Pope Linus (/ˈlaɪnəs/ (); died c. AD 76) was the second Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff (Pope) of the Catholic Church.
His pontificate endured from c. AD 67 to his death. Among those to have been Pope, Peter, Linus, and Clement are specifically named in the New Testament.
Linus is named in the valediction of the Second Epistle to Timothy as being with Paul the Apostle in Rome near the end of Paul's life.
Early Bishops of Rome
The earliest witness to the episcopate of Linus was Irenaeus, who in c. AD 180 wrote that "the blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate." The Oxford Dictionary of Popes mentions that according to the earliest succession lists of bishops of Rome, passed down by Irenaeus and Hegesippus and attested by the historian Eusebius, he was entrusted with his office by the Apostles Peter and Paul after they had established the Christian church in Rome. By this primitive reckoning he was therefore the first pope, but from the late 2nd or early 3rd century the convention began of regarding Peter as first pope. Jerome described Linus as "the first after Peter to be in charge of the Roman Church" and Eusebius described him as "the first to receive the episcopate of the church at Rome, after the martyrdom of Paul and Peter". John Chrysostom wrote that "this Linus, some say, was second Bishop of the Church of Rome after Peter", while the Liberian Catalogue described Peter as the first Bishop of Rome and Linus as his successor in the same office.
The Liber Pontificalis also enumerated Linus as the second Bishop of Rome after Peter, and stated that Peter consecrated 2 bishops, Linus and Cletus/Anacletus for the priestly service of the community, while devoting himself instead to prayer and preaching, and that it was Clement to whom he entrusted the universal Church and appointed as his successor. Tertullian also wrote of Clement as the successor of Peter. Jerome named Clement as "the fourth bishop of Rome after Peter, if indeed the second was Linus and the third Anacletus, although most of the Latins think that Clement was second after the apostle."
The Liberian Catalogue and the Liber Pontificalis date the episcopate of Linus as AD 56 to 67, during the reign of Nero, but Jerome dated it as AD 67 to 78, and Eusebius dated the end of his episcopate in the second year of the reign of Titus, scire licet, AD 80.
Linus is named in the valediction of the Second Epistle to Timothy. In that epistle, Linus is noted as being with Paul the Apostle in Rome near the end of Paul's life. Irenaeus stated that this is the same Linus who became Bishop of Rome, and this conclusion is generally still accepted.
According to the Liber Pontificalis, Linus was an Italian born in Volterra in Tuscany. His father's name was recorded as "Herculanus". The Apostolic Constitutions denominated his mother "Claudia"; immediately after the name "Linus" in 2 Timothy 4:21 a "Claudia" is named, but the Bible does not explicitly identify Claudia as Linus' mother. According to the Liber Pontificalis, Linus decreed that women should cover their heads in church, created the first 15 bishops, died a martyr, and was buried on the Vatican Hill (presently Vatican City) adjacent to Peter the Apostle. It dated his death as 23 September, on which date his feast is still celebrated. His name is included in the Roman Canon of the Mass.
With respect to Linus' purported decree prescribing the covering of women's heads, J. P. Kirsch commented in the Catholic Encyclopedia that "without doubt this decree is apocryphal, and copied by the author of the Liber Pontificalis from Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (11: 5) and arbitrarily attributed to the first successor of the Apostle in Rome. The statement made in the same source, that Linus suffered martyrdom, cannot be proved and is improbable. For between Nero and Domitian there is no mention of any persecution of the Roman Church; and Irenaeus (1. c., III, iv, 3) from among the early Roman bishops designates only Telesphorus as a glorious martyr." The Roman Martyrology does not enumerate Linus as a martyr as does the Liber Pontificalis; the entry in the former regarding him states: "At Rome, commemoration of Saint Linus, Pope, who, according to Irenaeus, was the person to whom the blessed Apostles entrusted the episcopal care of the Church founded in the City, and whom blessed Paul the Apostle mentions as associated with him."
A tomb that Torrigio discovered in Saint Peter's Basilica in 1615 and that was inscribed with the letters "LINVS" previously was assumed to be the tomb of Linus. However a note by Torrigio reveals that these were merely the final 5 letters of a longer name, e. g. "Aquilinus" or "Anullinus". A letter on the martyrdom of Peter and Paul was once attributed to Linus, but in fact it was determined to date to the 6th century. Absent evidence to the contrary, presumably the Liber Pontificalis is correct that Linus was buried on the Vatican Hill adjacent to Peter the Apostle in what is now the Vatican Necropolis beneath Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, despite any absence of recent, corroborating evidence.