VATICAN CITY, DEC. 7, 2001 (Zenit.org).- New findings show that the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches are linked, among other things, by a common figure: St. Clement, the second Pope in history.
Actually, historians are yet to agree whether St. Clement was St. Peter´s immediate successor as Bishop of Rome, or whether he was the third Pope.
There is growing evidence, at least, confirming the tradition that this martyr died in exile in Quersoneso (former name of the present capital of Crimea, in Ukraine).
This thesis was defended by several historians in an international congress on the figure of this Pope, held here at the end of November.
The event was organized by St. Clement´s Institute, the Pontifical Academy “Cultorum Martyrum” and the Pontifical Oriental Institute, to commemorate the 19th centenary of the saint´s death.
One of the speakers, professor Natalino Spaccapelo of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, explained why Eastern Christians so love this saint.
“In the year 861, Cyril and Methodius, evangelizers of the Slav peoples, were sent from Constantinople on a diplomatic and religious mission to Quersoneso,” Spaccapelo told ZENIT. “While there, they spent time looking for the place of martyrdom and possible relics of St. Clement.”
“They found remains and a very solemn celebration was held,” he added. “Cyril and Methodius took St. Clement´s relics to Rome in the year 867-868.”
The “news of the baptism of Vladimir, prince of Kiev, which took place in the Cathedral of St. Basil in Quersoneso in 988,” is also attributed to the intercession of St. Clement. “That same year, all the people were baptized in the waters of the Dnieper,” Spaccapelo continued.
“The prince returned to Quersoneso with his fiancee Ana, sister of the Emperor Basil, and the precious relic of the head of St. Clement. This is how the building of the Church of Christ in the Rus of Kiev came about,” he said.
The Rus of Kiev is the historical origin of today´s Russian Orthodox Church.
Professor Spaccapelo explained that St. Clement´s message continues to be timely: “From patristic sources one gathers that from earliest times, this Bishop of Rome is regarded as the author of a letter sent to the Christian community of Corinth exhorting them to unity.”