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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Patriarch of Alexandria

Icon of Sts Athanasius the Great and Cyril of Alexandria ,
Early 14th century
Possibly from Byzantium, Athos (?).
Tempera on panel. 43.5 x 34 x 2.5 cm
State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg



Pope Pius XII published an Encyclical on St Cyril of Alexandria. It was called ORIENTALIS ECCLESIAE.

It was published on 9th April 1944 (Easter Sunday), while the Second World War was still in progress
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"1. St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, glory of the Eastern Church and celebrated champion of the Virgin Mother of God, has always been held by the Church in the highest esteem, and We welcome the opportunity of recalling his merits in this brief Letter, now that fifteen centuries have passed since he happily exchanged this earthly exile for his heavenly home.

2. Our Predecessor St. Celestine I hailed him as 'good defender of the Catholic faith, 'as 'excellent priest,' as 'apostolic man.' The ecumenical Council of Chalcedon not only used his doctrine for the detecting and refuting of the latest errors, but went so far as to compare it with the learning of St. Leo the Great; and in fact the latter praised and commended the writings of this great Doctor because of their perfect agreement with the faith of the holy Fathers.

The fifth ecumenical Council, held at Constantinople, treated St. Cyril's authority with similar reverence and many years later, during the controversy about the two wills in Christ, his teaching was rightly and triumphantly vindicated, both in the first Lateran Council and in the sixth ecumenical Council, against the false charge of being tainted with the error of Monothelitism. He was, as Our saintly Predecessor Agatho proclaimed, 'a defender of the truth' and 'a consistent teacher of the orthodox faith.' ...

6. The faithful of the Eastern rite not only count St. Cyril among the 'ecumenical Fathers,' but also honor him with the deepest veneration in their liturgical prayers. Thus the Greeks chant in the Menaia of the 9th June:

Enlightened in mind by the flames of the Holy Spirit, thou hast uttered oracles even as the sun sends forth its rays. To the ends of the earth and to all the faithful thy teaching has gone forth, O most blessed Saint, illuminating all sorts and conditions of men, and dispelling darkness of heresy by the power and strength of that Light who was born of the Virgin.

7. And the sons of the Eastern Church have every right to rejoice and take pride in this holy Father as one who is peculiarly and especially their own.

For he is above all pre-eminent in those three qualities which have so greatly distinguished the other Fathers of the East:

an outstanding sanctity of life, marked by a specially ardent devotion to the august Mother of God;

exceptional learning, such that the Sacred Congregation of Rites, by a decree of the 28th July, 1882, declared him a Doctor of the Universal Church;

and finally an energetic zeal in fearlessly repelling the attacks of heretics, in asserting the Catholic faith, and in defending and spreading the Gospel to the full extent of his power .

8. But our great joy in the deep veneration which all the Christian peoples of the East have for St. Cyril is mingled with an equal regret that not all of them have come together into that desired unity of which he was the ardent lover and promoter.

And especially do We deplore that this should be so at the present time, when it is above all necessary that all Christ's faithful ones should labor together in heart and endeavor for union in the one Church of Jesus Christ, so that they may present a common, serried, united, and unyielding front to the daily growing attacks of the enemies of religion.

9. For this to be brought about it is absolutely necessary that all should take St. Cyril as their model in striving for a true harmony of souls, a harmony established by that triple bond which Christ Jesus, the Founder of the Church, willed to be the supernatural and unbreakable link provided by Him for binding and holding together:

the bond of one faith, of one charity towards God and all men, and of one obedience and rightful submission to the hierarchy established by the Divine Redeemer Himself.

As you know full well, Venerable Brethren, these three bonds are so necessary that, if any one of them be lacking, true unity and harmony in the Church of Christ is unthinkable.

10. Throughout the troubled times of his life on earth the Patriarch of Alexandria taught all men, both by word and by conspicuous example, how this true harmony is to be achieved and steadfastly maintained - and We would have him do this also today."