Popes in a Year
#25 - Pope St. Dionysius
Pope from 259-268 A.D.
Died: 268 A.D.
Give me the scoop on Dionysius.
Bearing a rather common name for the time period, Pope St. Dionysius can be easily confused with contemporaries St. Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, or the martyr St. Dionysius of Paris, among others past and future. Pope St. Dionysius first appears on the scene as a Roman priest under Pope St. Stephen I, which interestingly is where we hear from St. Dionysius of Alexandria that our fair pope was “an excellent and learned man,” in a letter on baptism.
Given the intensity of the situation in Rome at the time, what with Emperor Valerian persecuting the Church and such, a successor to St. Sixtus II wasn’t able to be named for nearly a year. Once Valerian left Rome for the East, however, Dionysius was able to be elected, being named Pope No. 25 on July 22, 259. The Church under Dionysius was able to be restored, thanks to the new emperor (Gallienus) overturning the edicts of his predecessor. Though many popes prior were remembered as martyrs, Pope St. Dionysius is the first to be remembered without the title of martyrdom. He died the day after Christmas in 268, the same day on which his feast is celebrated today.
What was he known for?
Pope Dionysius is known for laying to rest a new spin on an old heresy. Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria, in writing a letter addressing a different heresy, was just a little too imprecise in how he referred to Jesus in relation to God the Father, and caused an accusation against him to be sent to the pope.
To resolve the conflict, Pope Dionysius said “let’s talk this out” and convened a meeting of bishops in Rome. The result was an encyclical (a doctrinal letter) to the whole Church correcting the wrongheaded view that Christ was somehow a created being, followed by a letter sent directly to Dionysius of Alexandria asking him to clarify his statements. Dionysius the bishop did clarify (in his “Apologia”) to Dionysius the pope, and all was well.
St. Dionysius had great care for his people, even those who were really far away. When a group of Christians were captured by a band of marauding barbarians in Cappadocia (central Turkey), the good pope took up a collection from the faithful in Rome and sent it as ransom to free them.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In 260 AD, the second year of Dionysius’ papacy, the game of chess first appeared, originating in India during the Gupta Empire.
Coming Monday....Pope St. Felix I
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope St. Dionysius -
Pope Dionysius -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Friday, February 3 at 2:00AM