Pope and Martyr
Saint Anacletus was the second successor to Saint Peter, by whom he was converted to the faith. He was also ordained a deacon and consecrated priest by Christ’s own first Vicar, as Saint Ignatius of Antioch affirms. He was Greek by origin, born in Athens; in the year 83 he was chosen to succeed Saint Cletus, who had been martyred. The emperor Domitian had begun a violent persecution which increased in fury as time passed; but the faith of the Christians did not diminish, only receiving new force from the blood of the martyrs.
This holy Pontiff omitted no solicitude which could animate the faithful to expose their lives generously for the glory of Jesus Christ. During his nine years of reign, he consecrated six bishops. The last of these bishops was Saint Evaristus, who would succeed him; Saint Anacletus consecrated him the year before his death, foreseeing he could not long escape the fate of all the first Vicars of Christ.
One of his enduring ordinances was the law that for the consecration of a bishop, three bishops must participate; that practice had been established by Saint Paul. He also required that all ordinations be accomplished in public. He built a church in honor of Saint Peter, to whom he owed his conversion, at the site of Saint Peter’s burial; the original structure was conserved by Providence amid many tempests. He reserved burial sites for future martyrs in the Christian cemeteries, because multitudes were being condemned under Domitian. He also designated and adorned sites for the interment of future Pontiffs in the Vatican. Saint Anacletus was highly praised by Saint Ignatius of Antioch in a well-known letter. He died on July 13th in the year 96, and was buried in the Vatican.
Certain authors would confound Saint Cletus and Anacletus and make of them one person. Their father’s names are known, however, as well as their place of birth — the one in Italy, the other in Greece; moreover, Saint Cletus was consecrated bishop by Saint Peter, saint Anacletus was ordained a priest by him.
Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 8