History of St. Polycarp,Bishop and Martyr

Policarp, a disciple of St. John, held in great esteem for his holy life, his outstanding with faith and deep knowlwdge of the Lord's teaching and Apostolic Tradition, was appointed by him as the Fourth Bishop of Smyrna after Ariston, Strateas and Vucolos. During the many long years when he was administering the See of Smyrna, he had to go through many hardships.

The persecutions of Trajan(98-117) and Hadrain (117-138) inflicted terror and enriched his church with many martyrs.

But what must have afflicted him most were the first heresies spreading like wild fire in the early church. Marcion, a native of Pontus, in the Black Sea region of Turkey, who died in Rome in the middle of the second century, denied the divine nature of Christ, deceiving many believers. St. Polycarp affirmed vigorously the Apostolic teaching defending his flock from his error.









Another point of attrition which was causing uneasiness among Christians was the date of Easter, celebrated in some places following the tradition of St. Peter and in some others that of St. John. To find a solution, he traveled to Rome in 155 and discussed the issue personally with Pope Anicetus (+166), who granted him the faculty to continue to follow the obtaining tradition in his church.


Our Saint, being the last liniving link with the Apostolic Tradition, was looked upon as the teacher whose authority in matters of faith could not be dismissed. At the venerable age of 86 years, during the persecution of Anthonius Pius, the Governor of Smyrna condemned him to flames, he was stabbed with a dagger. The act of his Martyrdom, among the most ancient documents of their kind to reach us, telling us that he walked full of joy in the midst of onlookers who filled the stadium, to the rogue, where he was to witness unblemished faithfulness to his crucified Lord. It was February 23 of the year 156. His feast, preceeded by a solemn Novena (Nine days special prayer for preparing the feast of his martyrdom) starting on February 14, is celebrated annually in his Church in Izmir. Hymns in Latin, French and Greek evoke the life of the holy Bishop and Martyr and his loving care for his city of Smyrna, as experienced so many times by its citizens.

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