In our ongoing study of the popes, we come to Soter. The twelfth bishop of Rome, was born in Fondi, Lazio, located between Rome and Naples, according to tradition. He probably was born after the death of the last apostle, John, and probably after many of the people who had ever had the blessing to meet the Apostles. His name, Soter, means savior, or deliverer, in Greek. `The Liber Pontificalis, the source for much info about the ealy fathers, says that his father, Concordius, was of Greek origin, so this might be his given name. He reigned somewhere between 166-167 and 174 AD.
Like his immediate predecessors, Soter was challenged by the early Montanists and the Gnostics. One ancient source says that Soter wrote a book against the heretics as did Appolonius of Ephesus. But Tertullian, the heretic priest from Carthage, continued to fight.
Pope Soter was known for two things: mandating the date of Easter, and his good works of mercy to those areas suffering persecution, mostly in the Middle East. There is no historical proof of his preventing women from touching items used in the Mass.
Proof of Pope Soter’s generosity and concern for his flock come from this letter, the whole of which is no longer extant, except this fragment. It is written by St. Dionysius of Corinth to the Bishop of Rome, in response to the letter the bishop had written to the community. That letter is no longer extant. St. Dionysius writes: “From the beginning it has been your custom to do good to all the brethren in many ways, and to send alms to many churches in every city, refreshing the poverty of those who sent requests, or giving aid to the brethren in the mines, by the alms which you have had the habit of giving from of old, Romans keeping up the traditional custom of the Romans; which your blessed Bishop Soter has not only preserved, but has even increased, by providing the abundance which he has sent to the saints, and by further consoling with blessed words the brethren who came to him, as a loving father his children.” “Today, therefore, we have kept the holy Lord’s day, on which we have read your letter, which we shall always have to read and be admonished, even as the former letter which was written to us by the ministry of Clement.”
Unfortunately, there is nothing further known about this man who must have been a very kind and caring person. His reign was during a calm between persecutions in Rome and there is no verification that he was martyred.
Kind St. Soter, pray for us.