st.Dionysius of Alexandria-Bishop of Alexandria, Father of the Church

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  st.Dionysius of Alexandria

Feast Day : November 17



Also known as: Dionysius the Great



Dionysius of Alexandria was one of the greatest bishops of the third century. He lived during a time of turmoil and persecution. Dionysius was born in Alexandria to a distinguished pagan family. As a youth he had a vision that prompted him to convert to Christianity. He entered catechetical school and studied under Origen. Origen was banished by Demetrius in 231. After the death of Demetrius, Dionysius took over as head of the school, and may have retained the position even after becom- ing bishop of Alexandria in 247 and serving through 248. In 249, an anti-Christian riot broke out in Alexandria, and scores of Christians, including the virgin Apollonia, were tortured and killed. The riot was stopped, but an official persecution was launched in January 250 by the newly crowned emperor Decius. Dionysius was arrested, but was rescued and taken into the Libyan desert, where he remained until the persecutions stopped in 251. The same year, a dispute arose between Pope Cornelius (r. 251–253) and Novatian, and Dionysius sided with Cornelius. Famine and plague then descended on Alexandria and the city remained in turmoil. Throughout these tensions and difficulties, Dionysius sought to keep the Eastern and Western Churches in communication, and advocated indulgences for lapsed Christians who wished to return to the fold. He wrote books correcting errors in theology and went out into the villages to preach. In 253 Valerian became emperor and began persecutions in 257. Dionysius was banished to Kephro in the Libyan desert. There he remained until tolerance was declared in 260 by Gallienus. Returning to Alexandria, Dionysius once again found the city in the grip of famine and plague. So difficult was travel that he had to communicate with his churches by letter. In 264 he regained the bishopric, which he held until his death in 265. Dionysius wrote numerous letters, only one of which survives. He is cited in the works of Eusebius, who, along with St. Basil and others, referred to Dionysius as “the Great.”

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