With the death of Pope Saint Victor in 199, his successor Pope Saint Zephyrinus became the 15th in the line of Peter and ruled the longest any pontiff up to that time - 18 years. This Roman-born Pope decreed that young people 14 years and over should receive Holy Communion at Easter time, thus establishing the "Easter Duty." He papacy was characterized by bitter theological struggles and it ended in great confusion when he was forced to excommunicate the great Christian historian Tertullian. It was Zephyrinus who introduced the use of the paten and of chalices of cut glass.
He died in 217 at the hands of the Roman Emperor Caracalla the Cruel and was succeeded to the Apostolic See by Pope Saint Callistus. This Roman-born Pope lasted five years and during this time
Latin became the Liturgical Language of the Church and Callistus was responsible for the excavation of the famous catacombs on the Via Appia where today 45 Popes and 200,000 martyrs are buried including Callistus who was beaten to death with clubs and his remains thrown into a well where "Santa Maria in Trastevere" now stands.
Pope Callistus not only established the four fasts for Ember days, but it
was this 16th pope who decreed Latin to be the official language of the
liturgy which has held true ever since. His reasoning followed because for
nearly two centuries Latin had been the unofficial language of the common
people of Rome and nearby vicinities. As often happens in a class system,
there is a division not only in culture but also in language and dialect.
So, it was in Rome. Because of the Greek influence, many of those born of
noble Roman birth retained and passed on the Greek language and customs.
One of these was Hippolytus a Roman priest who was constantly a thorn in
Callistus' side. Upon Callistus' election as Pope Hippolytus broke away
from Rome, and became the first antipope in history. Despite the volatile
actions of this heretic, before his defection he composed the Apostolic
Tradition. This prayer in part has been passed on to this day in the
Eucharistic Prayer after the Offertory.
Another tradition credited to Hippolytus was the origin of the Kiss of
Peace. Many liturgical scholars attribute its origin to the procedure of
segregating men and women into different locations during the mass. This
was a throwback to Jewish custom, strongly adopted by the Greeks that women
would not participate in religious services except in outer circles of the
temple or sanctuary. It was a custom that Christ observed as part of
Jewish law and the Church carried on regarding the priesthood and Holy Mass
until the advent of the feminist movement which conversely deeply
influenced Vatican II.
Many Church historians presume Hippolytus had been born of noble parents
and nurtured in the Greek language. In short, he was a scholar. On the
other side of the proverbial coin Callistus had been born a slave and
always clung to the needs of the poor.
Those, like Callistus, who had been slaves, non-Romans and those who were
poor rejected the Greek either out of lack of formal education or their
despise for what pagan Rome stood for. They, in turn, adopted Latin as
Christians who were, for the most part, in and among the poor as Christ had
directed quickly embraced a means of communication and it.
Yet, insurrection was inevitable from the Greek camp. Fired up by
Hippolytus they objected vehemently to the abandonment of their language.
Only a few things of Greek such as the Kyrie Leison were retained. It was
an all-out victory for Latin, but left scars that lasted for centuries and
eventually led to a split between East and West.
As time passed, more and more Latin was incorporated into the liturgy of
the Mass because it was the common language of the people, they could
identify as the language of the Church wherever they went, and it became a
possessive tongue where the Christians guarded and treasured this new
speech. His Holiness Callistus also reasoned that if the liturgy was
conducted in Latin universally, Christians could more readily identify and
participate wherever they went. From 220 to 1965, this was the rule rather
than the exception. Unfortunately today it's the exception rather than the
The establishment of Latin was St. Callistus' most recognized
accomplishment and eventually he returned to his roots, driven to take
shelter in the poor and populous quarters of Rome during the terrible
persecution of the Emperor Alexander Severus. Pope Callistus was martyred on
October 14, 223.
Pope Saint Urban I succeeded him for the next seven years. It was Urban who converted Saint Cecilia to Christianity and had a church built on th site of her martydom in Trastevere in 230 just before he, too was martyred under Severus. It was St. Urban I who consented to the Church being allowed to purchase property.
On July 21, 230 Pope Saint Pontian was elected. During his five year pontificate he ordered the chanting of the psalms and the recital of the Confiteor before death and the use of the salutation Dominus vobiscum. Severus, as he had done to Pontian's predecessors,
exiled him to Sardinia along with Hippolytus. Through Pontian's counsel,
Hippolytus repented, renouncing his title as antipope and encouraged his
followers to return to the true Church. The schism caused by Hippolytus
was reconciled and Hippolytus became Saint Hippolytus, shedding his blood
for Christ at the hands of his Roman persecutors in 235. Pontian was condemned to work in the mines of Sardinia where he died suffering on the tiny island of Tavolara on September 28, 235.
The next in the line of pontiffs was Pope Saint Anterus, elected on November 21, 235 who was pope for only a few months, being martyred on January 3, 236 by Severus' successor the Roman Emperor Maximinus, a barbarian from Thrace. St. Anterus ordered that the acts and relics of the martyrs be gathered together and kept in churches in a place called the "scrinium".
On January 10, 236 Pope Saint Fabian became the 20th in the line of Peter and ruled 14 years until his death as a martyr on January 20, 250 at the hands of the Roman Emperor Decius. It is recorded that at the moment Fabian's name was announced as the next Sovereign Pontiff, a dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, alighted on his head. During his pontificate there was such an exodus of Christians from Rome because of the fierce persecution of the wicked Decius that it gave birth to the movement away from Rome, mostly in Turkey and Northern Africa, known as the Anchorites who led lives of solitude as hermits.