Thursday, February 23, 2012


Vatican City, 23 February 2012 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon, Ash Wednesday, Benedict XVI presided over the traditional penitential procession from the church of St. Anselm on Rome's Aventine Hill to the nearby basilica of Santa Sabina where he celebrated Mass. Cardinals, archbishops, bishops, the Benedictine monks of St. Anselm, the Dominican Fathers of Santa Sabina and lay faithful participated in the event. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
Following the procession, Benedict XVI celebrated the Eucharist and the rite of the imposition of the ashes. He received ashes from Cardinal Jozef Tomko, titular of the basilica, then distributed ashes to the cardinals and bishops present, as well as to various members of the faithful. Following the Gospel reading the Pope pronounced his homily, explaining that ashes are "an element of nature which through the liturgy become a sacred symbol, one of great importance on this day which marks the beginning of the Lenten journey".
"Ashes are one of those material signs which bring the cosmos into the liturgy", he said. "Although they are not a sacramental sign, they are nonetheless associated with prayer and the sanctification of Christian people". In fact, before imposing them on the heads of the faithful, the priest blesses the ashes, and one of the formulae he may use to do so refers to a passage from Genesis: "You are dust and to dust you shall return", the words with which God concludes His judgement after the original sin.
Because of that sin, God cursed the earth whence Adam had come. Indeed, following the creation of the world, God had "formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being". Thus, the Holy Father explained, "the sign of the ashes leads us into the great narrative of the creation in which, through the image of the dust of the earth moulded by God and animated by His breath, it is recounted that human beings are a unique combination of matter and divine breath. ... In the narrative of Genesis, we see how the symbol of dust undergoes a negative transformation because of sin. Before the fall, the earth had a potential which was entirely good", recalling "God's creative act which was entirely open to life". Following sin and the subsequent divine curse, "it became a sign of the inexorable destiny of death: 'You are dust and to dust you shallreturn'".
The earth, then, shares man's destiny and only concedes him its fruits in exchange for much "toil" and "the sweat of his brow". Nonetheless, "this curse of the earth has a medicinal function for man, whom the earth’s recalcitrance helps to maintain within his own limits, to recognise his own nature. ... This means that God's intentions, which are always benign, are more profound that any curse. The curse, in fact, was due not to God but to sin; yet God could not but inflict it because He respects man's freedom and its consequences, even its negative consequences". However the Lord, along with "just punishment, also wished to announce the way of salvation, which passed by way of the earth, by way of that 'dust', that 'flesh' which was assumed by the Word".
The liturgy of Ash Wednesday uses the words of Genesis in this perspective of salvation, "as an invitation to penance and humility, to remember our own mortality; not so as to give way to desperation but to accept, as part of that mortality, the inconceivable closeness of God Who, beyond death, opens the way to resurrection, to heaven finally and ultimately rediscovered".
"The possibility we have for divine forgiveness essentially depends on the fact that God Himself, in the person of His Son, chose to share our condition, but not the corruption of sin. God caused His Son to rise again with the power of the Holy Spirit and Jesus, the new Adam, became ... the first fruit of the new creation".
"The God Who drove our first ancestors from the Garden of Eden", Benedict XVI affirmed in conclusion, "sent His Son to our earth devastated by sin, ... so that we, prodigal children, might return to our true homeland, penitent and redeemed by His mercy. Thus may it be for each of us, for all believers, for all men and women who humbly recognise their need for salvation".

Vatican City, 23 February 2012 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, as is traditional at the beginning of Lent, the Holy Father met with pastors and priests of the diocese of Rome. The audience took the form of a "lectio divina" by the Pope on a passage from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians. The event came to an end with the Our Father and the apostolic blessing.

Vatican City, 23 February 2012 (VIS) - The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today announced that at 11 a.m. on Sunday 26 February Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, will take possession of the diaconate of Nostra Signora di Coromoto in San Giovanni di Dio, Largo Nostra Signora di Coromoto 2, Rome.

Vatican City, 23 February 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the archdiocese of Calcutta, India, presented by Archbishop Lucas Sirkar S.D.B., upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Archbishop Thomas D'Souza.


A packed commuter train in Buenos Aires, Brazil, in South America has crashed on Wednesday, February 22, 2012. 49 people were killed in the wreckage and 550 were injured. Police report that the brakes failed causing the train to collide with a retaining wall at the end of the track. Approximately, 800 commuters were travelling on the train that day. The train was travelling 26 Km per hour at the time of the crash. It caused a car pile up. There have been numerous smaller crashes in Argentina. The train system has come under greater scrutiny due to its poor conditions. (Image source; blogs)
According to Radio Vaticana:
"Pope Benedict has sent a telegram of condolence to the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio, SJ, following a train crash in the city yesterday which killed 50 people. The telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone conveyed the Holy Father’s sorrow at the sad news.

Cardinal Bertone also said the Pope expressed his solidarity and prayers to all the victims, those wounded and all those who have been affected by this tragedy


Among the victims are also two NATO soldiers. The protests going on for 48 hours, despite the appeals of President Karzai. AsiaNews sources warn of a possible manipulation by the Taliban. According to the NATO mission in charge, the books were burned by accident. In Kabul, the staff has barred Western diplomats inside the embassies of fear of violence and reprisals.

Kabul (AsiaNews) - Eight dead and dozens injured in the anti-American protests that erupted yesterday after the burning of copies of the Koran in the NATO military base in Bagram (60 km nordo vest-of Kabul). The most violent clashes occurred in the provinces of Khogyani and Nagarhar (north-east of the country), where several men in military uniforms fired at two NATO soldiers. In the southern province of Uruzgan, two people were killed during a gun battle with Afghan military. Incidents between demonstrators and security forces also took place in Kabul .. Despite appeals for calm by Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, the Taliban have urged all people to target and destroy the military bases. AsiaNews sources emphasize that the situation is very tense in the capital with Western diplomats barricaded in the embassies for fear of violence and reprisals.

The burning of the Koran is offensive in Islam and according to sharia (Islamic law) anyone who commits this act of sacrilege worthy of death. However, NATO has said that the gesture was not voluntary. Gen. Cartes Jacobson, ISAF spokesman said that copies of the book were part of a stock of items to be disposed of and were burned by accident. The case exploded after two Afghan orderlies recognized fragments of pages from the Koran in the ashes and communicated the fact to the local religious authorities, who immediately spread the news, sparking a wave of protests.

AsiaNews sources explain that "demonstrations against such an act are normal in an Islamic country. The wrath of the population is a purely instinctive reaction, but the most violent clashes were triggered by extremist groups who are attempting to exploit the fact" . "It 's wrong to say that the people are with the Taliban - he underlines - the Afghans always have always hated the presence of armed foreigners on their territories, be they British, Russians or Americans. But no one wants to return to the regime of Mullah Omar, in which you risked death for a bad haircut or a shave badly done. The people have tried to forget those terrible years and now just want peace and respect for their traditions. "

According to sources, the NATO forces should try to take control of the situation and have greater respect and care of the place that hosts them. This is to prevent the Taliban from transforming this stupid gesture into a weapon to use as currency in the next meetings for peace talks with representatives of the U.S. and Afghan government. "Returning the country into the hands of the Taliban without any guarantees- the source warns - makes these past 10 years of war and especially the sacrifice of thousands of innocent civilian casualties completely meaningless". (SC),-eight-dead,-dozens-wounded-24058.html


Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese REPORT:
23 Feb 2012

Cardinal Pell baptises catechumen-elects
during the Easter Vigil 2010
More than 700 friends, family and fellow parishioners will attend the 2012 Rite of Election and Presentation of Baptised Candidates to be held at St Mary's Cathedral on Sunday, 26 February.
The Rite of Election is traditionally held on the first Sunday of Lent each year which marks one of the final phases for catechumens from parishes and Catholic communities across Sydney in their formation and conversion to the Catholic faith.
This year 180 catechumens will have their names enrolled as "the elect," as will a further 45 baptised candidates who are converting to the Catholic faith from other Christian denominations.
"Every year hundreds of people decide to become Catholics and each one has their own special story," says Bishop Julian Porteous, the Archdiocese of Sydney's Episcopal Vicar of Evangelisation and Renewal who will preside over the Rite of Election and Presentation of Baptised Candidates at the Cathedral on Sunday.
"Each one is drawn to the Church by different experiences and circumstances," he says, explaining that any journey towards the Church is a journey towards God.

Many young people are
embracing the Catholic Church
and the Lord as they seek
deeper meaning to their lives
One of the stand-out factors in this year's group of catechumens and candidates are the predominance of young men and women, most of whom are under 30 and who wish to join the Catholic Church. Another is the significant number of those from Sydney's Korean, Vietnamese, Korean, Indonesian and Chinese communities.
The number of young people is further evidence of the increasing search among Gen X and Gen Y for deeper meaning to their lives.
In today's secular society where instant gratification and materialism dominates, more and more young people are turning to the Church where they are discovering the true meaning of life through the power and love of the Lord, Bishop Julian believes.
For the city's Asian-Australians, the Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesia or Chinese Catholic communities provide powerful examples of faith and solidarity, and inspire others to participate and discover the Lord for themselves.
Others who are baptised candidates and now converting to the Catholic faith, the decision is often similar to those of young people as a search for deeper meaning and rediscover the Lord through the Church and its traditions, as well as their local parish's commitment and ongoing loving support.
Possibly two of the most well-known Christians who converted to the Catholic faith in later life are the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair and current Opposition Shadow Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

when joining the Church as adults men and women
are taught and guided by priests and their local
Catholic community
Prior to becoming Catechumens-elect, adults wishing to be accepted into the Catholic Church, spend several weeks or months - there is no specified time limit - as a pre-Catechumenate during which time they begin their formation, learn the values of the Gospel and at the many parishes which offer the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) have an opportunity to question and explore different aspects of the Catholic faith.
The next stage involves what is known as the First Ritual Step, a more formal commitment to learning about the Catholic faith and faith formation is undertaken. This is when the enquirer is accepted by the Church as a Catechumen. After this, the Catechumenate begins, which is the longest and most formal part of the process. In this phase the Catechumen not only continues with studies and faith formation, but is expected to participate with the whole Catholic community in their Sunday celebrations. During this phase through prayer, learning and coming to know other Catholic Christians, the Catechumen discovers the love and power of God in their lives and in the Church.
After this period, the Rite of Election takes place on the first Sunday of Lent which celebrates the conclusion of the period of formation. This is when the Church accepts their petition and the testimony of the Catholic community and enrols them as the elect.

Bishop Julian Porteous
The third stage of this sacred process is known as the Period of Purification and Enlightenment and takes place during Lent and is marked by three community celebrations known as the Scrutinies. The Scrutinies coincide with the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent when the elect and the local Catholic community focus on their lives in light of the Gospel and ask God for healing and forgiveness of the elect.
The Third Ritual Step for catechumen-elects takes place at the Easter Vigil. This is when they are fully incorporated into Christ and the Church by Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Sacraments and Eucharist.
Now known as neophytes, the new members of the Church enter the final and fourth phase known as the Period of Mystagogy. This is when neophytes reflect, pray and join those in their parish and become incorporated into the full life of the Catholic community.
The Rite of Election and Presentation of Baptised Candidates will take place at St Mary's Cathedral at 2 pm on Sunday, 26 February.
To find out more about embracing the Catholic Faith or converting from another Christian denomination, contact the Archdiocese of Sydney's Catechumenate Office by phoning 02 9390 5951 or log on to


Agenzia Fides REPORT- Torrential rains are hitting Gatumba, a suburb of the capital of Burundi, Bujumbura, where at least 2 000 people are displaced and need food and shelter. The rains have destroyed about 400 homes and further damage is feared in the hardest hit areas of Kinyinya, Mushasha and Muyange. The houses are surrounded by water and many continue to fall down. The most affected families seek refuge from neighbors whose homes have not been destroyed; other 32 families have been housed in the local Anglican church. Those responsible for administering Gatumba have appealed to the government and humanitarian organizations to help people affected to find shelter. Everything is being done to help these people in the shortest possible time. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 23/2/2012)


Any group with less than 50 members is excluded under the new Religion Law of 21 October. Existing groups have until 25 October 2012 to meet the law's requirements. In the meantime, public meetings are banned.

Astana (AsiaNews/F18) - Kazakhstan's new Religion Law bans 579 religious groups, including Protestant Churches and Muslim sects, if they have less than 50 registered members. According to the government's top religious affairs official, Kairat Lama Sharif, the law adopted on 21 October 2011 has cut the number of registered religious organisations by 13 per cent. Many Protestants, including Seventh-Day Adventists, will be forced to hold services in private homes under close government watch.

Kazakh authorities wrote to the affected communities telling them to follow the new rules or disband. They have a year to meet the new requirement for registration. However, no group with less than 50 members will be able to conduct public services even if they were legal under the old rules.

Rev Vyacheslav Melnik, pastor of the Grace Church in Shakhan, Shakhtinsk district (Karaganda), said he was summoned by the police to inform him of the new law. "Now our believers are afraid each time they gather for worship," Alkeyeva of the Grace Church said.

Various leaders have protested against the law for violating religious freedom. Yet, despite appeals and demands for consultations by minorities, the government has remained inflexible, justifying the new law as a tool to defend the country against religious terrorism. Henceforth, anyone who refuses to register or celebrates services publicly outside the law will be punished.

The first victim of the new rules was Aleksei Asetov, head of a Baptist congregation in Ekibastuz that is affiliated with the unregistered Council of Churches. He was fined more than US$ 3,000, the equivalent of 18 months of the average salary, for not registering his community. A shoemaker by trade, the clergyman is the father of 10 children and could go to jail and see his property seized.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev strongly backed the law adopted on 21 October, ostensibly to counter Islamic extremism, but so sweeping that it affects all religious groups.However, one of the law's goals is to nationalise traditional or large religions along Chinese lines.

Groups originally from abroad must have at least 5,000 nation-wide members to avoid sanctions and survive. At the same time, the law bans the display of religion in public places and prohibits women from wearing the vel.

In principle, Kazakhstan's Russian Orthodox Church and Islamic community, the country's mainstream religions, are not subject to the restrictions.

However, the recent discovery of extremist groups operating on Kazakh territory as well as attacks on 31 October in Atyrau in the west of the country have pushed the government to tighten its control over them as well.


St. Polycarp
Feast: February 23

Feast Day: February 23
Died: 155 at Smyrna
Patron of: against dysentery, against earache
From his acts, written by the church of Smyrna in an excellent circular letter to the churches of Pontus, immediately after his martyrdom, a niece abridged by Eusebius, b. 4, c. 14 highly esteemed by the ancients. Joseph Scaliger, a supercilious critic, says that nothing in the whole course of church history so strongly affected him as the perusal of these acts, and those relating to the martyrs of Lyons; that he never read them but they gave him extraordinary emotions. Animad. in Chron. Eusebii, n. 2183 &c. They are certainly most valuable pieces of Christian antiquity. See Eusebius, St. Jerome, and St. Irenaeus also Tillemont, t. 2, p. 327; Dom Ceillier, t. 1; Dom Marechal, Concordance des Peres; Grecs et Latins, t. 1.

St Polycarp was one of the most illustrious of the apostolic fathers, who, being the immediate disciples of the apostles, received instructions from their mouths, and inherited of them the spirit of Christ in a degree so much the more eminent as they lived nearer the fountain head. He embraced Christianity very young, about the year 80, was a disciple of the apostles, in particular of St. John the Evangelist, and was constituted by him Bishop of Symrna, probably before his banishment to Patmos in 96, so that he governed that important see seventy years. He seems to have been the angel or bishop of Smyrna who was commended above all the bishops of Asia by Christ himself in the Apocalypse, and the only one without a reproach. Our Saviour encouraged him under his poverty, tribulation, and persecutions, especially the calumnies of the Jews, called him rich in grace, and promised him the crown of life by martyrdom. This saint was respected by the faithful to a degree of veneration. He formed many holy disciples, among whom were St. Irenaeus and Papias. When Florinus, who had often visited St. Polycarp, had broached certain heresies, St. Irenaeus wrote to him as follows: "These things were not taught you by the bishops who preceded us. I could tell you the place where the blessed Polycarp sat to preach the word of God. It is yet present to my mind with what gravity he everywhere came in and went out; what was the sanctity of his deportment, the majesty of his countenance and of his whole exterior, and what were his holy exhortations to the people. I seem to hear him now relate how he conversed with John and many others who had seen Jesus Christ; the words he had heard from their mouths. I can protest before God that if this holy bishop had heard of any error like yours, he would have immediately stopped his ears, and cried out, according to his custom, Good God! that I should be reserved to these times to hear such things! That very instant he would have fled out of the place in which he had heard such doctrine." St. Jerome mentions that St. Polycarp met at Rome the heretic Marcion in the streets, who resenting that the holy bishop did not take that notice of him which he expected, said to him, "Do you not know me, Polycarp?" "Yes," answered the saint, "I know you to be the firstborn of Satan." He had learned this abhorrence of the authors of heresy, who knowingly and willingly adulterate the divine truths, from his master, St. John, who fled out of the bath in which he saw Cerinthus. St. Polycarp kissed with respect the chains of St. Ignatius, who passed by Smyrna on the road to his martyrdom, and who recommended to our saint the care and comfort of his distant church of Antioch, which he repeated to him in a letter from Troas, desiring him to write in his name to those churches of Asia to which he had not leisure to write himself. St. Polycarp wrote a letter to the Philippians shortly after, which is highly commended by St. Irenaeus, St. Jerome, Eusebius, Photius, and others, and is still extant. It is justly admired both for the excellent instructions it contains and for the simplicity and perspicuity of the style, and was publicly read in the church in Asia in St. Jerome's time. In it he calls a heretic, as above, the eldest son of Satan. About the year 158 he undertook a journey of charity to Rome, to confer with Pope Anicetus about certain points of discipline, especially about the time of keeping Easter, for the Asiatic churches kept it on the fourteenth day of the vernal equinoctial moon, as the Jews did, on whatever day of the week it fell; whereas Rome, Egypt, and all the West observed it on the Sunday following. It was agreed that both might follow their custom without breaking the bands of charity. St. Anicetus, to testify his respect, yielded to him the honour of celebrating the Eucharist in his own church. We find no further particulars concerning our saint recorded before the acts of his martyrdom.
In the sixth year of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, Statius Quadratus being proconsul of Asia, a violent persecution broke out in that country, in which the faithful gave heroic proofs of their courage and love of God, to the astonishment of the infidels. When they were torn to pieces with scourges till their very bowels were laid bare, amidst the moans and tears of the spectators, who were moved with pity at the sight of their torments, not one of them gave so much as a single groan, so little regard had they for their own flesh in the cause of God. No kinds of torture, no inventions of cruelty, were forborne to force them to a conformity to the pagan worship of the times. Germanicus, who had been brought to Smyrna with eleven or twelve other Christians, signalised himself above the rest, and animated the most timorous to suffer. The proconsul in the amphitheatre called upon him with tenderness, entreated him to have some regard for his youth, and to value at least his life, but he, with a holy impatience, provoked the beasts to devour him, to leave this wicked world. One Quintus, a Phrygian, who had presented himself to the judge, yielded at the sight of the beast let out upon him, and sacrificed. The authors of these acts justly condemn the presumption of those who offered themselves to suffer, and say that the martyrdom of St. Polycarp was conformable to the gospel, because he exposed not himself to the temptation, but waited till the persecutors laid hands on him, as Christ our Lord taught us by his own example. The spectators, seeing the courage of Germanicus and his companions, and being fond of their impious bloody diversions, cried out, "Away with the impious! let Polycarp be sought for!" The holy man, though fearless, had been prevailed upon by his friends to withdraw and conceal himself in a neighbouring village during the storm, spending most of his time in prayer. Three days before his martyrdom, he in a vision saw his pillow on fire, from which he understood by revelation, and foretold his companions, that he should be burnt alive.
When the persecutors were in quest of him he changed his retreat, but was betrayed by a boy, who was threatened with the rack unless he discovered him. Herod, the Irenarch, or keeper of the peace, whose office it was to prevent misdemeanours and apprehend malefactors, sent horsemen by night to beset his lodgings. The saint was above stairs in bed, but refused to make his escape, saying, "God's will be done." He went down, met them at the door, ordered them a handsome supper, and sired only some time for prayer before he went with them. This granted, he began his prayer standing, which he continued in that posture for two hours, recommending to God his own flock and the whole church with so much earnestness and devotion that several of those that were come to seize him repented they had undertaken the commission. They set him on an ass, and were conducting him towards the city when he was met on the road by Herod and his father Nicetes, who took him into their chariot, and endeavoured to persuade him to a little compliance, saying, "What harm is there in saying Lord Caesar, or even in sacrificing, to escape death?" By the word Lord was meant nothing less than a kind of deity or godhead. The bishop at first was silent, in imitation of our Saviour, but being pressed, he gave them this resolute answer, "I shall never do what you desire of me." At these words, taking off the mask of friendship and compassion, they treated him with scorn and reproaches, and thrust him out of the chariot with such violence that his leg was bruised by the fall. The holy man went forward cheerfully to the place where the people were assembled. Upon his entering it a voice from heaven was heard by many, "Polycarp, be courageous, and act manfully." He was led directly to the tribunal of the proconsul, who exhorted him to respect his own age, to swear by the genius of Caesar, and to say, "Take away the impious," meaning the Christians. The saint, turning towards the people in the pit, said, with a stern countenance, "Exterminate the wicked," meaning by this expression either a wish that they might cease to be wicked by their conversion to the faith of Christ, or this was a prediction of the calamity which befel their city in 177, when Smyrna was overturned by an earthquake, as we read in Dionand Aristides. The proconsul repeated, "Swear by the genius of Caesar, and I discharge you; blaspheme Christ." Polycarp replied, "I have served him these fourscore and six years, and he never did me any harm, but much good, and how can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour? If you require of me to swear by the genius of Caesar, as you call it, hear my free confession- I am a Christian; but if you desire to learn the Christian religion, appoint a time, and hear me." The proconsul said, "Persuade the people." The martyr replied, "I addressed my discourse to you, for we are taught to give due honour to princes as far as is consistent with religion. But the populace is an incompetent judge to justify myself before." Indeed rage rendered them incapable of hearing him.
The proconsul then assuming a tone of severity, said: "I have wild beasts." "Call for them," replied the saint: "for we are unalterably resolved not to change from good to evil. It is only good to pass from evil to good." The proconsul said: "If you contemn the beasts, I will cause you to be burnt to ashes." Polycarp answered: "You threaten me with a fire which burns for a short time and then goes out, but are yourself ignorant of the judgment to come, and of the fire of everlasting torments which is prepared for the wicked. Why do you delay? Bring against me what you please." Whilst he said this and many other things, he appeared in a transport of joy and confidence, and his countenance shone with a certain heavenly grace and pleasant cheerfulness, insomuch that the proconsul himself was struck with admiration. However, he ordered a crier to make public proclamation three times in the middle of the Stadium (as was the Roman custom in capital cases): "Polycarp hath confessed himself a Christian." At this proclamation the whole multitude of Jews and Gentiles gave a great shout, the latter crying out, "This is the great teacher of Asia; the father of the Christians; the destroyer of our gods, who preaches to men not to sacrifice to or adore them." They applied to Philip the Asiarch to let loose a lion upon Polycarp. He told them that it was not in his power, because those shows had been closed. Then they unanimously demanded that he should be burnt alive. Their request was no sooner granted but every one ran with all speed to fetch wood from the baths and shops. The pile being prepared, Polycarp put off his garments, untied his girdle, and began to take off his shoes, an office he had not been accustomed to, the Christians having always striven who should do these things for him, regarding it as a happiness to be admitted to touch him. The wood and other combustibles were heaped all round him. The executioners would have nailed him to the stake; but he said to them: "Suffer me to be as I am. He who gives me grace to undergo this fire will enable me to stand still without that precaution." They therefore contented themselves with tying his hands behind his back, and in this posture looking up towards heaven, he prayed as follows: "O Almighty Lord God, Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of thee, God of angels, powers, and every creature, and of all the race of the just that live in thy presence! I bless thee for having been pleased in thy goodness to bring me to this hour, that I may receive a portion in the number of thy martyrs, and partake of the chalice of thy Christ, for the resurrection to eternal life, in the incorruptibleness of the holy Spirit. Amongst whom grant me to be received this day as a pleasing sacrifice, such an one as thou thyself hast prepared, that so thou mayest accomplish what thou, O true and faithful God! hast foreshown. Wherefore, for all things I praise, bless, and glorify thee, through the eternal high priest Jesus Christ, thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee and the Holy Ghost be glory now and for ever. Amen." He had scarce said Amen when fire was set to the pile, which increased to a mighty flame. But behold a wonder, say the authors of these acts, seen by us reserved to attest it to others; the flames forming themselves into an arch, like the sails of a ship swelled with the wind, gently encircled the body of the martyr, which stood in the middle, resembling not roasted flesh, but purified gold or silver, appearing bright through the flames; and his body sending forth such a fragrancy that we seemed to smell precious spices. The blind infidels were only exasperated to see his body could not be consumed, and ordered a spearman to pierce him through, which he did, and such a quantity of blood issued out of his left side as to quench the fire. The malice of the devil ended not here: he endeavoured to obstruct the relics of the martyr being carried off by the Christians; for many desired to do it, to show their respect to his body. Therefore, by the suggestion of Satan, Nicetes advised the proconsul not to bestow it on the Christians, lest, said he, abandoning the crucified man, they should adore Polycarp: the Jews suggested this, "Not knowing," say the authors of the acts, "that we can never forsake Christ, nor adore any other, though we love the martyrs, as his disciples and imitators, for the great love they bore their king and master." The centurion, seeing a contest raised by the Jews, placed the body in the middle, and burnt it to ashes. "We afterwards took up the bones," say they, "more precious than the richest jewels or gold, and deposited them decently in a place at which may God grant us to assemble with joy, to celebrate the birthday of the martyr." Thus these disciples and eye-witnesses. It was at two o'clock in the afternoon, which the authors of the acts call the eighth hour, in the year 166, that St. Polycarp received his crown, according to Tillemont; but in 169, according to Basnage.1 His tomb is still shown with great veneration at Smyrna, in a small chapel. St. Irenaeus speaks of St. Polycarp as being of an uncommon age.
The epistle of St. Polycarp to the Philippians, which is the only one among those which he wrote that has been preserved, is, even in the dead letter, a standing proof of the apostolic spirit with which he was animated, and of that profound humility, perfect meekness, burning charity, and holy zeal, of which his life was so admirable an example. The beginning is an effusion of spiritual joy and charity with which he was transported at the happiness of their conversion to God, and their fervor in divine love. His extreme abhorrence of heresy makes him immediately fall upon that of the Docaetae against which he arms the faithful, by clearly demonstrating that Christ was truly made man, died, and rose again: in which his terms admirably express his most humble and affectionate devotion to our divine Redeemer, under these great mysteries of love. Besides walking in truth, he takes notice, that to be raised with Christ in glory, we must also do his will, keep all his commandments, and love whatever he loved; refraining from all fraud, avarice, detraction, and rash judgment; repaying evil with good forgiving and showing mercy to others that we ourselves may find mercy. "These things," says he, "I write to you on justice, because you incited me; for neither I, nor any other like me, can attain to the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, into whose epistles if you look, you may raise your spiritual fabric by strengthening faith, which is our mother, hope following, and charity towards God, Christ, and our neighbor preceding us. He who has charity is far from all sin." The saint gives short instructions to every particular state, then adds, "Every one who hath not confessed that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is antichrist; and who hath not confessed the suffering of the cross, is of the devil; and who hath drawn the oracles of the Lord to his passions, and hath said that there is no resurrection nor judgment, he is the oldest son of Satan." He exhorts to watching always in prayer, lest we be led into temptation; to be constant in fasting, persevering, joyful in hope, and in the pledge of our justice, which is Christ Jesus, imitating his patience; for, by suffering for his name, we glorify him. To encourage them to suffer, he reminds them of those who had suffered before their eyes: Ignatius, Zozimus, and Rufus, and some of their own congregation, "who are now," says our saint, "in the place which is due to them with the Lord, with whom they also suffered."


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