Listers, we’ve catalogued the first ten Vicars of Christ for the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Save the information on our first pope – St. Peter – all the information presented is taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia and links for further reading are provided.
1. Pope St. Peter (32-67)
St. Peter held a primacy amongst the twelve disciples that earned him the title “Prince of the Apostles.” This primacy of St. Peter was solidified when he was appointed by Jesus to the Office of the Vicar – demonstrated by Christ giving St. Peter the Keys to the Kingdom. To understand St. Peter, one must first understand Christ and the Church Christ came to establish. Jesus is the “Son of David” and his life and ministry fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of the New Davidic Kingdom and New Jerusalem; hence, we look to the historic kingdom of King David as a guide to the New Davidic Kingdom. King David had a vicar that ruled his kingdom when David was absent and the sign of authority for this vicar was the keys of the kingdom. In the New Davidic Kingdom, Christ the Son of David gave the keys to his Vicar to guide the Kingdom until the return of Christ – we now refer to this vicar as “the pope.” SPL has written extensively on these issue in 10 Biblical Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy and 13 Reasons St. Peter Was the Prince of the Apostles.
2. Pope St. Linus (67-76)
All the ancient records of the Roman bishops which have been handed down to us by St. Irenaeus, Julius Africanus, St. Hippolytus, Eusebius, also the Liberian catalogue of 354, place the name of Linus directly after that of the Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter. These records are traced back to a list of the Roman bishops which existed in the time of Pope Eleutherus (about 174-189), when Irenaeus wrote his book “Adversus haereses”. As opposed to this testimony, we cannot accept as more reliable Tertullian’s assertion, which unquestionably places St. Clement (De praescriptione, xxii) after the Apostle Peter, as was also done later by other Latin scholars (Jerome, Illustrious Men 15). The Roman list in Irenaeus has undoubtedly greater claims to historical authority. This author claims that Pope Linus is the Linus mentioned by St. Paul in his 2 Timothy 4:21. The passage by Irenaeus (Against Heresies III.3.3) reads:
After the Holy Apostles (Peter and Paul) had founded and set the Church in order (in Rome) they gave over the exercise of the episcopal office to Linus. The same Linus is mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy. His successor was Anacletus.
We cannot be positive whether this identification of the pope as being the Linus mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21 goes back to an ancient and reliable source, or originated later on account of the similarity of the name. [Read More]
3. Pope St. Anacletus (Cletus) (76-88)
The second successor of St. Peter. Whether he was the same as Cletus, who is also called Anencletus as well as Anacletus, has been the subject of endless discussion. Irenaeus, Eusebius, Augustine, Optatus, use both names indifferently as of one person. Tertullian omits him altogether. To add to the confusion, the order is different. Thus Irenaeus has Linus, Anacletus, Clement; whereas Augustine and Optatus put Clement before Anacletus. On the other hand, the “Catalogus Liberianus”, the “Carmen contra Marcionem” and the “Liber Pontificalis”, all most respectable for their antiquity, make Cletus and Anacletus distinct from each other; while the “Catalogus Felicianus” even sets the latter down as a Greek, the former as a Roman. [Read More]
4. Pope St. Clement I (88-97)
Pope Clement I (called CLEMENS ROMANUS to distinguish him from the Alexandrian), is the first of the successors of St. Peter of whom anything definite is known, and he is the first of the “Apostolic Fathers”. His feast is celebrated 23 November. He has left one genuine writing, a letter to the Church of Corinth, and many others have been attributed to him.
According to Tertullian, writing c. 199, the Roman Church claimed that Clement was ordained by St. Peter (De Praescript., xxxii), and St. Jerome tells us that in his time “most of the Latins” held that Clement was the immediate successor of the Apostle (Illustrious Men 15). St. Jerome himself in several other places follows this opinion, but here he correctly states that Clement was the fourth pope. [Read More]
In defense of the historical fact that the “Early Church” was also the Catholic Church, SPL composed a list entitled The Apostles Appointed Bishops: 9 Teachings from St. Clement AD 97. The list shows a very early snapshot of the Early Church and its Catholicity.
5. Pope St. Evaristus (97-105)
Date of birth unknown; died about 107. In the Liberian Catalogue his name is given as Aristus. In papal catalogues of the second century used by Irenaeus and Hippolytus, he appears as the fourth successor of St. Peter, immediately after St Clement. The same lists allow him eight years of reign, covering the end of the first and the beginning of the second century (from about 98 or 99 to about 106 or 107). The earliest historical sources offer no authentic data about him. In his “Ecclesiastical History” Eusebius says merely that he succeeded Clement in the episcopate of the Roman Church which fact was already known from St. Irenæus. This order of succession is undoubtedly correct. [Read More]
6. Pope St. Alexander I (105-115)
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, writing in the latter quarter of the second century, reckons him as the fifth pope in succession from the Apostles, though he says nothing of his martyrdom.
His pontificate is variously dated by critics, e.g. 106-115 (Duchesne) or 109-116 (Lightfoot). In Christian antiquity he was credited with a pontificate of about ten years (Eusebius, Church History IV.1) and there is no reason to doubt that he was on the “catalogue of bishops” drawn up at Rome by Hegesippus (Eusebius, IV, xxii, 3) before the death of Pope Eleutherius (c. 189). According to a tradition extant in the Roman Church at the end of the fifth century, and recorded in the Liber Pontificalis he suffered a martyr’s death by decapitation on the Via Nomentana in Rome, 3 May. [Read More]
7. Pope St. Sixtus I (115-125)
Pope St. Sixtus I (in the oldest documents, Xystus is the spelling used for the first three popes of that name), succeeded St. Alexander and was followed by St. Telesphorus. According to the “Liberian Catalogue” of popes, he ruled the Church during the reign of Adrian “a conulatu Nigri et Aproniani usque Vero III et Ambibulo”, that is, from 117 to 126. Eusebius, who in his “Chronicon” made use of a catalogue of popes different from the one he used in his “Historia ecclesiastica”, states in his “Chronicon” that Sixtus I was pope from 114 to 124, while in his “History” he makes him rule from 114 to 128. All authorities agree that he reigned about ten years. He was a Roman by birth, and his father’s name was Pastor. [Read More]
8. Pope St. Telesphorus (125-136)
St. Telesphorus was the seventh Roman bishop in succession from the Apostles, and, according to the testimony of St. Irenæus (Against Heresies III.3.3), suffered a glorious martyrdom. Eusebius (Church History IV.7, IV.14) places the beginning of his pontificate in the twelfth of Hadrian’s reign (128-129), his death in the first year of the reign of Antoninus Pius (138-139). [Read More]
9. Pope St. Hyginus (136-140)
Reigned about 138-142; succeeded Pope Telesphorus, who, according to Eusebius (Church History IV.15), died during the first year of the reign of the Emperor Antonius Pius — in 138 or 139, therefore. But the chronology of these bishops of Rome cannot be determined with any degree of exactitude by the help of the authorities at our disposal today. According to the “Liber Pontificalis”, Hyginus was a Greek by birth. The further statement that he was previously a philosopher is probably founded on the similarity of his name with that of two Latin authors. [Read More]
10. Pope St. Pius I (140-155)
Date of birth unknown; pope from about 140 to about 154. According to the earliest list of the popes, given by Irenaeus (Against Heresies II.31; cf. Eusebius, Church History V.6), Pius was the ninth successor of St. Peter. The dates given in the Liberian Catalogue for his pontificate (146-61) rest on a false calculation of earlier chroniclers, and cannot be accepted. The only chronological datum we possess is supplied by the year of St. Polycarp of Smyrna’s death, which may be referred with great certainty to 155-6.
During the pontificate of Pius the Roman Church was visited by various heretics, who sought to propagate their false doctrine among the faithful of the capital. The Gnostic Valentinus, who had made his appearance under Pope Hyginus, continued to sow his heresy, apparently not without success. The Gnostic Cerdon was also active in Rome at this period, during which Marcion arrived in the capital (see MARCIONITES). Excluded from communion by Pius, the latter founded his heretical body (Irenaeus, Against Heresies III.3). But Catholic teachers also visited the Roman Church, the most important being St. Justin, who expounded the Christian teachings during the pontificate of Pius and that of his successor. A great activity thus marks the Christian community in Rome, which stands clearly conspicuous as the centre of the Church. [Read More]