PERSECUTION in the EARLY CHURCH PERSECUTION in the EARLY CHURCH
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”Tertullian
Shortly After the Death of Christ -Christians accused of cannibalism, perversion, and incest -Christians used as scapegoats for every misfortune -Christians arrested, harassed, and persecuted
Early Christian Martyrs Ignatius of Antioch • Martyred in 107 in the arena (believed to be the Coliseum) • Roman Authorities hoped to make an example of him and thus discourage Christianity from spreading. • Instead, he met with and encouraged Christians who flocked to meet him all along his route, and he wrote letters to the churches. Bishop of Antioch
Perpetua and Felicity (d. 202) Perpetua, her slave Felicity, and three men were arrested for converting to Christianity. • Amphitheater in Carthage • Scourged • Attacked by wild animals • Then put to the sword
Sts. Sergius and Bacchus were the leaders of a group of Roman soldiers under Emperor Diocletian. When it became known that they were Christians, they were tortured and killed.
Caesar Nero Emperor: 54-68 First emperor to persecute Christians Blamed the Christians for the fire in Rome in 64 "Mockery of every sort accompanied their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired." -Tacitus
Caesar Decius Emperor: 249-251 Empire-wide & systematic persecution Required libelli (certificates) Apostasy or martyrdom
Libelli & Confessors The libelliwere documents notarized by Roman authorities to certify that someone had offered sacrifice to the gods. In times of persecution these documents were accepted as proof that someone was not a Christian. Confessorswere Christians who confessed their faith and suffered persecution and torture, but not to the point of death. They were imprisoned for their faith, and other Christians flocked for to them for strength and guidance. Many Christians even sought them for forgiveness of their sins, which became controversial in the Church.
Lapsi The lapsi (lapsed) were those apostates who renounced their faith during the early persecutions. They can be divided into multiple categories: - sacraficati – those who had actually offered sacrifice to an idol - thurificati – those who burned incense on an altar before a statue of the gods - libellatici – those who obtained libelli from Roman officials without actually sacrificing - traditores (“traitors”) – Those who gave up Sacred Scripture, sacred vessels, or gave up names of fellow Christians.
“They seized first an old man and commanded him to utter impious words. They beat him with clubs, tore his face and eyes with sharp sticks, and dragged him out of the city to stone him. Then they carried to their temple a faithful woman. As she turned away in detestation, they bound her feet and dragged her through the city over the stone-paved streets, dashed her against the millstones, scourged her, and stoned her. Then they rushed to the homes of the pious to steal and plunder. Then they seized the most admirable virgin and broke out her teeth. They threatened to burn her alive if she would not utter impious cries. She leaped eagerly into the fire. There was no street, nor public road, nor lane open to us, by night or day; for always and everywhere, all of them cried out that if any one would not repeat their impious words, he should immediately be dragged away and burned.” Caesar Decius Emperor: 249-251
Cyprian of Carthage(d. 258) Council in 251 in North Africa (Synod of Carthage) Great penance for apostates Novatianist schism
Caesar Diocletian Emperor: 284-305 In 303 AD: 4 Edicts: Destroy Churches & Scriptures Imprison clergy All clergy must sacrifice to gods All Christians must sacrifice to gods
False Accusations Atheism Causes of doom Cannibalism Infanticide Incest Orgies
Catacombs of Rome • Used for burial and memorial services of Christian martyrs. • In 380, the practice of catacomb burial declined. • In the 6th century, catacombs were used only for martyrs’ memorial services. • By the 10th century catacombs were abandoned, and holy relics were transferred to above-ground basilicas. • They remained forgotten until they were accidentally rediscovered in 1578.
Burial niches were carved into walls: 16-24” high and 47-59” long
Modern Persecution Religious persecution continues around the world. Many argue that today’s persecution is worse as it is more wide-spread and results in more martyrs.
Around the World Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1994 apostolic letter TertioMillennioAdveniente(The Coming Third Millennium), "The Church has once again become a Church of martyrs." Christians today are the most persecuted religious group in the world. Torture, enslavement, rape, imprisonment, killings... even crucifixions are among the atrocities perpetrated upon believers around the world.
Modern Persecution • An estimated 200 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ. • 160,000 people die every year as a result of violence directed against Christianity. • In the 20th century, more Catholics lost their lives as martyrs than in any previous century in the history of the Church.
Modern Martyrs St. Edith Stein, a convert from Judaism to Catholicism who died at the hands of the Nazis in Auschwitz in 1942. St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan priest who gave up his life for that of a fellow prisoner in Auschwitz in 1942.
Modern Martyrs Father Jerzy Popiełuszko Hewas a Roman Catholic priest from Poland, associated with the Solidarity union. He was murdered by three agents of the Polish communist internal intelligence agency.
Modern Martyrs Archbishop Oscar Romero The Archbishop of San Salvador was a champion of the poor who was assassinated while celebrating Mass in 1980.
Modern Confessor St. Josephine Bakhita Born in southern Sudan, Josephine was kidnapped at the age of seven, sold into slavery and given the name Bakhita, which means fortunate. Her body was mutilated by those who enslaved her, but they could not touch her inner spirit. She was later baptized and became a Canossiansister.
The Edict of Galerius in 311 Galerius realized that the persecutions had failed, stating: "wherefore, for this our indulgence, they ought to pray to their God for our safety, for that of the republic, and for their own, that the republic may continue uninjured on every side, and that they may be able to live securely in their homes." “Let Christians have the right to exist again, and to set up their places of worship, provided always that they do not offend against public order.”
The Edict of Milan in 313 Constantine(d. 338) Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 (The Chi Rho sign) Baptized a Christian in 337 Religious liberty for Christians
Emperor Theodosius (d. 395) On February 27, 380 he proclaimed himself (and the Roman Empire) a Christian of the Nicene Creed with the promulgation of the Edict of Thessalonica in 389-392, pagan temples were closed and pagan worship forbidden
Edict of Thessalonica • Made Nicene Christianity the state religion • EMPERORS GRATIAN, VALENTINIAN AND THEODOSIUS AUGUSTI. EDICT TO THE PEOPLE OF CONSTANTINOPLE. • It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation, should continue to profess that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition, and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since, in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation and in the second the punishment of our authority which in accordance with the will of Heaven we shall decide to inflict. • GIVEN IN THESSALONICA ON THE THIRD DAY FROM THE CALENDS OF MARCH, DURING THE FIFTH CONSULATE OF GRATIAN AUGUSTUS AND FIRST OF THEODOSIUS AUGUSTUS