Marcellinus, Pope, St.

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Pontificate: June 30, 296 to Oct. 25, 304. The Libe pontificalis calls Marcellinus a Roman, the son of Projectus, and places his pontificate during the persecution of Diocletian. It repeats the story, circulated later by the Donatists (see donatism), that the pope, when apprehended and ordered to sacrifice to the gods, complied and handed over the sacred books to the persecuting authorities. Torn with remorse, the pope is said to have repented and sought martyrdom several days later. His body was buried by the priest Marcellus in the private cemetery of Priscilla on the Via Salaria.

The accusations of apostasy brought against Marcellinus and other Catholic bishops, including the future popes Miltiades, Marcellus, and Silvester, are acknowledged and rejected by St. Augustine (Contra Litteram Petil. 2.92.202; De unico baptismo 16; Brev. coll. 3.18) and repeated in the Acts (c. 500) of the alleged Council of Sinuessa, which lays great stress on the pope's repentance and martyrdom. Eusebius states that the pope "was overcome by the persecution" and locates his grave in the cemetery of Priscilla (Ecclesiastical History. 7.32); but Pope damasus i ignored him when he composed the epitaphs of past Roman bishops, and neither the martyrology of st. jerome nor the Gelasian Sacramentary mentions Marcellinus.

The Eastern bishop Theodoret of Cyrus records that Marcellinus bore a distinguished role in the persecution (Ecclesiastical History. 1.2), however, scholars consider the Western evidence decisive and believe that somehow Marcellinus compromised himself during the persecution, although they also take his repentance seriously. The Depositio episcoporum names a "Marcellinus," but it is evident from the dates given that Pope marcellus i, not Marcellinus, was meant. A late fifthcentury passio and the seventhcentury itineraria credit him with martyrdom and witness to the veneration of his tomb. While the Annuario Pontificio (2001) lists the dates of Marcellinus as June 30, 296, to Oct. 25, 304, historians hesitate to distinguish him from his successor Marcellus.

Feast: April 26.

Bibliography: a. stuiber, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiberg 195765) 7:1. É. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 9.2:19992001. Liber pontificalis, ed. l. duchesne (Paris 188692, 1958) 1: LXXIIILXXV, 3236, 7273, 162163. e. h. rÖttges, Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie (Vienna 1877) 78 (1956) 385420. e. ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (New York 1997) 2:713. j. n. d. kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986) 2425.

[e. g. weltin]