Pope Evaristus was the son of a Greek Jew, who was originally from Bethlehem. He was born in the 1st century AD in Bethlehem, Judaea. He was also known as Aristus. Pope Evaristus is considered as a martyr although there is no confirmation of his martyrdom. He succeeded Pope Clement I and was succeeded by Pope Alexander I. Pope Evaristus was the Pope of the Roman Catholic from c.99 to c.107. This means that he held the office of the Catholic Church for almost nine years. It was during the start of his reign that St. John the apostle found his death.
Pope Evaristus was elected during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian. After being elected the Roman Catholic Church Pope, he served under the reign of three emperors namely Domitian, Nerva and Trajan. During his reign, Pope Evaristus divided among the priests the titles of the city of Rome. He established a constitution which stated that seven deacons were to assist the bishop and serve as authentic witnesses for him. Pope Evaristus instituted the role of cardinal priests by dividing Christian Rome into seven parishes and assigning a priest to each parish. Additionally, he appointed seven deacons to attend each bishop.
According to most Martyrologies and Pontificalis, Pope Evaristus has been recognized as a martyr although there are no records that clearly state the details of his martyrdom. Pope Evaristus is said to have lost his life by martyrdom at the same time that St. Ignatius of Antioch gave his life in the name of Christ. In most cases Pope Evaristus is represented by a sword which is a symbol showing that he was executed. However, Pope Evaristus is also sometimes represented with a crib which symbolizes that he was born in Bethlehem, where his father relocated his family.
Just like the other early popes of the Roman Catholic Church, there is little information that was properly documented about the life and deeds of Pope Evaristus. His most important legacy in the Roman Catholic Church is his aforementioned act of diving Rome into seven regions and assigning a priest to each region.
There is also a prayer to Pope Evaristus which is recited as follows: “Dear Lord, you gave your servant, Pope Evaristus, the gifts of wisdom and humility to guide your Church on earth. By his loyalty in shepherding the flock, may he continue to guide those on earth who seek his intercession. Amen.”
Pope Evaristus died in c.107. He was buried near the body of St. Peter the Apostle in the Vatican grottoes. His tomb is among the most visited tombs of the late popes in the Vatican. Following his death, the papal throne remained vacant for nineteen days before a new pope was elected. His feast day is celebrated on the 26th of October.