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The Spread of the
Church and
Persecutions of the
will separate us from the love
of Christ? Trial, or distress, or
persecution, or hunger, or
nakedness, or danger, or the sword? \
 This letter must have been
addressed to the Christians
facing persecution in Rome, who
were exhorted to remain firm in
their faith in the Risen Lord and
to withstand suffering and pain
for his sake.
Church Teaching:
Constitution on the
Church in the Modern
World (Lumen
Gentium), 8
 The Church, like a pilgrim in a foreign
land, presses forward amid persecution
of the world and the consolations of
God, announcing the cross and death
of the Lord until he comes. By the
power of the Risen Lord, she is given
strength to overcome patiently and
lovingly the afflictions
 and hardships which assail her
from within and without and to
show forth in the world the
mystery of the Lord in a faithful
though shadowed way, until at
last it will be revealed in total
The challenge…
In one meaningful sentence explain
the Church Teaching using these
highlighted words… Church,
persecution, power of the Risen
Lord, strength, patiently and
 The Church continues the tasks
of evangelization, bringing
Christ and his Gospel to those
who have not known him and to
continually preach conversion to
all for the salvation of the world
Brief sketch of the
persecution of the Church
 In the first three centuries after Christ, the
church faced periods of severe persecution.
 were ordered to sacrifice to the Roman gods;
 Scriptures were confiscated;
 some believers were beheaded or sent to
work and die in the mines.
During persecution, not everyone was as
faithful as Perpetua and Polycarp. Some denied
their faith.
 After a persecution ended, many of those
who had denied the faith sought forgiveness
and re-admittance in the church. Some
church members opposed and some favored
their re-admittance.
 At stake was the nature of the church. Was
the church a society of people who obeyed
Christ’s teachings or a home for forgiven
We will examine the
persecution early
Christians faced. We’ll
also look at how the
church dealt with the
aftermath (result,
Persecution in the Early Centuries
The first major outbreak of
Christian persecution began
with Stephen’s martyrdom
around A.D. 35
Other conditions which made Christianity
become widely spread were:
1) People were tired of the old pagan religions,
those which required the worship of many
gods and goddesses.
2) People were drawn to the teachings of
Christianity; one God, selfless love and eternal
3) Christian missionaries were free to travel
and preach the religion throughout the
Roman Empire.
4) The fundamental worth and dignity
of the person
 equality was practiced: all persons are equal in
their intrinsic worth and are entitled
to equal rights and privileges.
The dignity of women was exalted. The
glorious status of the Blessed Virgin Mary
as the Mother of God and the first disciple
of Christ elevated the dignity of women.
 5) The spirit of Christian compassion for
the poor, the sick and the abandoned.
Christian charity was impressive force
in the care of the afflicted
 6) The thirst for power and wealth was
confronted by the Christian’s respect
for the rights of others to the goods of
the earth and by the belief in the
everlasting treasures for the next life.
7) Early Christian leaders were
men of courage, dedication
and capability.
They even face persecution
Basis of persecution:
 Christians were accused of being atheists
because, unlike their neighbors, they
were “irreligious”—they refused to
worship Roman deities or emperors.
 Christians separated themselves from the
rest of the society. They were believed to
engage in some form of cannibalism in
their Eucharistic rites which were
celebrated in secret.
 Christians condemned bloody games
like the gladiatorial contests.
 Natural disasters and catastrophes
were attributed to their refusal to
participate in the worship of pagan
 Christians showed disloyalty to the
state by not paying the imposed
temple tax.
 Persecution was instigated by (1) Roman
officials, (2) Jewish leaders of the first century
who saw Christians as heretics, and (3)
sometimes by angry locals who thought
Christians were odd or dangerous.
 Much of the time, official persecution was
regional and sporadic. Under certain
emperors there were long periods of
 Some emperors, however, led systematic and
at times empire-wide persecution of
Christians, trying to exterminate this “illicit”
Group reporting of the ROMAN EMPERORS
 Group 1: Emperor Nero and Domitian
 Group 2: Emperor Trajan and Hadrian
 Group 3: Emperor Antonius Pius and Marcus
Group 4: Septimus Severus and Decius
Group 5: Emperor Valerian and Diocletian
Group 6: Emperor Galerius and Maximinus
Group 7: Emperor Constantine and
 When did he reign, and how did he
 On what basis did he persecute the
 How did Christians respond, and
who were notable Christians or
martyrs under his reign?
Persecution: Refers to afflictions
imposed on people by their own
fellow beings especially those who
differ in origin, religion, or social
outlook with intention to injure or
Claudius Nero was named emperor
at age 16 and reigned from A.D. 54-68.
He had about five good years under
the guidance of Seneca, the Roman
poet and philosopher.
He had his mother killed in A.D. 59
He had his wife killed in 64 AD
He later killed a brother and his
teacher, Seneca.
 He accused the Christians of burning Rome in
64 A.D. and ordered their execution. A
narrative account of TACITUS, the greatest
Roman historian, included the rumor that Nero
himself was responsible for the fire to gain the
glory of rebuilding the city.
 The Christians were persecuted and turned into
living torches in the garden of Nero. They
became the object of his
fury/anger following the Great Fire of Rome in
A.D. 64.
Martyrs: Peter and
Was a bad emperor whose rule was marked
by cruel severity. Like Nero, he persecuted
the Christians. One of his victims was his
own niece Domitilla, a pretty Christian maid.
 Because of his cruelty, he was murdered in
his palace and the senate ordered that his
men be cursed and his name stricken from
all public monuments.
 Martyrs: Clement of Rome and John (exiled
to Patmos)
Emperor Trajan ruled from A.D.
He began sentencing Christians who
to honor the gods and the emperor to
In 107 he went to Antioch
and demanded that
everyone should give
sacrifices to the gods.
Bishop of Antioch
and pupil of the apostle
refused and was
martyred by being
thrown to wild animals.
 He
issued a decree that governors
should not
follow the desires of the mob.
Christians who were accused of a
crime must be judged according to
the nature of their crimes.
 The decree gave some relief
to the suffering Christians
Martyr: Telesphorus
Antonius Pius He accused the
ruled from A.D. 138- Christians of being
(one who denies the
existence god) for
not worshipping the
During Antonius' reign,
Polycarp, an 86 year old man, a
pupil of the apostle John, was
martyred in Asia that took place
in the year 156.
In A.D. 161 Marcus Aurelius
took power and reigned until
He didn’t directly lead
persecutions against Christians.
He had no sympathy for them because
he saw them as being disgustingly
For Aurelius, it was good to die for
something significant, but not for something
as silly as what the Christians believed
 He regarded the Christians as a threat
to the state. His successors started
empire-wide actions on the Christians.
 Bent on eradicating Christianity
 This gave rise to a systematic and
cruel persecution of Christians
throughout the empire.
 MARTYRS: Justin, the Philosopher and
the martyrs of Lyon, Blandina.
Septimus Severus who ruled from 193-211
-allowed the enforcement of policies
already long-established, which meant
that Roman authorities did not
intentionally seek out Christians, but when
people were accused of being Christians
they could either curse Jesus and make
an offering to Roman gods, or be
"Many martyrs are daily burned,
confined, or beheaded, before our
eyes.” -Clement of Alexandria
Clement is counted as one of the early
Church Fathers
Leonides, the father of Origen,
a Christian defender, was beheaded
• Perpetua, a young noblewoman, and
• Felicitas, a slave girl, held hands and
exchanged a kiss before being
thrown to wild animals at a public festival.
Emperor Decius (249-251).
He saw Christianity as a terrible
He ordered that all Christians must
make a public act of homage to the
Roman gods.
His role was to eradicate
Christianity completely.
Martyrs: Fabianus, Alexander of
Emperor Valerian (257 AD).
He decreed that all bishops,
presbyters and deacons were
to offer sacrifice to gods.
Cyprian of Carthage
Pope Sixtus II of Rome
Emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD)
The last and bloodiest persecution.
He decreed that all Christians
churches be destroyed and bibles
He divided Roman Empire into a
Martyrs: Mauricius & Alban
•The persecution of the Christians only
came to end when Galerius admitted their
•He realized that the persecutions only made
the Christians more firm in their faith and
attracted more pagans top become
•He issued the Edict of Tolerance-granting
Christianity the right to exist.
 Once again demanded Christian
blood. But suddenly ordered
persecutions to cease. ..because the
pressure to stop had been put on
Maximinus by the new conqueror of
Italy and Africa, who was now the sole
master of the Western world.
The persecution of Christians
ended in 313 when Constantine
of the West proclaimed the Edict
of Milan, which established a
policy of religious freedom for all.
On his way to fight against a rival emperor,
Galerius, he saw in the sky a flaming cross
with the inscribed words: “ In hoc signo
vinces”(in this sign, you shall conquer)
He used a cross and won over his rival. In
gratitude, he issued Edict of Milan-granted
the religious tolerance of Christians.
He himself became a convert to Christianity.
 During his reign, worship of old gods
was declared illegal and Christianity
was encouraged.
 Thus after 3 centuries of persecution,
Christianity became the religion of
the Roman Empire
Guide Questions
 Have you ever been misjudged, disliked, or
mistreated because of your faith? How did
you respond? In what ways are Christians
today pressured to compromise their faith?
 Some Christians (for example, Clement of
Alexandria) fled persecution, while others
(such as Ignatius of Antioch) seemed to look
forward to martyrdom. What reasons might
people give for avoiding or embracing
 What does it mean to rejoice in
persecution? (See Matthew 5:11-12;
Colossians 1:24; James 1:1-18; and 1
Peter 4:12-19.)
 Which beliefs of the early Christians,
such as those of Perpetua, helped
them withstand persecution and
accept martyrdom? To what degree
do Christians today hold those
beliefs? Why
 What reasons did Roman authorities
use to justify persecuting the
Christians? What reasons does our
culture give for the mistreatment of
religious or ethnic minorities?
 Is it possible to be a faithful Christian
and not experience persecution?
The persecutions involved—
a. confiscation of property
b. banishment (expulsion, exile)
c. imprisonment
d. labor in the mines
e. torture
f. execution by fire and wild beasts
g. Roman citizens were executed by
the sword.
The responses of Christians to the persecution
earned them the following designations:
a. “Martyrs”: those who died for their faith. They
were honored and eventually venerated by the
church. (The Greek word martyr means
b. “Confessors”: those who stood firm under
torture and imprisonment but were not killed.
c. “Avoiders”: those who went into hiding.
d. “Lapsed”: those who renounced Christ while
under persecution and sacrificed to Roman gods.
The Church during and after the Period of
1. MARTYRDOM for Christ was a
driving force that urged people to face
death fearlessly.
-Total self-giving
2. Liturgy and creed of the Church was
3. Central of Christian worship is the
4. Wednesdays and Fridays were days of
5. Easter the central feast day celebrated
on a Sunday
6. The Sacrament of Baptism was
celebrated with a complete immersion
7. Veneration of the
saints developed
8. The Christians
celebrated the feast of
the martyrs –
The catacombs are the ancient
underground cemeteries, used by the
Christian and the Jewish communities,
above all at Rome.
During the persecutions, in exceptional
cases, the catacombs were used as
places of momentary refuge for the
celebration of the Eucharist
After the persecutions they became real
shrines of the martyrs, centers of devotion
and of pilgrimage for Christians from every
part of the empire
9. Use of arts and symbols
10. Christian signs and symbols
were carved on the walls of the
tombs of the martyrs
Persecution of the Church
lasted for more than three
hundred years
Symbols A to Z
 The newly acquired freedom and
recognition of Christianity led to the
extension of its boundaries and growth
in the number of converts.
 But Christianity grew, certain
controversies regarding the mysteries of
the Trinity and the Incarnation of Christ
arose within the Church.
 These controversies gave rise to false
teachings or beliefs contrary to the
revealed truths of the Catholic faith.
The false teachings are referred to as
HERESIES (caused confusion and
dissension among Christians) So the
Church convened several ecumenical
councils to take firm position against
 It refers to general meetings of the
Church in which important matters
of faith and Christian living are
These are the better-known heresies
and the ecumenical councils
convened against them.
st Ecumenical Council in
Nicaea (AD 325) assembled
Heresy: Arius-founder,
in Constantinople.
taught that Christ being a
It condemned Arianism as a
Son of God was not fully
heresy and adopted the
divine as God the Father.
Nicaean Creed which
St. Athanasius defended
confirms the divinity of
that Christ, the Son of
Christ. In AD 381, the 2nd
God was as divine as God
Ecumenical Council in
the Father.
Constantinople condemned
Heresy: Its founder,
Nestorious, a patriarch of
Constantinople denied the real
unity of the divine and human
natures in the Divine Person of
Christ. He also taught that
Mary was only the mother of
Christ, the human person;
hence she was not the mother
of God.
This doctrine of
Nestorious was
condemned by
the Third
Council in
Ephesus in AD
Pope Leo I
denounced it.
Heresy: claimed that
Christ has only one
Council in
nature: the divine
Chalcedon in AD
451 condemned it.
 The heresies did not die easily. During
the same period, many churchmen
noted for their intellectual gifts and
saintly virtues became famous as
brilliant defenders of Christian Faith.
 The Church honored them by conferring
on them the title of “CHURCH FATHER”
The outstanding Doctors of the
 St. Jerome-translated the Bible into Latin
 St. Athanasius- fought Arianism and
defended the Holy Trinity
 St. Ambrose of Milan-defended the
Church liberties against Emperor
Valentinian II
 St. John Chrysostom-denounced
 St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, who was
the greatest of all Church Fathers
- became the foremost defender of the
Church against all heretics.
 St. Augustine of Canterbury-carried out
Evangelization in England as envisioned
by Pope St. Gregory the Great.
-He became the first Archbishop of
Lumen Gentium 8
•The Church is the living sign of Christ’s
presence in the world
•In her effort to fulfill the mission- the
Church withstand the great suffering and
persecution in the hands of those who
reject the message of the gospel
The apostle Paul noted in
(Phil. 1:14).
Through all the terrible
persecutions of the early
the church continued to grow.
Are we prepared to truly
for our faith?
Are ready to defend your
Answer the ff:
 Why were the early Christians persecuted
 What is the effect of persecution on the early
Christians and on the whole Church?
 What problem arose as the number of
Christians increased after the persecution of
the Church? How did the Church face this
Lord God,
If persecution ever comes, God
grant us the faithfulness to stand
And let’s not forget to pray and
work to help our brothers and
sisters who are suffering for the
name of Jesus Christ.
Sw#1: 20 points
5 points each
by pair
1. What made the early Christians ever
more firm and alive in their faith and their
number increased despite persecution?
2. In our contemporary times, there are
many people in our society who are
classified as “Modern Lapsed” (those who
renounced Christ while under persecution).
What can you do to help them remain firm
and faithful to Christ? Cite concrete actions.
3. Jesus Himself experienced
humiliation, insult, persecutions,
and trials from people. Write a
prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus’
sacrifices because of His love for
you, as you yourself up from you
own pains and sufferings.
4. Are we prepared to truly suffer
for our faith?
Are ready to defend your faith? If
yes, in what way? Or how will you
defend it?
If not yet, what will you do in order
to stand firm with your faith?