By Larry Peterson
The eighth pope in the line of succession that began with St. Peter was Pope Telesphorus. He was a pope from 126 AD until 137 AD. He was followed by Pope Hyginus, who reigned from 136 AD to 142 AD. Both of these sainted popes have feast days in January and both established traditions that are still in use to this day.
The exact birth date of Telesphorus is unknown, but he was born in Calabria, Italy and was of Greek descent. It is said that he had been a religious hermit before being chosen as the Bishop of Rome.
Pope Telesphorus is responsible for beginning the custom of fasting for six weeks before Easter. He also was the pope who introduced the Gloria in Excelsis Deo into the Mass. The message Pope Telesphorus wanted to give to everyone was that the words, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men of good will,” meant that anyone who does not believe that Jesus Christ is the true God, is not a man of good will, and has himself to blame for his unbelief.
Lastly, Pope Telesphorus is the pope that initiated the practice allowing priests to say three Masses on Christmas. The first Mass is held at Midnight because that is the hour Christ was born.
It is said that Pope Telesephorus was put to death during the last year of Emperor Hadrian’s reign, in the year 137 AD. It is also said that he “bore witness gloriously” and he is the only second-century pope whose martyrdom has been reliably confirmed..
In Roman Martyrology, his feast day is celebrated on January 5th. (The Greek Church celebrates it on February 22). Pope St. Telesphorus, please pray for us.
©copyright Larry Peterson 2019