Today is the feast day of Pope Saint Telesphorus. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Telesphorus was of Greek ancestry and born in Terranova da Sibari, Calabria, Italy. St. Telesphorus was the seventh Roman bishop in succession from the Apostles, and, according to the testimony of St. Irenæus (Adv. hæreses, III, iii, 3), suffered a glorious martyrdom. Eusebius (Hist. eccl., IV, vii, xiv) places the beginning of his pontificate in the twelfth of Hadrian’s reign (128-129), his death in the first year of the reign of Antoninus Pius (138-139). These statements, however, should be compared with Lightfoot, “The Apostolic Fathers”, I (London, 1899), 201 sq., section on “Early Roman Successions”, and Harnack, “Geschlichte der alchristl. Literatur”, pt. II, “Die Chronologie”, I (Leipzing, 1879), 70 sq.
In the fragment of the letter of Irenæus of Lyons to Pope Victor concerning the celebration of Easter (Euseb., “Hist. eccl.,” V, xxiv), Telesphorus is mentioned as one of the Roman bishops who always celebrated Easter on Sunday, without, however, abandoning church fellowship with those communities that did not follow this custom. None of the statements in the “Liber pontificalis” and other authorities of a later date as to liturgical and other decisions of this pope are genuine. In the Roman Martyrology his feast is given under 5 January; the Greek Church celebrates it on 22 February. (1) (2)
He is the only 2nd-century pope whose martyrdom can be verified. (5)
The tradition of Christmas Midnight Masses, the celebration of Easter on Sundays, the keeping of a seven-week Lent before Easter and the singing of the Gloria are usually attributed to his pontificate, but some historians doubt that such attributions are accurate.
The Carmelites venerate Telesphorus as a patron saint of the order since some sources depict him as a hermit living on Mount Carmel.
The town of Saint-Télesphore, in the southwestern part of Canada’s Quebec province, is named after him.
Image: Portrait of Pope Telesphorus in the Basilica of Saintr Paul Outside the Walls, Rome, circa 2nd century.
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff