St. Soter - A Charitable Pontiff

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St. Soter was a Campanian from Fundi, the modern Fondi. His father's name was Concordius. He decreed that no monk should touch the consecrated altar cloth or offer incense in church. Some manuscripts read "nun" instead of "monk" in the above prohibition.

These meager details, given for what they are worth, are from the sixth- century "Liber Pontificalis," but for St. Soter there is a very interesting reference in the early fourth-century "Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius." Eusebius speaking of St. Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, says (IV, xxiii, 9- 15):

"There is moreover, extant a letter of Dionysius to the Romans addressed to Soter who was then bishop, and there is nothing better than to quote the words in which he welcomes the custom of the Romans which was observed down to the persecution in our own times. 'This has been your custom from the beginning, to do good in manifold ways to all Christians, and to send contributions to the many churches in every city, in some places relieving the poverty of the needy and ministering to the Christians in the mines, by the contribution which you have sent from the beginning, preserving the ancestral custom of the Romans, true Romans as you are. Your blessed bishop Soter has not only carried on the habit but has even increased it, by administering the bounty distributed to the saints and by exhorting with his blessed words the brethren who come to Rome, as a loving father would his children.'"

In this same letter he also quotes the letter of Clement to the Corinthians, showing that from the beginning it had been the custom to read it in the church. "Today we observed the holy day of the Lord, and read out your letter, which we shall continue to read from time to time for our admonition, as we do that formerly sent us by Clement."

This letter shows that Pope St. Soter was very charitable. It also indicates the high respect the Corinthians had for the letter of Pope St. Clement and the letter of Soter. The "persecution in our own times" mentioned by Eusebius was the persecution of Diocletian. The words of Eusebius are testimony that the Roman See was as preeminent in charity as it was in dignity.

St. Soter was buried in the cemetery of Calixtus. He is honored by the Church as a martyr. His feast together with that of St. Caius, is celebrated on April 22.

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

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