Champions of Catholic Orthodoxy

Saint Peter of Alexandria, Bishop and Martyr (†311, Feast—November 26)

Sts. Clement I and Peter of Alexandria St. Peter, the successor of St. Theonas in the See of Alexandria, was, by his learning and holiness, the glory of Egypt and the light of the whole Church of God. Such was his courage under the terrible persecution raised by Maximian Galerius, that the example of his admirable patience strengthened a great many in Christian virtue. He was the first to cut off from the communion of the faithful Arius, deacon of Alexandria, for favoring the schism of the Meletians.

From the best historical evidence, we learn that this schism began when St. Peter was forced into temporary exile by the persecution. Nonetheless, St. Peter arranged for the continued government of his See, as well as those of others who were subject to him as Bishop of Alexandria, and whose bishops were then in prison for the Faith. A certain Meletius, Bishop of Lycopolis, who apparently considered St. Peter too lenient with those who had compromised their Faith under the persecution, took advantage of his absence to usurp his patriarchal functions, and, contrary to Church Law, consecrated bishops for those Sees whose bishops were in prison. Meletius then went to Alexandria, where, encouraged by the deacon Arius and others, he set aside those whom St. Peter had left in charge of the government of that See. St. Peter eventually excommunicated Meletius and Arius. He returned to Alexandria in 311 and was promptly arrested.

When St. Peter had been condemned to death by Maximian, the priests Achillas and Alexander came to him in prison to intercede for Arius; but the Bishop answered that during the night Jesus had appeared to him with His garment torn, and on his asking the cause, He replied: "Arius has rent My garment, which is the Church." He then foretold that they two would succeed him in turn in the episcopate, and forbade them ever to receive Arius to communion, for he knew that Arius was dead to God. The truth of this prophecy was soon proved by the events. St. Peter was beheaded and thus went to receive the crown of martyrdom on the sixth of the Kalends of December (November 26), in the twelfth year of his episcopate.

Let us offer our homage and prayers to the great Bishop whom the Church thus commemorates today. He has been called the seal and complement of the Martyrs, as he is believed to have been the last Christian officially executed by the Roman authorities. For a long time he went by the name of Peter the Martyr, until in the thirteenth century another Peter the Martyr (St. Peter of Verona), himself illustrious among all, came to claim the title, leaving his glorious brother in the Faith to be known as St. Peter of Alexandria.

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