- Pope Dionysius of Alexandria
Pope Dionysius of Alexandria Martyrs Born late 2nd, early 3rd century Died November 17, 265 Feast November 17
Pope Dionysius of Alexandria, named "the Great," was the Pope of Alexandria from 248 until his death on November 17, 265 after seventeen years as a bishop. He was the first Pope to hold the title "the Great" (before a Bishop of Rome even). We have information on Dionysius because during his lifetime, Dionysius wrote many correspondence letters. Only one original letter survives to this day; the remaining letters are found re-written in the works of Eusebius.
Dionysius was born to a wealthy pagan family sometime in the late 2nd, early 3rd century. Dionysius spent most of his life reading books and carefully studying the traditions of heretics. He converted to Christianity at a mature age and discussed his conversion experience with Philemon, Presbyter of Sixtus. Dionysius converted to Christianity when he received a vision sent from God; in it he was commanded to vigorously study the heresies facing the Christian Church so that he could refute them through doctrinal study. After his conversion, Dionysius joined the Catechetical School of Alexandria and was a student of Origen and Heraclas. Dionysius later became leader of the school and presbyter of the Christian church, succeeding Heraclas in 231. Dionysius later became Bishop of Alexandria (Pope of the church that became the Coptic Church and the Orthodox Church of Alexandria) in 248 succeeding a deceased Heraclas.
Work as Bishop of Alexandria
Information on Dionysius’ work as the Bishop of Alexandria is evidenced in Dionysius' correspondence with other bishops and clergymen of the 3rd century Christian Church. Dionysius’ correspondences included interpretations on the Book of Luke, the Book of John and the Book of Revelation. Dionysius also describes the period where the city of Alexandria was subject to the legal persecution instituted by Emperor Decius against Christians. Many Alexandrians faced extreme horrors during the persecution; they included, being stoned to death, the gouging of eyes, being dragged through the streets as well as being burnt alive. Dionysius himself was captured during the persecution, but was later freed by a mob of Christians and fled into the desert.
O God, who hast enlightened thy Church by the teaching of thy servant Dionysius: Enrich us evermore with thy heavenly grace, and raise up faithful witnesses who by their life and doctrine will set forth the truth of thy salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever.
Greek text and commentary
- Charles Lett Feltoe, The letters and other remains of Dionysius of Alexandria, Cambridge, 1904 (online)
- The works of Gregory Thaumaturgus, Dionysius of Alexandria and Archelaus, trans. S. D. F. Salmond, Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1871: Google Books, archive.org
- Letters of Dionysius of Alexandria to the Popes Stephen and Xystus (tertullian.org)
- The Catholic Encyclopedia
Pope of Alexandria
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