Feast Day : January 16
St. Marcellinus, the predecessor of Marcellus, died in October 304, but the continuing persecutions of Emperor Diocletian made it impossible to hold a new election to the papacy at that time. It was only after Diocletian’s abdication to Maxentius in October 306 that it could be contemplated. However, Marcellus was not elected bishop of Rome until May or June of 308. The Roman Church was then in considerable disarray, most of its meeting and burial places having been confiscated during the persecution, and Marcellus took immediate steps to return order. He reorganized the church into parishes, appointing at the head of each parish presbyters who were given responsibilities to prepare catechumens for baptism, direct the performance of penances, oversee burials of the dead, and perform celebrations commemorating the deaths of martyrs. Marcellus also was faced with a large number of lapsed Christians, who had denied their faith in the face of the persecutions and now wanted to return to the Church. He ruled that they could do so, though only after having made appropriate penance. Although this decision followed longstanding Church practice, it did not sit well with many. Serious conflicts, some resulting even in bloodshed, arose, causing Emperor Maxentius to exile Marcellus from Rome. Marcellus probably died in exile, although there is a tradition that he was made a slave by Maxentius and forced to work in his stables (or in the stables of a station on a public highway). Although celebrated as a martyr, it appears that his death was not violent. He was buried in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla on the Via Salaria on January 16, 309, but 300 years later his relics were translated to their present resting place under the high altar of the church of San Marcello al Corso. In art, Marcellus is depicted as a pope with a donkey and a crib near him, sometimes in a stable.