Saturday, July 2, 2011

St. Peter of Alexandria

Joyous feast! On this day the calendar of the Coptic Orthodox Church commemorates Pope St. Peter of Alexandria, the 34th occupant of the throne of St. Mark and successor of the last pope to shepherd both the supporters and opponents of the Council of Chalcedon, Pope Theodosius I.

Although St. Justinian exiled Pope Theodosius to Upper Egypt and appointed another pope in his place, the supporters of the Christology of St. Cyril continued to recognize him as pope until his death in 567. At that time the opponents of Chalcedon went to a monastery in what today is el-Zogag and elected St. Peter as Pope of Alexandria.

The Copts' election of a new pope emboldened the Orthodox in Syria, also deprived of their own patriarch, to elect a Patriarch of Antioch supporting the Christology of Sts. Cyril and Severus. Neither Pope St. Peter nor the new Syriac Orthodox patriarch dared to take up residence in their sees, however, due to the persecutions ordered by the East Roman emperor in Constantinople.

Thus it was during St. Peter's papacy that the Orthodox were permanently divided, with the majority of the hierarchs, clergy, and faithful in Upper and Lower Egypt, Nubia, and Ethiopia together with the monks of Scete submitting to his authority.

More on St. Peter's life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

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