeded by:
Urban I
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