St. Marcus (Mark) - The Pallium Pontiff

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St. Mark, a Roman, the son of Pricus, succeeded St. Sylvester as pope on January 18, 336. If an epitaph composed by Pope St. Damasus refers to Pope Mark, as the archeologist De Rossi believes, St. Mark was a man who "filled with the love of God, despised the world . . . the guardian of justice, a true friend of Christ."

Emperor Constantine continued to show his generosity to the Church, for he gave to St. Mark two basilicas and the estates necessary to maintain them. One of these, the Church of St. Mark, still exists, though its present structure does not go back to the fourth century. The other was a cemetery church in the Catacomb of Balbina, a cemetery which lies between the Appian and Ardeatine roads.

St. Mark is said to have decreed that a new pope should be consecrated by the bishop of Ostia. This is quite probable, for this custom is very ancient. He is also said to have decreed that the bishop of Ostia should receive the pallium. The pallium is a vestment of white wool which a pope wears as a symbol of the fullness of his apostolic power and an archbishop wears as a symbol of his participation in that power. An archbishop may not exercise any metropolitan prerogative until he has received the pallium from the pope.

St. Mark died on October 7, 336, after a pontificate of less than a year. He is buried in the cemetery of Balbina, a place he seems to have chosen for himself. His feast is kept on October 7.

Excerpted from "Popes Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.

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